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How to Clean a Grill

Keeping your grill clean isn’t only about appearances. It’s necessary for proper grill maintenance. A clean grill is more sanitary and ensures that your grill will work the way you want it to.

What Is the Best Way to Clean a Grill?

While the exact details for cleaning your grill may vary by type of grill, the basics remain the same.

  • Spray the grill grate and the inside of the grill with a natural degreaser/cleaner.
  • Clean both sides of the grill grates with cloth or heavy-duty paper towels.
  • Dispose of drip tray liners.
  • Clean the inside and outside of the grill with a natural cleaner.

Before cleaning your grill, look through the grill instructions. Manuals will likely have information specific to your model.

Are You Supposed to Clean Your Grill?

Yes, you’re supposed to clean your grill on a regular basis. If you don’t clean your grill, nasty food particles, grease, and ash can make it work less efficiently, meaning your food won’t cook as quickly or evenly. Plus, those contaminants will make their way into your food.

When to Clean a Grill

You should clean your grill every time you use it, or at least every two to three cooks. And every few months, you should give your grill a more robust cleaning. Before the grilling season kicks off, you should complete some prep cleaning.

After Each Use: How to Clean Grill Grates

If your food did touch the grill grates, you have a few options to clean your grill.

The first option is with a natural cleaner that doesn’t have harmful chemicals in it. Let the grill cool, then remove and spray the grill grates with a natural cleaning solution. Scrub the grates with a nylon-bristle brush, a disposable cloth, or heavy-duty paper towels.

If you don’t have a natural cleaning solution, you can use an onion or lemon to clean your grates. While the grill grates are still hot, rub half an onion or lemon along them. If the grates are especially dirty, dip the lemon half in salt to help it scrape food particles off, or spray the grill grates with distilled vinegar before scrubbing.

Every Few Weeks: How to Inspect and Clean Your Smoke Stack

Every few weeks, you should do a deeper clean. Dispose of the old foil or drip tray liners and remove the drip tray and heat baffle. Vacuum the inside of the grill and firepot with a shop vacuum, and scrub the inside of the chimney with cloth or paper towels. Spray the inside and outside of the grill with your cleaning solution and let it soak. Wipe away with a disposable cloth or paper towels.

Finally, return the heat baffle, drip tray, new liners, and the grill grates. It may seem like a lot of work to do every few cooks, but if you take care of your grill, it’ll take care of you for years to come.

Every Three Months: How to Clean the Outside of Your Grill

Give the outside of your grill a once-over at least four times a year -- more often if you don’t have a grill cover.

Before you clean the outside of your grill, unplug it, and make sure that it’s cool to the touch so you won’t get burned. Clean any noticeable grease from the outside of the grill with a disposable rag and warm, soapy water. Finally, apply a high-quality car wax to the outside surface of the grill to protect it from the elements.

Only use non-abrasive cleaners and cleaning pads on the outside surface of your grill. Abrasive cleaners could cause scratches which could result in rust.

Every Six Months: How to Inspect and Clean the Grease Drip

Twice a year, you should check and clean the grease drip. If you use your grill several times a week, you may want to do this more often.

First, unplug your grill and let it cool to room temperature. Once your grill cools, remove the grease bucket and set it aside. Using a nonmetal tool (e.g., a wooden spoon or paint stirring stick that won’t scratch your grill), scrape grease from the drain at the bottom of the drip tray and tube that leads to the grease bucket.

Clean any remaining grease residue with paper towels or disposable rags (you won’t want these going in your washing machine). Use the same nonmetal tool to scrape the grease bucket and paper towels to remove the rest of the grease.

Once a Year Grill Maintenance

At the end of your grilling season, you should do a deep clean of your grill.

  • Remove and clean the grill grates
  • Clean your grease drain pan
  • Empty your grease bucket
  • Wipe down your grill exterior
  • Remove extra ash from the firepot

Since you’re doing a deep clean at the end of grilling season, you’ll save yourself the work of doing it when the weather starts to warm up again. In the spring (before grilling season starts), a simple wipe down and inspection of the grease drain pan, firepot, and grill grates will suffice.

How to Remove Ash From Your Grill

To remove extra ash from your firepot, first let your grill cool completely. Then, remove the grill grate, grease drain pan, and heat baffle. Doing so will give you access to the firepot. Using a standard shop vacuum is the easiest way to remove the extra ash. You can then use a damp rag to catch any other ash you missed.

What Tools Do You Need to Clean a Grill?

You already know that you need the right tools to grill great food. So it’s no surprise that you need the right tools to keep your grill clean.

Disposable Cloths or Heavy-Duty Paper Towels

The grease and dirt buildup in your grill is not something you want to transfer to your washing machine. Use disposable cotton rags or heavy-duty paper towels that you can toss or compost.

Grill Brush With Nylon Bristles

Never use wire brushes on your grill grates. Wire bristles can break off on the grill grate and end up in your food.

Instead, use a BBQ cleaning brush with nylon bristles that won’t damage your cast iron grill grates. It will still remove any stubborn burnt-on food particles without wires ending up in your food. Make sure the grill is cool before using.

Grill Cleaner

We recommend using an all-natural, biodegradable grill cleaner like our Traeger All-Natural Grill Cleaner. As long as your grill cleaner can cut through grease and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals -- that you wouldn’t want to accidentally ingest -- you can use it for your grill.

Can You Use an Onion to Clean Grill Grates?

It sounds like an old wives’ tale, but yes, you can clean dirty grill grates with an onion. Onions have natural antibacterial properties and natural acids that break up gunk that’s burnt onto the grill grates.

First, heat up your grill for 15 minutes so the grates get nice and hot. This will help food particles burn off. Meanwhile, slice a large onion in half. Once the grill has heated, rub the onion along the grates. It helps to use a long fork or something similar as a handle for the onion. Or you can use our wooden grill grate scrape.

What Household Items Can You Use to Clean a Grill?

If you don’t have any store-bought grill cleaner, you probably have things at home you can use to clean your grill.

  • Distilled white vinegar

  • Onions

  • Lemons

  • Baking soda and vinegar

  • Dish soap in water

Tips to Make Less of a Mess When Grilling

While it’s important to clean your grill on a regular basis, it’s not something you want to do after you’re done cooking. Making less of a mess while grilling is the best way to ensure a speedy cleanup. Here are some tips to keep your grill tidy during cooking.

Grease Pans

The single biggest favor you can do yourself is to line your grease pans with aluminum foil. It’s a lot easier to chuck foil every few weeks than it is to scrape and clean grease pans.

Prevent the Stick

Since you’re cleaning your grill grates after almost every cook, you’ll save yourself a lot of time by ensuring your food doesn’t stick to the grill grates in the first place. If you season your cast iron grill grates (check your grill’s instruction manual), sticking shouldn’t be a major issue. Seasoned cast iron is nonstick, after all.

After seasoning your grill grates, adding oil to your food before tossing it on the grill is the easiest way to keep food from sticking.

Keeping your cast iron grill grates clean in the first place is essential to preventing sticking as well. All the more reason to give your grill a quick scrub with an onion or lemon after cooking and while the grill is still hot.

Mise en Place

Sometimes, the messes we make while grilling are because we’re scrambling at the last minute to find all our ingredients. “Mise en place” means “setting up.” In other words, get all your measured ingredients in place before you even light the grill. Your cooking will be less stressful and you won’t have half-measured ingredients laying around.