How to clean rust from an outdoor grill — get yours summer-ready in 4 simple steps

Get the burgers going after you clean rust from an outdoor grill like a pro. You know BBQ season is on its way

Outdoor grill in backyard
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to clean rust from an outdoor grill is key if you want your BBQ and other al fresco dining equipment summer-ready. 

Outdoor grills are easily overlooked and there's nothing worse than gearing up for a barbecue, only to lift the lid and find a rusty mess. Our cleaning experts reveal the four simple steps to removing rust and restoring your grill, plus products they rate.

When cleaning your home, your outdoor space plays a vital part, especially as warm weather appears on the horizon, so add this task to your weekend list of jobs.

How to clean rust from an outdoor grill like a pro

In this easy-to-follow guide, our industry pros will walk you through the four simple steps to a rust-free grill — including the best cleaning supplies for the job. 

Where our experts have suggested high-quality products, we've curated matching picks with high customer ratings from trusted retailers.

All prices correct at time of publication.

1. Loosen any surface rust from your grill

Person scrubbing rusty grill with a scraper tool

(Image credit: wakila/Getty Images)

First things first, let's tackle that pesky surface rust. Armed with a wire brush or steel wool, gently scrub away the rust from the surface of your grill. This will help to loosen any stubborn spots and prepare the grill for a deeper clean.

Rafi Friedman, CEO of Coastal Luxury Outdoors, says, "Your most important tool here is going to be a good grill brush. Grills tend to have quite a lot of burnt-on carbonized gunk, so you'll want something that will stand up to heavy use."

Rafi recommends the GRILLART Grill Brush & Scraper from Amazon as a great grill-scraping option.

He adds, "Start by getting as much gunk off as you can with your grill brush before you apply any cleaner. This will help a lot when it's time to soak the grill grates, since it will keep all of that black, carbonized food out of the water."

Rafi Friedman headshot, white man with dark hair in a grey top
Rafi Friedman

Rafi Friedman is the CEO of a pool building, construction and cleaning company in Florida. It services over 1,000 clients and builds over 100 pools annually. Since its founding in 1983, Coastal Luxury Outdoors has dedicated itself to building high-quality custom backyard experiences.

2. Soak your grill overnight

Steaks being seasoned on an outdoor BBQ grill with vegetables and peppers behind

(Image credit: 10'000 Hours/Getty Images)

If you want to barbecue right, you'll want to give your grill a good soak to penetrate those hard-to-reach, rusty spots. 

Rafi says, "Once you've scraped as much as you can, fill a large bucket or plastic tub with hot water and then make a paste consisting of one cup of dish soap and 1/4 cup of baking soda. Apply the paste liberally to the grill grates, then set them in the water to soak."

We recommend Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda from Walmart.

If you don't have a bucket or tub large enough, a sturdy garbage bag does the job — just be careful not to get yourself soaked. You want to submerge your grill grates, but don't overfill with water or you risk over-diluting your solution.

An alternative, equally-effective solution is salt and vinegar. Not only is it America's most popular crisp flavor, but this pair combine brilliantly to rid your grill from rust and it's one of multiple ways to use vinegar to clean around the house.

Mix one cup salt with two cups white vinegar (such as the Good & Gather White Distilled Vinegar from Target). The salt will increase the natural acidity of the vinegar to the point where it can dissolve the already oxidized metal. The salt also acts as an abrasive when it comes time to start scrubbing.

Choose the solution that works best for you and the products you have to hand. Unless you're in a rush (in which case, an hour can do the job), leave your grill to soak overnight — working its rust-banishing magic while you catch some Zs.

3. Scrub the grill

Man wearing red glove cleaning BBQ grill with brush

(Image credit: EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/Getty Images)

With the rust loosened and softened from its overnight soak, it's time to give your grill a good scrub. After all, not cleaning properly tops the list of major mistakes that will ruin your grill.

For this step, a paste made from baking soda and water works wonders. The baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive, helping to lift away the remaining rust and restore the surface of your grill to its former glory.

Apply the paste to the rusted areas of your grill and scrub vigorously with a nylon brush or sponge. The Royal Gourmet Cleaning Brush from Wayfair has both scraper and scouring brush and works brilliantly on porcelain, ceramic, iron and steel BBQs.

Alternatively, you can opt for a commercial rust-remover such as the Rust-Oleum Rust Dissolver Gel from Amazon.

Vanessa Bossart, founder of GreenTerra Cleaning, says, "There are several effective rust-removal products out there, like Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser from Target. This acid-based solution effectively removes rust without damaging the grill’s surface."

Vanessa Bossart, founder of GreenTerra Cleaning, profile photo
Vanessa Bossart

Vanessa Bossart is founder of GreenTerra Cleaning, which has made more than 28,000 American homes sparkle and aims to redefine cleanliness as the cornerstone of healthy, sustainable living. With 18 years’ experience in the cleaning industry, Vanessa is passionate about promoting eco-friendly cleaning practices that improve the health of her clients and the planet.

4. Rinse, dry and protect your grill

Two steaks being cooked on outdoor grill BBQ with one being upturned by person with a cooking utensil

(Image credit: Guido Mieth/Getty Images)

Once you've scrubbed away the rust, it's time to give your grill a thorough rinse to remove any remaining residue. 

Use a hose or bucket of water to rinse away the baking soda paste or rust-remover. Be sure to dry your grill thoroughly with a clean cloth or towel to prevent any new rust from forming. These Prep & Savour Cleaning Cloths from Wayfair will do the job nicely.

Vanessa says, "Rinsing and drying the grill thoroughly is critical to ensure any residual chemicals or cleaning products have been removed prior to your next grilling session."

To keep your grill well-maintained, remember the three Cs: clean, cover and coat.

Clean your grill regularly to remove grease and food debris, which can contribute to rust formation. Cover your grill between uses to protect it from the elements (we have plenty of ideas for guarding your grill in style). Coat it with cooking oil (try Amazon's Happy Belly Soybean Vegetable Oil) after each clean to prevent rust formation. 

Vanessa adds, "The CitraSolv Valencia Orange Cleaner and Degreaser from Walmart is another great option to guard against moisture and future rust. It both cleans and leaves a protective coating, enhancing the grill's longevity."

So there you have it — with these simple steps and top tips in mind, you'll have your outdoor grill rust-free and looking sizzle-worthy in no time. 

Next, learn how to get your patio gleaming without a pressure washer, and the essentials for entertaining outdoors.

Andy van Terheyden
Freelance Writer

I'm a senior writer with an English degree and NCJ qualification, plus years of experience writing news, lifestyle and consumer articles for the national and international press. I'm also a copywriter, working on a breadth of consumer and corporate projects, and a private education consultant. I live in the quiet of the countryside and spend my weekends mooching around homeware shops, completing DIY tasks to breathe life into my small, newly-built home.