How to Clean a Grill After Each Use and Annually

barbecue grill in use

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 1 hr

Luckily, the time spent maintaining a grill is minimal, and the payback for the effort is enormous. It doesn't matter if you're dealing with a top-of-line model or a cheap knockoff: A major seasonal cleaning combined with an every day (or every-use) scrub-down will improve your grill's cooking performance. A clean grill will cook food better, and it will be free of residue that could possibly contaminate it.

How Often to Clean a Barbecue Grill

For health and safety reasons, not to mention the taste of the food, a barbecue grill should be treated just like you treat your kitchen stove. Clean it after every meal preparation.


Click Play to Learn How to Clean a Barbecue Grill

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Stainless steel grill brush with scraper
  • Rags
  • Stiff nylon brush


  • General-purpose dish soap


materials for cleaning a barbecue grill
​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Cleaning Grates and Racks

Grill grates and racks—and any other surface that touches food—should be cleaned after each use. For best results, wait until after you've grilled.

  1. Brush Off the Grates and Racks

    Immediately after each cooking session, brush off the grates and racks when they are cooler but still warm, using a high-quality stainless steel grill brush to clean off food particles.

    using a bottle brush tool to clean the grates
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  2. Scrape Off Burnt Food

    Use the brush's built-in scraper (if it has one) for burned-on food, or use a separate scraper tool.

    scraping off grill grates
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
  3. Wipe the Grates and Racks

    Wipe the grates and racks with a damp rag to remove loosened bits, and make sure there are no loose brush bristles left on the grate (you really don't want a wire bristle in anyone's food).

    If you have a cast-iron grate, clean it completely, then brush on some vegetable oil with a paper towel to keep your grate in proper shape. Bare cast iron needs to be inspected regularly, because it is more likely to rust.

    using a scrubber on the grill grates
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
  4. Soak the Grates and Racks if Needed

    Cleaned after every use, the grates and racks on your grill will avoid a heavy buildup of grease. If you forget to do this for too many cycles, you may need to soak the parts in a large bucket filled with a mixture of hot water and dish soap, which will help loosen baked-on grease.

    soaking grates in a basin with vinegar
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Cleaning Charcoal Grills

Grills that burn charcoal have unique issues related to the large quantities of ash generated. Here's a schedule for how to clean charcoal grills.

  1. Empty Ashes After Each Use

    Clean out the residual ash in a charcoal grill after each use. A pile of ash left on the grill can collect moistureand ash plus moisture can equal a cement-like substance that's can be incredibly difficult to remove.

    To make quick work of ash cleanup, keep a metal (not plastic or anything combustible) bucket with a lid next to the grill, and dump the ashes and spent coals into it when everything has cooled down. Store the bucket somewhere where it won't get wet.

    Transfer the collected ash to the garbage when the bucket is full and you're positive there are no coals still burning. Ash disposal becomes even easier if you opt for lump charcoal since it creates relatively little ash when compared to briquettes.

    scraping ashes off of the grill
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
  2. Clean All Parts Once Each Year

    At the beginning and end of each grilling season, or at least once a year if you grill year-round, give your charcoal grill a thorough cleaning with hot soapy water and a stiff nylon brush or fiber scrub pad.

    For complete cleaning, perform this work systematically, beginning with the surfaces up under the hood and moving down to the side walls and bottom of the cooking chamber. Make sure to thoroughly clean the drip pan.

    Conclude by wiping down the outside of the grill from top to bottom, using warm water. Wipe dry to prevent rust.

    Wiping down the outside of a grill

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  3. Take Your Time

    This can be difficult work if you haven't done it in a while, so be prepared to spend some time. You may go through several scrub pads and many buckets of warm water. Most people find it most satisfying to do this deep cleaning at the end of the grilling season, before storing the grill for the winter. That way, the grill will be clean and ready to go when the next grilling season begins.

    Visible grime coming off of a charcoal grill

    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

Cleaning Gas Grills

People with gas grills often think they are home free when it comes to cleaning their grills because of the "clean" setting on many gas grills. This setting does heat up the grill and burns off some of the particles, but it isn't a substitute for regular cleaning.

  1. Clean Grates and Racks After Each Use

    Cleaning chores are much easier if they are done often, after each use of the grill. This is critical with gas grills since the high temperatures can bake on grease and foods, making it challenging to clean the grates and racks once they cool and the grease hardens.

    Make sure to clean these parts after every cooking session.

    Gas grill grates cleaned with brush after cooking

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  2. Clean the Heat Deflectors

    Many gas grills have thin steel plates, angled in the shape of a "V," that separate the burners from the cooking chamber. These heat deflectors serve to distribute heat evenly around the cooking chamber and prevent the gas flames from burning the foods directly overhead. Grease and food residue often drips down onto these deflectors.

    Clean the deflectors after every three of four uses of the grill by removing them from the cooking chamber and scrubbing them with warm soapy water and a nylon brush or scrubbing pad. Dry them completely before putting them back in the grill.

    Gas grill heat deflectors scrubbed with soapy water and nylon brush

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  3. Clean All Parts Once a Year

    Clean everything else—including the burners themselves, the side walls, the bottom of the cooking compartment, and the drip pan—at least once a year, using warm, soapy water. This seasonal or annual cleaning requires some simple disassembly so you can clean each part separately let and dry it thoroughly before reassembling the grill. Make sure to disconnect the gas hookups before removing the burners.

    The burners require special attention. Makes sure the jets (the tiny holes where the flames emerge) are free of debris. A thin wire or small nail can help to open up any holes that are plugged.

    Conclude by wiping down the outside of the grill, using warm water. Wipe dry to prevent rust.

    Side walls of gas grill cleaned with soapy brush

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  4. Inspect All the Parts

    The annual cleaning is a good time to inspect all the parts and replace any that are worn or damaged. Grill burners can eventually wear out, as can the heat deflectors and other parts. Hardware stores sell many of the parts necessary to tune up a grill, and the grill manufacturer may offer them for sale online.

    Heat deflector from gas grill being inspected

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

Cover Your Outdoor Grill

It may seem obvious, but covering your grill is a must if you're keeping it outdoors. Without a cover, all the dust, dirt, pollen, cobwebs, and insect mess that covers your deck or patio during the off-season will equally cover your grill. Also, grills stay dryer under a cover, which helps reduce corrosion of the metal parts.

Outdoor grill covered with black cover

The Spruce / Almar Creative

  • Do you have to clean a grill after every use?

    Yes, you should clean all food particles from a grill after each use. Plus, ashes must be emptied from a charcoal grill, and heat deflectors should be cleaned regularly on a gas grill.

  • What happens if you don't clean your grill?

    Food particles left on a grill can breed pathogens just like they can in an indoor kitchen, and they can attract wildlife. Plus, leftover char can impact the taste of your food and not allow it to cook properly. And built-up grease can be a fire hazard

  • Can you hose down a grill?

    Yes, you can hose down a grill to remove food particles, dirt, pollen, and other debris. You’ll still likely need to brush the surfaces to get them clean. Make sure the grill is cool prior to hosing, or it can create dangerously hot steam.