How to Clean a Charcoal Grill [Grate Scrubbing, Ash Removal, Maintenance Tips]


Take care of your charcoal grill and it will take care of you. Follow this guide to performing the best deep clean on your charcoal grill, as well as these simple maintenance and cleaning tips.

how to clean charcoal grill

Keeping your charcoal grill clean is the best way to ensure you get the most out of it, keeping it in working order year-round.

While regular cleaning might sound like a chore, doing it regularly will elevate the quality of your food and make it easier to grill the next time you fire up the coals.

These simple steps will keep your grill as good as new every time you come back to it. Here’s how to clean a charcoal grill.

cleaned weber charcoal grill

Why You Need to Clean Your Charcoal Grill

For many of us, our grills get used so often that they become an extension of our kitchen, so it’s important to clean and take care of your charcoal grill just as you would your regular stove. 

A good quality grill isn’t cheap, so you want to keep it maintained and running as efficiently as possible. The first step towards good maintenance is cleaning. 

Making sure that any excess grease, burnt-on food, or ash is removed from your charcoal grill after each use will help prevent rusting and corrosion and maintain good hygiene and safety when cooking.

Any leftover food or grease on the grill grates has the chance to grow bacteria that you wouldn’t want contaminating your next cooking session. When it comes to potentially dangerous situations such as grill flare-ups, prevention is better than cure – by making sure grease is properly cleaned off of the grates before each use, there is much less chance of having any accidental flare-ups.

cleaned charcoal grill grates

How Often to Clean Your Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills should be given a quick and basic clean before each use. This includes scrubbing the grates, emptying and cleaning the grease trap (depending on how full it is), emptying the bowl of any leftover ash, and cleaning up any obvious grease patches you can see on the inside of the lid and control panel areas.

Remember to oil your grill grates before each use to prevent food from sticking, save on excess scrubbing, and clean up afterward. 

Ideally, you want to give your charcoal grill a deep clean, where you’re taking the grill apart and getting into all the nooks and crannies, once or twice each grilling season. 

If you are an avid griller and use the grill for most of your cooking in the warmer months, a deep clean every three months will help keep it in tip-top condition.

Equipment Needed

For a good and thorough deep clean of your charcoal grill, you will need:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Grill brush or coarse cleaning brush 
  • Aluminum foil
  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Towel
  • Paper towels
  • Putty knife or plastic scraper

Are Wire Grill Brushes Safe to Use?

Wire grill brushes have always been a standard bit of kit for cleaning grills. Still, recently there have been reports in the media of people accidentally ingesting wire bristles and needing medical treatment. These wire bristles have come off of grill cleaning brushes, stuck on to the grill grates, and then ended up in food that has come off of the grill.

To avoid the risk of stray wire bristles getting caught on your grates, you can opt for a bristle-free grill brush such as this Grillart brush which instead uses coiled wire to act like a scrubber, a nylon brush (these can’t be used at high temperatures), a wooden scraper or balled up aluminum foil. See our guide to the best grill brushes to find out more.

brushing charcoal grill grates

How to Clean Your Charcoal Grill

1. Brush the Grates

Start by removing the grill grates and giving them a good scrub with a grill brush on both sides.

If you find any particularly stubborn spots that won’t lift with the brush bristles, try using a ball of aluminum foil and rubbing it backward and forward over the stubborn spot.

You can clean stainless steel grill grates by slicing an onion in half, and then rubbing the open half against the grates. This is especially effective on grease buildup.

2. Wash the Grates

Once the grill grates are cleaned of any debris, give them a further scrub down with warm soapy water. The grill brush helps to remove any burnt food, and the dish soap works as a degreasing agent. Rinse and then leave the grates to air dry.

3. Empty and Clean the Ash Catcher

Empty any ashes that might be sitting in the ash catcher of your grill. Give the catcher a clean with warm soapy water, rinse and then pat dry with paper towels or leave to air dry.  

4. Clean the Charcoal Grate

If you have a kettle grill you will also have a charcoal grate that needs cleaning. Use the grill brush to give it a scrub, and then give it a quick wash in warm soapy water. Rinse and leave to air dry. 

5. Clean the Chamber Interior

Check the interior lid and sides of your charcoal grill for any burnt-on food or grease build-up. 

Remember to check right in the edges and seams of the grill and the vents. If an area is hard to reach, use a putty knife or spatula with a paper towel folded over the end to check for and clean out any grease.

A putty knife or plastic scraper is also good for chipping off anything that may be stuck. If it’s a particularly stubborn spot, go back over it with the balled-up aluminum foil. 

Give the interior a scrub down with warm soapy water, rinse, and leave to air dry.

6. Clean the Outside of the Grill

The outside of your grill is usually the cleanest part! Use warm soapy water to give it a good scrub, and then pat dry with a towel/paper towel or leave it to air dry.

Basic Grill Maintenance

Making sure you keep on top of some basic maintenance will mean your grill last much longer and runs as efficiently as possible. 


This is given for pretty much any piece of cooking equipment you own but is imperative to good grill care. Make sure to give your charcoal grill a clean before (or after) each use, plus a deep clean at least once a season.

Invest in a Grill Cover

The easiest way to keep your grill in good condition is by storing it properly when not in use. A cover helps to protect your grill from the elements and helps to keep it clean between each use. Even if it’s stored in a garage or shed a grill cover is still a good idea as it stops it from getting dirty or dusty. 

Season Your Grill Grates

Seasoning your grill grates, much like seasoning a cast iron skillet or wok, helps to protect the metal grates from rust and makes them easier to clean. To season your grill gates: 

  1. Coat the grates with a layer of cooking oil. You can do this using a brush or a spray bottle. Note: you need to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable, peanut, canola, or sunflower oil.
  2. Remove the excess with paper towels. You want just a thin layer of oil to be left on the grates.
  3. Light your charcoal and close the lid of your grill. You want the temperature to get as high as possible so that the oil starts to smoke, and the grill grates will have taken on a darker color. 
  4. Be sure to lightly re-season your grill grates before each use, if possible, to maintain the non-stick surface.


Is There a Safe Way to Clean Rust off a Charcoal Grill?

If you find any rust forming on your charcoal grill, it’s possible to remove it with a simple and safe, all-natural solution – vinegar and salt! 

To clean rusty charcoal grill grates, grab a garbage bag and some cloths and create a mixture of 2 cups of white vinegar with 1 cup of table salt.

Place your charcoal grill in the garbage bag and pour the vinegar and salt solution into the bag and give it a good switch around. Seal the bag and leave it somewhere flat to sit overnight – laying the bag in the bath or shower tray is ideal as any spills can easily be washed away. 

Remove the grate from the bag the next day and give it a clean down with a cloth. If there are any stubborn rust spots left, you can dampen the cloth and dip it in table salt to work as an abrasive to rub over it. 

Give the cleaned grates a rinse down with water and leave to air dry.

Should I Clean My Charcoal Grill After Every Use?

Yes, you should give your charcoal grill a simple and quick clean after each use. This is best done once the grill has cooled down from cooking but is still slightly warm as it’s easier to remove any grease or stuck food from the grates. Give the grill grates a quick going over with a wire brush, and clean up any major grease patches you can see with paper towels.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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