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Restore Your Grill: How to Remove Stubborn Rust From BBQ Grill Grates (2023)

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how to remove rust from bbq grill gratesYou’ve fired up the grill for the first time this season, only to find your grill grates coated in rust. Don’t worry – removing the stubborn rust and restoring your grill to its former glory is totally doable.

First, give those grates a good scrubbing with a wire brush to remove any loose rust particles.

Then, make a baking soda paste by mixing baking soda with just enough water to form a thick paste.

Smear the paste all over those rusty grates and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before rinsing clean.

The baking soda helps lift and dissolve the tough rust so it washes away easily.

Now your grill is ready for juicy burgers and chicken without the nasty metallic taste of burnt rust.

With a few simple steps and ingredients from your pantry, you can get rid of rust from your grill grates and keep your friends and family safe while serving up delicious backyard meals.

Key Takeaways

  • Make a paste of baking soda and water, apply it to the grates, let it sit for a while, then scrub to lift the rust off the grates.
  • Soak the grates overnight in a bath of vinegar to dissolve the rust and corrosion before scrubbing them clean.
  • Mix lemon juice with baking soda to create a fizzing rust-removal mixture.
  • Use a wire brush to firmly scrub cast iron grates, removing any decay.

Why Do Grill Grates Rust?

Why Do Grill Grates Rust
You’re dealing with rust on the grill again because leaving her uncovered in the rain led to overnight oxidation. Rust forms when bare metal meets moisture. Stainless steel grill grates still contain iron that can oxidize into rust without the protective chromium oxide layer.

Once the stainless finish fails, those iron molecules bond with oxygen in water to create the reddish-brown rust.

A little surface rust wipes away, but prolonged exposure causes pitting as it eats into the metal. Neglecting your uncovered grill leads to heavy rust buildup in grooves and around welds. Persistent rust eventually damages the grates, so prompt removal keeps them pristine.

Regular cleaning and covering prevents rust in the first place.

Can I Grill on Rusted Grates?

Can I Grill on Rusted Grates
You’re staring down at a rusty grate wondering if you should fire up the grill or not. While unsightly, light surface rust on an otherwise intact grate is no worry for grilling. A little discoloration won’t affect your meal. Rusted spots just mean some tidying up is in order after cooking.

For small patches, crumple up some aluminum foil and scrub away. The textured foil works like sandpaper to smooth things out. Then rinse and dry completely so moisture doesn’t reactivate oxidation. Maintaining a light coat of vegetable oil prevents rust between uses.

It’s heavy flaking rust that demands immediate removal. Thick layers and pitting can flake off onto food. A heavy duty wire brush usually does the trick. For stubborn areas, apply a paste of baking soda and vinegar and let it bubble away the corrosion.

Removing Rust From Grill Grates

Removing Rust From Grill Grates
When scrubbing away stubborn rust on your barbecue grill grates, start by making a paste of baking soda and water and applying it over the rusted areas. For heavy rust buildup, try soaking the grates overnight in white vinegar to dissolve the corrosion before scrubbing.

You can also mix lemon juice with baking soda to create a fizzing rust-removal mixture that clings to the grates as it bubbles away grime.

Baking Soda Paste

Apply a thick paste of baking soda and water to the rusted areas, let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub it off with a rag to clean those grates right up.

  1. Make a paste with 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.
  2. Apply paste generously to rust spots using a scrub brush or rag.
  3. Let paste sit for 5-10 minutes to work on the rust.
  4. Scrub with brush or rag to remove paste and rust.

Rust doesn’t stand a chance against the power of baking soda. This natural cleaner tackles rust without any harsh chemicals. Just a simple paste that lifts rust away with ease. Give those grates a good scrubbing, and they’ll be looking brand new again.

Vinegar Soak

Immerse those grates overnight in a vinegar bath for effortless rust removal the next morning. Let the acetic acid in distilled white vinegar dissolve the stubborn rust. Your grates will look as good as new after a thorough scrubbing.

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

Voilà! The citrus and soda deliver rust-busting action. Squeeze fresh lemons over grates. Sprinkle on baking soda. Let the mixture bubble and lift rust. Scrub with a brush.

Wire Brush

You’ve a brush of thin wires. Scrub hard across the iron’s pocked face to free it of decay.

A wire wheel brush is your best bet for tackling rust on cast iron grill grates. Apply some elbow grease as you scrub those taut bristles across the grates’s gnarled surface, sweeping away corrosion.

Method Grates Pressure
Wire brush Cast iron Firm
Steel wool Porcelain Gentle
Baking soda paste Stainless steel Moderate

Preventing Rust on Grill Grates

Preventing Rust on Grill Grates
When it comes to keeping your grill grates rust-free, a little care and maintenance goes a long way. Start by cleaning your grates thoroughly after each use, applying a light coat of vegetable oil, and storing them covered when not in use.

