wipe grill with paper tongs held by tongs

Cleaning an Outdoor Grill Without a Brush

If you don’t have a grill brush or other wire brush, here are six ways to clean your grill using materials you probably already have around the house.

For the best-tasting meals, clean your grill grates or racks after each usage. Here’s how to clean your grill without a nylon grill brush or other type of grill brush.

1. Use an Onion

When you’re done cooking, cut one onion in half and place it cut side down on a grill fork. To release any stuck-on bits of food and food residue, scrub the grate with the flat side of the onion.

Simply discard the onion half once you’ve finished cleaning the grate. Best of all, if you’re using a charcoal grill, you can simply put the onion right on top of the embers to flavor the dish you’re going to cook. The acidic enzymes will dissolve grease without being too abrasive, but use caution when handling it.

2. Foil Balls

If you don’t have a grill brush on available, a ball of aluminum foil is a good alternative that works in this situation.

Simply crumple up aluminum foil into a ball large enough to easily grip with a pair of tongs when you’re done grilling . With your tongs, grasp the ball and scrape the gunk away. Using aluminum foil to clean your grates might leave little bits and pieces behind, so let the grill cool before wiping away the debris with a moist cloth or wet paper towels.

3. Scouring Pad

For quick and easy cleanup, grab a scouring pad from your kitchen and take it to a cooled grill. You can also use a Scotch Brite pad and elbow grease if you’re worried about scratching the grates.  An alternative to wire brushes, a nylon scouring pad or Scotch Brite and a little elbow grease are usually all it takes to get sauces and seasonings off that are stuck to the grill grates.

4. Steam It Away

Any food debris will be dislodged by steam, making it easy to wash away producing a clean grill.  No grill cleaners are necessary with this method. You can use a household steamer, or here’s another way to get the steam you need.

To heat up the grates, turn your grill to high and close the cover. After 10-15 minutes, remove the cover and dip a sponge in water, holding the sponge tightly with a pair of tongs. When the wet sponge makes contact with the grates, steam is produced. The steam loosens the baked-on food particles, making it easier to clean the grill grates with a sponge or scouring pad.

If you own a household steamer, check out the linked article for complete directions to use this tool to clean your grill.


5. Vinegar and Ammonia Cleaning Cocktail

To get your grill cleaned without a grill scraper or wire bristle brush, Put your barbecue grates in a garbage bag with 3 cups ammonia, 3 cups white vinegar, and 1 cup baking soda for the toughest baked-on food. It will give you a thorough grate cleaning with things you most likely already have on hand. You should soak the grates for as least 24 hours before rinsing off, depending on how greasy and grimy they are.

If ammonia is too pungent for you, you can also use a baking soda and vinegar solution to clean your grill instead.

6. Use Your Dishwasher

Grill grates can be washed in the dishwasher in many cases depending on manufacturer directions.

First, remove any large food bits by hand once the grates have cooled. Remove all other dishes and run the scrub or heavy duty cycle in the dishwasher.  When the cycle has finished, take the clean grill grates out of the dishwasher and make sure they are thoroughly dry before replacing them in the grill.  Cleaning grill grates with this method won’t scratch the grates like wooden scrapers or a wirebristle brush might.

Keeping your bbq grill clean impresses your guests, allows it to function better and is a healthier and more sanitary grilling surface for the foodstuffs you prepare.