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How to Properly Clean Your Grill, and Keep It Maintained Year Round

It’s that time of year again when firing up the grill is much more preferable than cooking in a hot kitchen. There are so many fabulous recipes to take advantage of, plus it’s a great place to be social. Unfortunately this also often results in a dirty grill that can be neglected, especially when you have a group of people around waiting on dinner. Even when you do make it a habit of cleaning your grill, it doesn’t take long for an accumulation of oil and grease to build up in hard to reach places.

To keep your grill looking good, and to avoid any sort of grease fires that can occur from spilled flammables, ideally you should clean your grill after each use, and give it a good scrub down every few months- especially if you’ve been using it often. So if you have been looking for a good how to clean a grill tutorial, this once over is what I’m going to describe below, with a few helpful tips to help maintain your gas propane and charcoal grills.

What You Will Need

There are only a few essential items you really need to make a success out of your cleaning job, both on a regular basis and for a more deep clean.

Grill CleanerA good grill cleaner can help cut the worst of the accumulated grease and loosen stuck on grime.
Dish Soap w/ Grease CutterDish Soap really helps with those hard to reach places and thin layers of grease that get left behind.
Grill Brush: Metal grill brushes with a strong scraper are an essential tool for year round grill maintenance.
Handy Scrub BrushAn old upholstery scrub brush with stiff bristles can get into hard to reach places and help shine up those more delicate pieces, like the element covers.
BucketKeep a good soapy mixture handy and close by with a bucket.
Optional HoseI like to give my grill a good once over with the hose when it’s all said and done to get all the cleanser off and make sure all the loose materials are gone.
Optional Vinegar and Baking SodaThis is a decent replacement for grill cleaner if you prefer not to use it. It helps break down grease and loosen cooked on materials. It does take a bit more work and multiple applications to be effective however.

Getting Started

My grill wasn’t horribly dirty, but I’ll admit I have been guilty of not keeping it maintained the last few times I’ve cooked. It had some good baked on pieces of carrion and plenty of grease and charred materials built up on the lower plates from the last few months.

Step 1: Make Sure Propane is Turned Off

Before you get started, be sure your propane is turned off completely and well connected. This may be a good time to check your propane level as well by taking off the tank. And good opportunity to wipe it down and get off the dust and dirt, or splattered grease.



What to remember

This is also a great time to double check your connections with a little soapy water with the propane turned on to make sure you don’t have any leaks. If bubbles form you need to tighten those connections, and make sure none of the lines are degrading.

Step 2: Scrub off Grill Grates and Remove Them

With your grill brush scrape off and brush as much as you can off the grates and then remove them. If your grates are cast iron you want to get them as clean as you can with just the grill brush since the porous iron is part of the cooking experience. Once this is done remove them to get at the lower elements of the grill.


What to remember

Do NOT use soap on cast iron. The grease and char from your foods help season the cast iron to keep it from rusting, and it lends flavor to your foods.

Step 3: Remove Burner Protectors

Remove the burner protectors, and if they fit, drop them into the soapy water bucket to soak and get back to. Burner protectors are generally pretty well coated with the juices and drippings from the foods you have cooked. They aren’t generally covered in thick materials since it burns off easily, but a good wipe down can make them looking almost like new.

What to remember

Burner protectors are there to protect the burners, so they are the first thing to heat up. Make sure to clean up the underneath of the protectors as well.

Step 4: Remove Trays

If you have removable trays, slide them out and dump the loose, charred material. Removable trays makes cleaning the bottom of the grill much easier. If you don’t have trays, scrape up as much of the loose material as you can with your grill brush, making sure to get into the corners and sides as well.

What to remember

Putting a layer of tinfoil along the tray bottom, or grill bottom, can make this clean up much easier as it will collect the worst of the charred bit of food and drippings.

Step 5: Scrub Out and Remove Loose Materials From Plates

Most of your loose materials will fall to the trays if you have them, but the lower plates sides are sure to get a bit of accumulation as well. If you can reach in with the grill brush scrub all that out as well and knock any built up material loose. Use both the scraper side and brush side to loosen up and scrape as much as you can.

What to remember

Make sure to get into the corners and small metal corners. I even reach down with my hands and just brush it all out so when you use the grill cleaner in the next step it gets at anything you’ve missed.

Step 6: Spray Down the Inside of the Grill and Any Elements with Grill Cleaner

Once all the old food and burned on grease has been knocked loose, spray everything down well, including the trays and non-cast iron grates you have removed. Let it sit on for about five minutes to soak in, and then take your grill brush and back over these parts to get at all the baked in grime and to degrease anything left over after the scrubbing.

