How to Deep Clean a Charcoal Grill Properly and Fast

Cleaning the grill regularly, regardless of how often you grill or smoke it’s not only healthy but it increases its lifespan.

charcoal grill cleaning

It also shows how you care for your equipment and most important personal hygiene.

If you have never cleaned a charcoal grill before and you wonder how to clean it regardless of how charred it is, here are nifty tips to make your grill grime-free.

Don’t forget to season the grates when you’re done.

5 Methods on How to Deep Clean a Charcoal Grill

Method 1: Baking Soda and Vinegar

vinegar and baking soda

White vinegar and baking soda are efficient and cheap options.

Both will help in cleaning the gunk off the grill as the acetic acid in white vinegar aids in breaking up the hardened food particles, while baking soda acts as an abrasive paste on the grime.

You will need these things:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Household sponge
  • Towel

to carry on the following essential steps:

  1. Prepare a diluted vinegar solution which is enough to wet the surface of the grill grate by pouring equal amounts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle
  2. Sprinkle baking powder over the grill grate, until the gunk is completely covered with it
  3. Spray the diluted vinegar solution on the grill
  4. Leave the cleaning agents on the grill for 10 – 15 minutes
  5. Using the sponge, scrub off the loosened grime and gunk until it comes off. Apply the same method to clean the bottom bowl
  6. Rinse the residue off the grate under running water and use a damp towel (not wet) to wipe out the bottom of the grill
  7. Wipe all the parts with a dry towel or let them air-dry

Method 2: Lemon and Baking Soda or Salt

cleaning charcoal grill with lemon

Both lemon and baking soda are vital cure-alls for cleaning.

Regardless of how persistent the grime and gunk are, it cannot withstand a chance against the abrasive and acidic combination of lemon and baking soda or salt.

Some requirements:

  • Lemon
  • Baking soda or salt

will be needed to carry on this method:

  1. With a half-cut lemon, coat the fleshy part with baking soda or salt
  2. Thoroughly scrub the grime on the grill using the baking soda-coated lemon
    • When the first half gets dirty, use the other
  3. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes as this gives time for the baking soda and lemon to work on the grime
  4. Use the same method to clean the bottom bowl, then rinse it off with running water
  5. Let the grill air-dry before grilling again.

Wow, does the grill shine or what?

Method 3: Aluminum Foil

cleaning charcoal grill with foil

If you are crunched for time, aluminum foil is the best for cast iron surfaces of your charcoal grill since it gives them a quick clean.

You can ball up the foil and use it to scrap the burnt bits of food and hardened grease off the grill.

  1. Crumple a big piece of aluminum foil to form a ball
  2. Use the balled-up foil to vigorously scrub back and forth the grime off the grill until all gunk comes off
  3. Rinse with water

Method 4: Dish Soap

dish soap

Using regular dish soap to scrub the charcoal grill grate thoroughly and the bottom bowl will make them squeaky clean.

Some requirements will be needed:

  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • A towel
  • A sponge
  1. Make a warm soap solution by pouring 2 cups of warm water into a bowl and 2 tablespoons of dish soap
  2. Soak the sponge and thoroughly scrub the grime off the grill grate and inside the bottom bowl until the shiny metal is visible
  3. Wipe the soapy residue off the grill bottom and grate with a damp towel, then let the grill dry before using it again

Keep in mind that if the muck is pretty caked on, you’ll need to apply quite a bit of elbow grease.

Method 5: Magic Eraser

mr clean magic eraser

You can use a magic eraser to scrap the hardened grime that’s stuck on your grill as it has abrasive properties due to melamine foam in it.

  1. Soak the edge of the magic eraser in water, then squeeze out the excess water
  2. Scrub hardened grime off the grill until all the gunk comes off

Stir It up a Little

Make life fun by combining these 5 methods above.

For example, spray the whole grill and the grates with the vinegar and baking soda solution and scrub it with the aluminum foil.

The possibilities are endless.

Try different combinations until you find the technique that suits you the most.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Easiest Way to Clean a Grill?

