Picture this – you bring out the bbq, ready for the summer season, only to find the grates covered in rust. What can you do?

You may consider leaving it, but this can be problematic. Rusty BBQ grates can cause uneven cooking and give your delicious food an unpleasant metallic taste. 

How about strong chemical cleaners? While these may get rid of the rust, they’ll likely end up on your food or cause damage to the grill. So, that’s a no-go, too. 

The best way to deal with a rusty BBQ grill is to face the problem head-on, using a gentle yet effective organic cleaning method. 

This article will cover everything you need to clean a rusty BBQ grill, as well as top tips before you get started and a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Equipment You’ll Need

There are many natural methods to clean a rusty BBQ grill out there. But one of the most effective is a baking soda and vinegar mixture. Vinegar’s acidic properties dissolve rust, and baking soda is abrasive, removing dirt and rust buildup. 

 For this method, you’ll need:

  • ½ litre of white vinegar
  • ¼ litre of baking soda
  • A container to mix the solution
  • A container big enough for your grate (e.g., a plastic tub, clean wheelbarrow, etc.)
  • A sponge or nylon brush
  • Water
  • Paper towel or clean cloth
  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Safety glasses to protect your eyes

Tips Before You Get Started

Ridding your BBQ grill of rust is a relatively straightforward process. However, it’s better to know the dos and don’ts before starting. Here are three expert tips you should know before you clean your rusty BBQ.

1. Stay Away From Wire Brushes

While browsing rusty BBQ cleaning solutions, you may have encountered guides recommending using a wire brush.

While wire brushes do remove rust pretty effectively, this method has two main flaws.

For starters, the bristles on wire brushes fall off while you’re using them.

If you want to meticulously pick bristles off your grill like pin bones from a fish, feel free to use a wire brush. However, if you’d rather save time and effort, stick to a non-abrasive tool!

Then, there’s grill damage.

You have to get the pressure just right when brushing a grill with a wire brush. Otherwise, you can cause all sorts of damage to your BBQ grill, particularly if it’s made from a soft metal like copper or aluminium. 

The rust may come off like a dream with a wire brush, but the damage it causes in the process will encourage more rust and corrosion in the future. 

There are so many alternatives to wire brushes out there, like a regular household sponge or nylon brush, it doesn’t make sense to take the risks of a wire brush. 

2. Wear Protective Gear

I know what you’re thinking – I’m just cleaning my grill; why do I need protective gear?

But here’s the thing – vinegar and baking soda mixtures can be corrosive. If they touch your skin, they may cause skin irritation or even chemical burns. 

Furthermore, cleaning rust can be a nasty business, causing cuts on your hands if you’re not careful.

Gloves don’t just come in handy by preventing skin irritation; they also reduce the risk of infection from the rust on your grill. 

Then there are safety glasses. The rust will break away when you scrub away at your grills. It’s not unusual for rust particles to enter the air, putting your eyes at risk of redness, pain, and irritation. 

It’s better to be safe than sorry!

3. Inspect Your Grill BEFORE Cleaning

Sometimes, we can’t decipher the true extent of rust damage until we get up close and personal.

Carefully inspecting your grill can help you identify whether you’ll need to go at your BBQ with full force or you can be a little gentler.

It’s also worth checking your grill at this point to ensure there are no loose parts that need replacing or repairing.

If you notice any cracks or holes from severe corrosion, it’s important to repair these first before attempting to clean it.

With minor damage, you may be able to patch your grill up with some light welding.

However, if the damage is extreme, ask yourself: is it worth the time and effort cleaning it? Or is it time for a new grill? 

READ NEXT: The Best Charcoal BBQs

How to Clean a Rusty BBQ Grill: Step-By-Step Guide

Now, onto the part you’ve been waiting for: how to clean a rusty BBQ grill. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide, including alterations depending on the extent of the rust damage. 

Step One: Mix Your Vinegar and Baking Soda Solution

Mix Your Vinegar and Baking Soda Solution

Combine your vinegar and baking soda in a container until it forms a thick paste.

½ a litre of white vinegar and ¼ a litre of baking soda should be sufficient for most BBQs. 

However, if your BBQ is particularly large or rust is covering most of the grate, you may need more. In this instance, stick to a 2:1 ratio of white vinegar to baking soda.

If the solution starts to bubble and fix, don’t fret – this is normal!

When vinegar and baking soda combine, they release carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is extremely effective at loosening rust. 

Step Two: Remove the BBQ Grates

Remove the grates from the BBQ and place them in a plastic tub or clean wheelbarrow and apply the vinegar and baking soda paste using a sponge. 

For mild cases of rust, leave the mixture to work its magic for at least 15 – 20 minutes. However, if your grate is covered in rust, give it 30 – 60 minutes. 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you can sit down and have a cuppa for the next hour – the paste only works properly if it’s wet, so you’ll need to apply more if it dries out. 

Step Three: Scrub the Grates Using a Non-Abrasive Tool

Scrub the Grates Using a Non-Abrasive Tool

After the vinegar-baking soda mixture has loosened the rust, scrub it with a non-abrasive tool like a sponge or nylon brush.

This may require some elbow grease, but not too much – the solution should have done the work.

If you discover there are still stubborn bits of rust on your grill after scrubbing, wipe it down and go through step two again. 

Step Four: Clean and Dry Your BBQ Grates

Once you’ve scrubbed all the rust away, douse the grates with water. Ensure you wash away all the cleaning solution – you don’t want this on your food!

Then, take your paper towel or dry, clean cloth, and wipe your BBQ grates down, drying them thoroughly. 

Then, simply put your grates back on your BBQ, and you’re ready to go! 

READ NEXT: The UK’s Best Gas BBQ’s

Prevent Rust, So You Don’t Have to Cure It

A little tip for the future – preventing rust on your BBQ is far easier than having to clean a rusty BBQ grill – you just need the correct grill maintenance method. 

Although it can be challenging to convince yourself to clean your BBQ right after using it, it’s worth it and doesn’t take too long. 

Heat the grill to remove any remaining food and grease, then scrape the grates using a scraper (not a wire brush!).

Use a damp sponge to remove any grease from the BBQ’s exterior and empty the drip tray, cleaning it with soapy water after.

Clean the grates with soapy water, then rinse and dry them like in step four. And if you can, cover your grill once you’re finished, as this will protect it from harsh weather. 

Cleaning your grill after every use will stop food buildup and grease from causing corrosion and rust. This will increase your BBQ’s lifespan and prevent you from having to clean away rust every year!