Proper cleaning removes food debris that can lead to rust if left to sit, while the oil provides a protective barrier against moisture in the air.

Storing grates under a fitted water-resistant cover keeps off rain and condensation that promote rust.

With just a few minutes of TLC after grilling, you’ll keep those grill grates looking like new for many seasons of backyard cooking to come.

Cooking and Cleaning Tips

  • After grilling, quickly wipe the grates down with a paper towel to remove any food bits.
  • Let the grates cool completely before closing the lid.
  • Dry thoroughly after cleaning.
  • Apply a thin coat of oil before storing.
  • Use a grill cover when the grill is not in use.
  • Replace worn or rusted grates.

Proper Storage

Cover up your grill immediately after use to nip rust in the bud. Drape it with a breathable fitted cover. Before covering, give grates a quick rinse and coat with a thin layer of vegetable oil to repel moisture.

Store on a flat surface clear of rain and snow. Barbecue grill mats placed beneath also shield from ground moisture and grime. Maintaining this simple routine keeps your grill rust-free for years of savory, safe grilling.

Rust Removal Tools

Rust Removal Tools
When removing rust from grill grates, leverage the concentrated cleaning power of vinegar or lemon juice combined with abrasive baking soda to lift stubborn corrosion without damaging the metal. For cast iron, a thick paste of baking soda and water left overnight can work wonders, while a good soak in vinegar does the trick for stainless steel.

Crumpling up aluminum foil with baking soda and salt makes a gentle but effective scouring pad. And for tough spots, reach for the steel wool, rubbing lightly to avoid scratching the grates. With the right rust-fighting ingredients and tools, you can erase embarrassing rust stains and restore the like-new shine you expect from quality barbecue grates.

Replacing Rusted Grates

Replacing Rusted Grates
You’ll need new grates if that rust’s eaten clear through the metal. When your barbecue grates are so far gone that wire brushes, elbow grease, and rust removers can’t revive them, it’s time for replacement.

Select heavy-duty cast iron or stainless steel grates to resist rusting. Carefully measure your grill to find the right size. Remove old grates and thoroughly clean the grill, removing chunks of dislodged rust.

Set new grates in place, taking care with charcoal grates not to disturb the coals.

With fresh grates installed, keep your barbecue’s guts rust-free using a baking soda cleaning system after each use.

Grill Grate Maintenance

Grill Grate Maintenance
With shiny new grates installed, it’s time to keep them that way. Don’t let your investment go to waste with neglected maintenance.

Follow this 5-step routine to care for your grill grates:

  1. Brush grates after preheating and after cooking to remove grime.
  2. Scrub with a grill brush and baking soda paste monthly.
  3. Cover the grill when not in use to protect from weather.
  4. Re-oil cast iron grates before storing to prevent rust.
  5. Deep clean grill interior and burners yearly to stop rust in its tracks.

Stay ahead of rust buildup with diligent care. Your grill will thank you with many seasons of trusty service.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How often should I clean my grill grates to prevent rust?

You’ll want to clean your grill grates after every use. This quick scrubbing prevents food and grime buildup, which can lead to rust if left unchecked. For the deepest clean, give the grates a good brushing and rinse monthly during grilling season or anytime you notice rust spots forming.

Q: What homemade solutions work to get rid of rust on my grill?

Soak the grates in white vinegar overnight, then scrub them with a wire brush. Make a paste with lemon juice and baking soda, let it sit for 30 minutes, then scrub the grates clean. Mix equal parts water and white vinegar and generously apply the solution. Let it fizz for 10 minutes before scrubbing the grates with steel wool.

Q: Is it safe to use a wire brush on porcelain coated grill grates?

While a wire brush can be very effective at removing rust, it’s best to avoid using one directly on porcelain-coated grill grates. The abrasive wires can easily scratch and damage the porcelain’s protective coating.

For porcelain, use a soft-bristle nylon brush and rust-removing cleaners instead.

Q: If I have heavy rust buildup, do I need a professional cleaner?

If heavy rust has built up, a professional deep cleaning may be needed. Use care when tackling severe rust yourself, as you could damage the grates. Having a pro handle it ensures the job gets done properly without harming your grill.

Q: How can I tell if my grill grates need to be fully replaced?

You can tell if grill grates need full replacement when heavy rust or corrosion has eaten through the metal. Additionally, if wire brushes barely make a dent in built-up rust layers, or if the grates are visibly warped and food sticks relentlessly, it’s time for new grates.


Don’t let your grill turn to crud! With some elbow grease and natural cleaners, you can banish stubborn rust from your barbecue grill grates. After all, nothing sours a cookout like the acrid taste of corroded metal. Stay vigilant about cleaning and storing your grill properly, and rust doesn’t stand a chance.

Guard your grates, and you’ll be serving up perfectly seared steaks and burgers with the best barbecue flavor for years to come.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.