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How to Clean Grill Grates (to Make Them Like New)

Viva® Towels | December 21 , 2023 | 5 min Read
Friends and family over for a cookout

Keep your grill clean and ready for hosting with Viva®’s easy guide on how to clean grill grates

There’s nothing sweeter than tidying your outdoor space, heating up your grill, and inviting friends and family over for a cookout. Those long afternoons sharing food with loved ones are truly one of life’s greatest gifts. But as any seasoned host will know, the day isn’t over once everyone goes home. Cleaning up takes just as much care and attention as the event itself.

To help get things neat and tidy after grilling out, you'll definitely need an easy method for how to clean grill grates. While caked-on food and grease might look impossible to remove, you can actually make grill grates look good as new with just a few inexpensive household supplies. Baking soda, dish soap, and vinegar—paired with the cleaning power of Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towels—are all you need to make your grill grates clean and fresh.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to clean grill grates using Viva®’s simple method, along with other important tips and watch-outs to keep in mind when tackling this task.

How often should you clean your grill grates?

It’s important to strike the right balance when cleaning your grill grates, as over-cleaning can remove coatings and cause food to stick.

Our guide will walk you through a deep cleaning method that you should aim to complete once or twice a season, depending on how often you’re using your grill. You’ll know it’s time for a deep clean if you get lots of black char when you’re not grilling at a high temperature.

While you don’t need to deep clean every day, it is important to give your grill a light clean after each use to avoid buildup of food particles and grease. Alongside our step-by-step guide, we’ve also included quick cleaning tips that you can use to help keep your grill grates in check between deep cleans.

What cleaning supplies do you need?

Before we dig into Viva®’s simple grill cleaning method, let’s make sure you have all the right supplies on hand. You’ll probably find most of the below in your cleaning cupboard already, but it’s best to double-check before you get started.

  • Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towels
  • Baking soda (2 cups)
  • Distilled white vinegar (2 cups)
  • Dish soap (¼ cup)
  • Nylon grill brush
    • Do not use wire brushes as the bristles can break off onto your grill and are unsafe to ingest
  • 2 garbage bags

How do you clean grill grates, step-by-step?

Once you’ve gathered all the tools and supplies you need, it’s time to make those grill grates grease-free! Follow each step to the tee to get the best results.

Step 1: Heat it up.

- Turn on your grill to warm up the grates to 250 degrees for about 5 minutes. This will help to loosen baked-on food.

Step 2: Brush away debris.

- While the grill is warm, brush and scrape away baked-on food with a nylon (not metal) brush.

Step 3: Let cool and remove grates.

- Let your grill grates cool completely, then remove them from the grill and place them on top of one of the garbage bags (either on the ground or on a table).

Step 4: Rub in cleaning agents.

- In a small bowl, mix together dish soap and baking soda to create a paste. Rub the paste all over the grates using a Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towel, being sure not to miss any spots.

Step 5: Let the magic happen.

- Let your grill grates sit with the paste on for 30 minutes. Then, wipe the paste away with a Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towel.

Step 6: Rinse it off.

- Rinse the grill grates with cold water (use a pitcher or your garden hose), then pat dry with a Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towel.

Step 7: Final soak.

- In the second garbage bag, mix 2 cups of vinegar and 1 cup of baking soda. Place the grill grates inside and seal (tie up or use rubber band). Leave them to soak overnight.

Step 8: The big reveal!

- Remove the grates from the bag after at least 12 hours and rinse with cold water.

Step 9: One last polish.

- Wipe away any remaining food debris with a Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towel, rinse again with cold water, and pat dry.

What are some everyday hacks for keeping grill grates clean?

Now that you’ve deep-cleaned your grill grates, don’t let that hard work go to waste! While you won’t need to complete the full process above every time you use your grill, a light clean after you finish cooking will help your deep clean results last longer. Follow the steps below for more everyday grill cleaning.

  1. Use an onion: Chefs and grill masters recommend cutting an onion in half and rubbing it over the grates while they're still hot. The juices from the onion will help to loosen any food particles, making them easier to remove. (Hold the onion securely with tongs or a grilling fork)

  2. Brush the grates: Use a nylon brush to scrape off any food particles or debris that are stuck to the grates. This should also be done while the grates are still hot, as it will be easier to remove any residue before it hardens.

  3. Oil the grates: After brushing the grates, use a Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towel to apply a thin layer of vegetable or canola oil to the grates. This will help prevent food from sticking to the grates in the future and will also help to protect them from rusting.

  4. Cover your grill: Sheltering your grill with a cover that fits snugly will help protect it from the elements, and avoid any buildup of rust.

What mistakes should you avoid when cleaning grill grates?

With Viva®’s tips in your pocket, you’re almost a fully fledged grill cleaning pro. For the final finish, we’ve put together a run down of the three most common grill cleaning mistakes to watch out for—so you always achieve a next level clean.

  1. Avoid putting grill grates in a dishwasher: While it may be tempting to put your grill grates in the dishwasher to save time and effort, they’re usually too heavy and can damage internal components such as the spray arms or the dishwasher rack. Additionally, grease and food particles from the grates can end up in your dishwasher's filter or drain, leading to clogs or unpleasant odors.

  2. Steer away from oven cleaner or strong degreasers: These products contain a lot of strong chemicals that are best kept away from food. Harsh chemicals can also break down the metals and coatings that protect food from sticking or falling apart. To play it safe, we recommend using natural cleaning agents—which are just as effective!

  3. Avoid using wire brushes to clean grill grates: A wire brush may seem like the perfect tool to clean your grill grates. However, bristles can break off of wire brushes and get stuck in the metal (and potentially your food). To be extra careful, doctors recommend steering clear.

By following these deep cleaning and everyday maintenance steps, your grill will always be clean and ready to go— whether you're cooking for your family on a quiet evening, or inviting over guests for a grill-out. Don’t forget to keep a roll of Viva® Signature Cloth™ paper towels on your grill table or shelf to make cleaning up a cinch!