3 Ways to Clean a Charcoal Grill

How to clean a charcoal grill?

TidyLife.net is reader supported. This page uses affiliate links and when you click on an affiliate link, and make a purchase, we receive a small compensation at no cost to you. See our disclosure policy for more information.

Who doesn’t love a nice barbecue with friends or family? Especially in the summer months, meeting up by the grill is a very enjoyable way of spending time with your loved ones. If you own a charcoal grill, you’ve probably used it on many occasions. But do you know how to clean it when it gets dirty?

The benefits of keeping your grill clean are rather simple. For one, a clean grill equals tasty and safe-to-eat meals. If your grill is well-maintained, the smell of your food will have your neighbors lining up on your lawn to see what’s cooking. 

A more practical upside is the state of the grill itself – if you keep it clean, you will be able to enjoy it for years to come. That’s why it’s worth the effort of keeping it tidy.

Read on for some easy tips on how to clean your charcoal grill by using things found in your home.

Before you begin

Before you get started with our guide, please make sure to check out our important safety tips.

  1. Prior to cleaning your grill, review the instruction manual. Make sure that the methods are safe for your particular product.
  2. Buying a specialty grill cleaning brush is a worthy investment. There have been reports of metal brushes breaking off small pieces of their bristles. That metal later ends up in your food – that’s why a good brush is worth the money. You can find some good brushes on Amazon.
  3. Whether you’re buying a new brush or using your old one, we recommend testing the brush before use. Grab a pair of tweezers, pick around 10 bristles at random (one at a time), and gently pull. If any come off, it’s time for a new brush.
  4. Keep your grill brush in a safe, dry spot. Don’t leave it out to get caught in the rain.
  5. For safety reasons, please do not clean your grill around children or pets
  6. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby at all times.
  7. Don’t grill right after cleaning. Allow your grill to air-dry for at least a day.

How to clean a dirty charcoal grill?

There are several ways to get rid of built-up grime from your charcoal grill. Read below to pick the best one for you.

Method #1: Using oven cleaner

Time: Several hours

Required items: oven cleaner, a garbage bag or your weatherproof cover, grill brush, liquid dish soap, water, your grease of choice: vegetable oil, olive oil, beef or bacon fat, cooking spray

This method is a little time-consuming but offers great results

  1. Wait for your grill to cool down. 
  2. Spray the cooking and charcoal grate down with oven cleaner. Be thorough so as not to miss a spot.
  3. Place them both inside a garbage bag or your weatherproof cover. Tie it shut.
  4. Let it sit overnight. This will make all the built-up dirt really soft and easy to remove.
  5. Scrub all of the dirt away using your grill brush and liquid dish soap with water.
  6. Rinse very well. Let it dry, then spray it down with cooking spray (or apply oil). 
  7. Place it back on the grill.
  8. Tip: You can clean the grill itself by spraying white vinegar over some wadded up tin foil and scrubbing with it.

Method #2: Using dish soap

Time: 30 minutes + air-dry time

Required items: a sponge, liquid dish soap, water, a kitchen towel, your grease of choice

This is a very simple method that can be performed using things you surely have at home.

  1. Soak your sponge in a warm dish soap solution.
  2. Using the sponge, scrub all of the grime off the charcoal grate. Don’t stop until you can see the grill’s shiny surface.
  3. Remove the grate in order to scrub the inside of the bowl clean.
  4. Soak a kitchen towel in warm water. 
  5. Wipe away all the dish soap and let everything air-dry.
  6. Apply your grease of choice to avoid rust.

Method #3: Using vinegar and baking soda

Time: >30 minutes

Required items: white vinegar (or a lemon cut in half), baking soda, household sponge, a kitchen towel, a spray bottle, your grease of choice

Vinegar and baking soda are a cheap, but effective option for cleaning your grill. This will help you clean any leftover gunk using natural methods.

  1. Prepare your diluted vinegar solution by pouring equal amounts of white vinegar and water into a spray bottle. Pour enough so that you will be able to wet the entire surface of the grate.
  2. Sprinkle a generous helping of baking soda all over the grill grate. The dirt should be completely coated with baking soda.
  3. Spray the diluted vinegar all over the grate. The baking soda shouldn’t be completely wet, just damp.
  4. Leave it to sit for about 15 minutes.
  5. Optional step: if you’re using lemon instead of vinegar, cut it in half and dab the cut surface in baking soda.
  6. Using a household sponge, scrub the grate until all the grime comes off. 
  7. Use the exact same method to clean the bottom of the bowl.
  8. Clean the residue off the grate by placing it under running warm water.
  9. Using a damp kitchen towel, wipe the bottom of your grill until it’s clean.
  10. Allow all the parts to air-dry.
  11. Apply your grease of choice to the grate.

What’s next?

The key to a clean grill is to simply clean it regularly. As soon as you notice built-up grime, follow our steps.

While cleaning a charcoal grill can be a little time-consuming, the success rate is really high. With enough perseverance, you will be able to clean even the most stubborn dirt. 

If you want to avoid having to spend a lot of time cleaning your grill, do it often.

Remember that it’s also important to keep it safe during the off-season. Don’t let it get caught in the rain, snow, or wind. As stated above, consider getting a good quality grill brush, and remember to replace it when it’s time.

As long as you don’t allow the grime to build up for too long, cleaning your charcoal grill will be a breeze. You and your family won’t have to wait – you can just start cooking right away!