If you aren’t a fan of grill cleaner, you can use vinegar and baking soda with a scrub brush to get it well coated over everything to help degrease it all. This may not be quite as effective on a bbq as it may be in the kitchen due to the larger amounts of accumulated grease and charred food, but it does help a lot with a bit of elbow grease.


What to remember

Don’t forget the burner elements themselves. These can build up grime despite the protectors you have over them and giving them a good once over can keep them burning clean. A paper towel with a little grill cleaner can do wonders.

Step 7: Scrub Down Everything with Soapy Water

Once you’ve sprayed it all down with grill cleaner and scrubbed all the places you can reach to get the stuck on stuff loose, follow up with soapy water and a handheld stiff bristled brush. This helps get the films of grease that accumulate over everything off and loosens any missed materials. Your bucket water will dirty very quickly, so you may want to mix up a soapy water mixture more than once. Be liberal in your use of water and soap and get everything well scrubbed off.

What to remember

As mentioned, if your grates are cast iron avoid this step and just get them well brushed off. If you still want them cleaned up a bit, try using a bit of vinegar and the scrub brush to break down any film of grease you can see lingering. You can follow up with an oil coating as explained in step 10.

Step 8: Hose Off Entire Grill and Let It Dry

After I’ve scrubbed everything up well I do like to give it all a good hose down. This loosens and removes anything you may have missed, and also allows you to see where grease might still be hanging on so you can go back in and scrub it again. It’s really the accumulated areas you need to worry about the most as they can start on fire and char up whatever you are currently cooking, plus they hold in moisture and can cause areas of rust. Make sure you let it dry off completely before putting the grill back together.

What to remember

It’s a grill. It’s supposed to be a little dirty and used looking, so don’t think you are going to get it back into a new condition.

Step 9: Put it Back Together

I always leave my pieces out to dry completely and then put them back together as moisture can get caught in the metal on metal areas and create an area of rust. This is a good time to look over everything well and knock anything loose that managed to hold on. Plus it’s sort of exciting to see it looking all newer again!

What to remember

Again, this is a grill that is supposed to be used and (kind of) abused. It doesn’t need to be perfect, and in fact, some of the grease helps season the entire grill which provides a bit of protection (explained in the next step). It also lends to the cooking flavor.

Step 10: Oil the Metal and Turn the Grill on High

When you first get a new grill it’s always a good idea to ‘season’ it, or break it in per se. This is a step that helps protect the metal and cleans it out and involves wiping it down with a cooking oil and then letting it burn off on high heat for about a half hour. I like to do this about once a year after a good cleaning to re-season my cast iron grates, and also burn out any small loose materials.

What to remember

Use a soft rag, or strong paper towels to avoid leaving behind any small particles. Use the oil liberally and just wipe down all the inside and outside surfaces.

Step 11: Cover and Protect Grill Properly

After doing all this work you can avoid marking up the beautifully cleaned and oiled exterior by investing in a good grill cover. This helps protect it from the elements, and also slows down the natural rusting process that is sure to occur over time with an outdoor metal product. If you live in an area where you get a lot of wind, it will be helpful to get one that has snap on, adjustable buckles.

What to remember

Many covers only last a few years, especially if they are in the sun, so be sure to look for rips and tears.

Step 12: Regular Maintenance

To keep from having to give your grill too much of a cleaning too often, leave your grill on high after removing your food for an extra ten minutes before going back and giving it a good once over with your grill wire brush while still hot. Also, dump out and wipe down your tray after you cook as well to keep charcoal and char from accumulating.

After winter storage it’s always a good idea to give it all a good wipe down too if it’s been sitting. Checking propane levels and connections at this time is a good idea as well.



What to remember

Regular maintenance also helps keep your grill from rusting as burnt on organic materials may hold moisture against the metal.


Cleaning your grill after each use ensures that you won’t have to do much cleaning too often. But even if you do, the above steps will help keep your grill well seasoned and working as you expect. Too much accumulated material can result in rusting, something your grill will probably do over time as it’s hard to keep moisture and humidity from affecting the metal. Proper maintenance will slow this process down so you can get years of use out of your grill.

If at any point it was running through your head, ‘It might be time to clean my grill this year’, we’ve probably got you covered with the above information.

Hopefully we’ve provided a few helpful tips to keep you up and running all grilling season, and if you have any favorite ways to maintain or clean your grill we’d love to hear below. And as always, please share!

You might also like: How to Make BBQ S’mores

About The Author

Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod cuts a tragic figure in the High School English classroom teaching literature by day, and moonlighting as a writer and graphic artist by night. Published in a variety of travel magazines, and now a blog, Danielle enjoys coming up with home and garden projects to complete with her two young boys. A native of Michigan, she resides in Southeastern New Mexico with her variety of horses, poultry, and variable mix of rescue dogs (there’s a cat or two in there as well). In her free time she enjoys travel, art, photography, and a good book!