Removing Rust from Outdoor Grills

Unless you are using your outdoor grill year-round and cleaning it after every use, it will develop rust after just a few months without use. It’s important to remove any rust from the grill before cooking on it again, as food cooked on rusted surfaces can become contaminated with metal rust and is not safe for consumption.

Even if your surface doesn’t seem to have loose rust and you want to risk eating contaminated food, rusty metal doesn’t conduct heat as efficiently or evenly, so a rusty grill may not even function well as a reliable cooking tool.

Here are some methods that work well to get your grill back in cookout condition. Just be sure to detach the grill grate from the unit first before cleaning. This allows you to clean hard-to-reach areas and allows for easier rinsing.

Grill Abrasive Scrubbers

A grill abrasive scrubber can remove a good amount of rust in no time.

If the rust is only surface deep, soak the grill with water using a damp sponge and begin scrubbing the rusty surfaces. To clean thicker rust, pour some mild detergent into the water first before using it to soak the rusty parts of the grill. After scrubbing, wash the rust and the soap residue away with water. Then, dry thoroughly.

Vinegar and Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda and vinegar are two of the most environmentally friendly ways of cleaning rust from grills and any other metal objects. Get a cup of baking soda and add vinegar bit by bit until it forms a consistent paste. Apply the paste onto the grill using a sponge or a scouring pad.

Allow the paste to sit for about 20 to 30 minutes, then scrub the grill with the scouring pad until the rust is removed completely. Use a grill abrasive scrub for tough rust stains. Rinse with water to remove any residue.

Lemon Juice and Detergent

Lemon juice can also dissolve the rust much like vinegar. Mix the juice with detergent and water to create a thick, sticky cleanser. Apply the cleanser onto the grill’s rusted surfaces and cover it with plastic so that the water does not evaporate too quickly. Allow the solution to stay on the grill for about 24 hours. Afterward, remove the plastic covering, scrub the grill with a scouring pad or brush, and rinse with water thoroughly.

Cola Beverage

Cola drinks contain phosphoric acid, which is the main ingredient in many commercial rust removal products in the market. Because the drink is so accessible, it can be used as a quick solution to rusty outdoor grills.

Buy two to three liters of Coke to soak the grill. Submerge the grill into the coke and leave it overnight. The next day, scrub the rust away with a scouring pad or brush. Rinse the rust and the residue with water. If some of the rust still clings onto the metal surfaces, repeat the process.

WARNING: In addition to phosphoric acid, Coke also has sugar and other ingredients that attract bugs and bacteria. Make sure you really rinse any residue away when you’re done or you may be opening yourself up to a whole new problem.

Naval Jelly

Use this product only when the rust is too deep for any of the above methods to remove.

Apply this mineral acid product onto the grill and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Stay close by, as you do not want the orthophosphoric acid to remain for longer than 15 minutes. Scrub the rust away and rinse thoroughly with water. Mix a paste of baking soda and apply it on the metal surfaces. Allow the paste to sit for about 20 minutes to neutralize the effect of the acid. Wash any residue from the naval jelly or baking soda away with a thorough rinse of water.

WARNING: This product is made up of concentrated phosphoric acid. It is very aggressive, and while it is not volatile, it is corrosive and can be harmful upon contact with skin. Make sure to use rubber gloves when handling and applying it.

Reseasoning Your Grill

Once the rust is removed, reseasoning your grill, or coating it with a layer of oil, can protect it from future rust.

Allow your grill to heat up and use a pair of tongs to safely rub a paper towel soaked in cooking oil over the grates. Let the oil burn off and repeat the application process.