From my experience I’ve found out the easiest way to clean my grill after a cookout is to do it when the grill is this warm using this technique:

  1. Remove as much ash as you can: by hand, with the ash management systems (if yours has one), with an ash vacuum, or by just tipping over the grill
  2. Soak the entire grill with your favorite cleaning agent or a degreaser and leave the grill alone for about 10 – 20 minutes, depending on how much dirty it is
  3. Start scrubbing: use a brush, sponge, scraper, etc. Because of the soaking, the gunk goes down pretty easily with little to no effort
    • If you feel any resistance, just spray some more degreaser
  4. Rinse with a hose or a pressure washer
    • I Don’t have either, so I use a hand pump pressure spray bottle

That’s it.

It’s easy, fast, and requires little to no effort when scrubbing.

I recommend this technique to every griller who’s strapped for time or isn’t a big fan of cleaning.

How to Clean a Rusted Charcoal Grill?

rusty charcoal grill
  1. Clean the grill as you usually do to see where the rust spots are
  2. Grab some vinegar and baking soda* or salt
  3. Slowly pour vinegar into the baking soda until you have a thick paste
    • Careful when mixing vinegar and baking soda or there’s going to be foam everywhere
  4. Apply the paste to the rust spots with a toothbrush or sponge and let it sit for 30 minutes or even an hour, depending on how much rust there is
  5. Rinse and repeat if necessary

*You can also use lemon instead of baking soda but it’s not that effective.

There are also commercial rust removers but they tend to be expensive and aren’t that much more effective. Also, they usually have some nasty chemicals that are hazardous to your health or the environment, or both.

Pay close attention to the bottom of the grill where the charcoal is. This is where the grill is most prone to rust as ash, grease, and moisture don’t go well with metal.

See this video below for more in-depth information:

Does Vinegar Remove Rust?

Yes, it does. It’s also quite effective. Vinegar contains acetic acid which reacts with rust – it dissolves it.

This is why vinegar is often recommended for descaling household appliances, like coffee makers, espresso machines, washing machines, etc.

Although they’re not rusting here (limescale is building up), the principle is the same.

How Often Should You Clean a Charcoal Grill?

At least once per season. Depending on how often you grill, you may need to adjust this – the more often you grill, the more often you should clean it.

The best way to know when your grill needs cleaning is by lifting the grates and checking inside. If it looks filthy, then it’s high time.

Do You Clean the Grill After Every Use?

You don’t need to deep clean it after every use – that would be quite time-consuming, especially if you cook regularly.

The only thing you should clean after every use is the grates because they touch the food you’re going to eat. Nothing special, a quick spray with vinegar and a few brush strokes are more than enough.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill Grate?

As mentioned before, some vinegar and aluminum foil or a wired brush will make the grates spotless.

If you’re pressed for time or just can’t be bothered scrubbing, then place the grates in a trash bag or bucket, pour some vinegar or your other favorite cleaning solution, and let it soak.

soaking grates in bucket

Then just rinse and voila.

Tip: if they’re really nasty, shake the bag a few times. This simulates the scrubbing.

How Do I Clean My Grill Grates Naturally?

Vinegar is one of the most effective natural cleaning agents out there.

If you’re not a fan of vinegar, you can substitute it with baking soda or lemon.

What Household Items Can You Use to Clean a Grill?

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon
  • Coke or Pepsi
  • Onion
  • Aluminum foil
  • Dish sponge


There is quite a lot of emphasis on how to deep clean a charcoal grill.

Many grillers advise on washing the grates regularly after each and every use as this will help in removing the accumulated germs and already built-up grime and/or rust.

Following the above guidelines will lead to a cleaner and healthier grill.

Regular and thorough cleaning will ensure your grill remains at its best, looks presentable, and lasts longer.

I hope that my suggestions helped you.

How often do you clean your grill?

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About Mario 148 Articles
I am the owner of Kitchen Guru Ideas. I've set up this site so I can share my kitchen tips and hacks that have been passed on to me from my parents and grandparents and show you how a wonderful experience cooking is and not just a way to save money. Even in this hectic lifestyle, there is time to prepare and most important enjoy a home-cooked meal.

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