Removing Rust from Outdoor Grills

A rusty grill top.

Unless you are using your outdoor grill year-round and cleaning it after every use, it’ll develop rust after just a few months without use. It’s important to remove any rust from the grill before cooking on it again.

Rusted metal doesn’t conduct heat efficiently, so a rusty grill won’t function as a reliable cooking tool. Food cooked on rusted surfaces cause the food to cook unevenly and impart undesirable taste and appearance.

Here are some rust removal methods that work well to get your grill back in cookout condition. First detach the grill grate from the unit before you begin to be able to access the hard-to-reach areas you’ll want to clean and rinse.

Using Grill Abrasive Scrubbers to Remove Rust

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 mild detergent into the water first before using it to soak the rusty parts of the grill. After scrubbing rinse with water and dry thoroughly.

Using Vinegar and Baking Soda Paste to Remove Rust

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 minutes, then scrub the grill with the scouring pad until the rust is removed completely. You may need to apply the paste multiple times to completely remove the rust. Use a grill abrasive scrub for tough rust stains. Rinse with water to remove residue.

Using Lemon Juice and Detergent to Remove Rust

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 thoroughly with water.

Using Soft Drinks to Remove Rust

Soft drinks contain varying levels of phosphoric acid—which is the main ingredient in many commercial rust removal products. Usa a soft drink with a higher concentration of phosphoric acid like a cola 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: Coke contains sugar and other ingredients that attract bugs and bacteria. Make sure you really rinse any residue away when you’re done or you’ll be opening yourself up to a whole new problem.

Using Naval Jelly to Remove Rust

Use this product only when the rust is so deep that none of the above methods have worked.

Follow the instructions on the label. In general, you’ll apply this mineral acid product onto the grill and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Stay close by because you do not want this higher concentration of phosphoric acid to remain for long. 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. Take safety precautions for eyes and skin, and follow the safe handling instructions on the product label.

Season Your Grill

Once the rust is removed, season your grill by coating it with a layer of oil to protect the metal from oxidizing again.

Make sure your grill is completely dry and wipe down the grates with a paper towel soaked in a cooking oil ideal for grilling temperatures. Once you’re finished applying the oil, reattach the grates and allow your grill to heat up to about 350 degrees as the final step of the seasoning process.