How to Clean Rusty Charcoal Grill Grates

If you store your BBQ outdoors, you may notice that the charcoal grates have become rusty over time. Rust on the charcoal grill not only looks unappealing, but it can also ruin the taste of your delicious grilled food. The good news is cleaning rust of the grill grates is fairly easy and there is no need for harsh chemicals. Here are our favourite natural cleaning methods to remove rust from your grill grates. 

Grill Grate Maintenance

Keeping your BBQ grill looking good requires regular and immediate cleaning after use. This may seem like a chore, but as soon as you are done barbecuing, clean the grates with a simple water and dish soap solution. The longer burnt food grime stays on the grates, the harder they will be to clean. So, it’s worth it in the long run to give the grates a quick rinse after use.

Remove Grill Rust with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a fantastic natural cleaner that can be used to remove grease and grime from the BBQ grill. Start by removing as much rust from the grate as you can with a soft brush. 

A close-up of a rusty old barbeque grill with burning charcoal underneath it.

Then place the grate back onto the BBQ. Sprinkle the baking soda generously onto the grate and turn the BBQ on.

The heat from the BBQ will make the baking soda bubble, this process will eliminate the rust from the grill. Once the baking soda has finished bubbling, turn the grill off and leave the BBQ to cool down. Then use a soft brush to clean away the remaining baking soda and rust.


Baking soda is a powerful little cleaning product and can even be used to clean your oven, you can find the homemade oven cleaner recipe here.

Vinegar and Salt Rust Remover

White vinegar is a very versatile natural cleaning product and can be used to clean just about anything, including rust. Combine 2 parts vinegar to 1-part salt into a spray bottle. Thoroughly cover the grates in the vinegar solution and store in an old plastic bag overnight. Once the grill grates have soaked overnight, wipe the grates with an old cloth to remove all the rust residue.

Removing Rust with a Wire Brush

The quickest method for removing rust from charcoal grill grates is by using a wire brush. Remove the grate from the grill and place it on a flat surface, such as the driveway or patio. Brush the rust off the grates with the wire brush, making sure you get in between each grate. Wipe away the dislodged rust and grime with an old cloth and place the grate back onto the BBQ.

Prevent Rust on Grill Grates

  1. You can prevent rust appearing on the grill grates by covering the barbecue with a fitted cover. This will stop moisture from getting to the BBQ grill, preventing rust.
  2. Cleaning the grill grates after every use will reduce the risk of rust. Food grime left on the grates will cause them to rust much quicker.
  3. After each use, coat the grates in a thin layer of vegetable oil using a paper towel. Vegetable oil repels water so will help to prevent the grill grates from rusting.
  4. During winter, check on your grill grates, if there is sign of rust, remove this immediately to avoid it damaging the metal. Here are our top tips for cleaning and storing your BBQ in winter.

Alternatively, you could use a barbecue grill mat to make the whole cleaning process much quicker and easier. Using a grill mat will stop food from falling between the grates, meaning smaller, more delicate foods can be cooked without falling apart and even cooking sauces can be added, without dripping through. You can read more about using barbecue grill mats in our blog here. 

close up of a BBQ rack

Keeping your grill grates free from rust is very important when preparing fresh meals, no one wants their BBQ ribs to taste rusty. But as demonstrated, cleaning the rust off your BBQ grill is pretty easy and you can even prevent rust from occurring at all with our maintenance tips.

If you don’t have the time to deep clean your BBQ and grill, Ovenclean offer a professional deep barbecue cleaning service. Better still, Ovenclean’s unique no added caustic-soda barbecue cleaning system eliminates the need for harmful cleaning products. So, why not contact your local specialist today?

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