cleaning a grill with steam and brush attachment

How to Clean an Old Barbecue Grill

Cleaning Your Grill with Steam

Just because it has been sitting in your garage for a few years doesn’t mean that you can’t clean up that old barbecue grill and commence to firing it up again.

The best way to clean an old barbecue grill is with steam.

Steam accomplishes a few things. It dislodges food, grease and grime from surfaces. It also sanitizes and kills bacteria, mold, and carcinogenic residue which may have accumulated over the years. Steam will not harm the grill grates, housing or mechanical parts of the grill. With steam, you get maximum results with minimum effort.

This grill cleaning method can work with a gas grill, charcoal grills,  a cast iron grill or a stainless steel grill.  You don’t have to worry about marring surfaces and you don’t need to be firing up the grill to make it work well.  And if you don’t have a spare steamer laying around the garage, you can rent one for a mere fraction of the cost of a new grill.

(Many a bbq grill has been brought back into service with a good cleaning and a tune up. Make sure that after you clean the grill, you inspect it carefully for safety. A gas grill might have loose fittings after so many years. Propane grills might have corroded connections. An electric grill may have frayed cords. A kettle grill might be rusted through in spots.)


Old grills suffer from grime and build up of baked-on crud. They also may be rusting or pitted from neglect and abuse. The grease and crud seem to have become a part of the grill itself they’ve been stuck to it for so long. There is usually built up grime everywhere, inside and outside, on the grills grates, on the controls. A good deep cleaning with steam is what it needs.

To clean an old grill with steam, you will need

A portable power steam cleaner
Brush nozzle
Microfiber cloth cover
Soft rags or cloths

Grills have a lot of nooks and crannies where grime and grease build up over time. Add to that years of neglect and you have a rock-hard substance that you might just want to get out a hammer and chisel to dislodge.  Traditional cleaning methods including using soapy water, baking soda and water, or white vinegar are no match for years of dried on crud.

Enter the portable power steam cleaner. This is a small appliance you can find at a home improvement store that is frequently used for car detailing. You fill it with water, plug it in, and it dispenses hot steam through a nozzle creating pressure. The pressured steam will loosen the bond the grime has on the surface without damage to the surface itself as a bristle brush might do.

You can always attack the grill with a wire brush, dish soap, grill cleaner and other traditional methods.  However, no steel wool or scouring pads will work as efficiently as steam does.

You can start cleaning your grill anywhere on the grill you’d like, but it’s usually best to start inside and at the top and work your way down.

Clean the Inside of the Grill

1. Direct the nozzle at a specific location such as the inside of the hood or the grates. Slowly work the nozzle over the gunk and accumulated grease until you notice that it has loosened. Wipe away the loosened material or bakedon food with a clean rag and move on to the next section.

2. For very stubborn residue, you can attach a brush nozzle to the hose and scrub and steam at the same time.

3. Continue working each area of the grill, both inside and outside, until you have removed all the residue and built up grease. This takes a bit of time, but letting the steam do your work for you saves on elbow grease. This will work for the housing, the grates, the burner tube, the vents, the flavorizer bars  and all parts.

Be careful around steam. It can burn your skin. Use protective gloves and eye protection as a safety precaution when working with steam as you remove any loose debris.

To clean the outside of an old grill, you can use the same steam machine.

1. Attach a microfiber pad to the steam nozzle and gently wipe the outside of the grill starting at the top and working your way down.
2. Do a small section at a time to ensure you are getting down to the exterior finish of the grill and continue on to the next section.
3. Using clean microfiber or soft cloths, finish up on the exterior by wiping and buffing the outside of the grill.
4. Make sure you dry the grill to prevent rust from forming on bare metal if you have exposed any.

Now that your old grill has been thoroughly cleaned, you can take the next steps to make sure it is safe to use for the next grilling season. A gas grill should be inspected to make sure there are no line leaks or burner blockages that will create an unsafe condition for grilling.  All lines to the propane tank should also be examined for blockages.  All parts on pellet grills and charcoal grills should be inspected to make sure they work properly.

No steam cleaner?  Find out how to clean these grill brands with tools you may have around the house.