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Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Your Grill After the Summer Season

The summer has officially transitioned to fall, and naturally, we’re all ready to curl up around a fire. Whether or not that fire includes a grill, now is the perfect time to take a good hard look at your outdoor grill and get it cleaned up for the winter months. While there are still plenty of options to keep the party going outdoors, it’s never a bad time to clean neglected areas and refresh your grates, exterior and more. Consider it the fall equivalent of spring cleaning.

Here are some of the steps for cleaning a grill, including BBQ grill care, the best way to clean a BBQ with non-toxic grill cleaners, and storing a BBQ for the winter. Don’t forget to check out our patio heaters and outdoor fireplace kits if you need a way to keep warm while using your backyard space this winter.

BBQ Grill Care

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the first thing to know about cleaning your grill is that it’s actually easiest to clean right after grilling while the grates and leftover food bits are still hot. Ideally, you would do this after each time you use your BBQ in order to not let the ghosts of meals past haunt a fresh BBQ meal.

Close up of a grill's knobs with some turned to "on" in order to begin heating up the grill.

But if you’ve been procrastinating a bit as fall approaches, it’s not too late to take good care of the grill. After your final grilling session of the season, simply scrape away the burnt bits with a wire brush and season them with oil. If you haven’t been so proactive, it may be worth heating up the elements before giving them a good scrape since the best way to clean a BBQ’s grates is when they’re hot.

You can also try steaming your grill for particularly tough grease patches. To do this, the Family Handyman recommends heating the flame up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, then turning off the heat, adding a tin of water, and closing the grill for thirty minutes. Then you can use a silicone sponge to wipe away any leftover residue, and presto, you have a steam-cleaned grill!

Non-Toxic Grill Cleaners

There are several popular home remedies to remove stubborn grease and food from your grill. Much of your attention should be focused on the grates themselves, where your food will be cooking, and where food debris is most likely to collect. Though some folks like to use lighter fluid to simply burn off the food, the chemicals in the fluid can be potentially toxic to humans. There are plenty of other, safer, non-toxic grill cleaners available that are both cheap and effective.

If you’re in search of home remedies, look no further than your kitchen cabinet. Simple food-safe acidic items like vinegar or lemon help eliminate the rough patches on your grates. Simply rub them on when the grates are hot and then scrape with a ball of aluminum foil or wire grill brush, followed by a layer of neutral, high-heat oil like canola or avocado to keep the grates lubricated.

Red onions unpeeled on a wooden table with one that has been cut down the middle.

Some people even like to use an onion for cleaning! Rather than risk the potential for fibers from grill brushes ending up stuck on your grates and in your food, you can cut an onion in half and rub it cut-side down on hot grates. Once again, the acid in the onion helps break down gross spots–just be sure to use this tactic before a savory meal, not before grilling fruit.

For spots that are particularly tough to clean, grab a garbage bag and combine two cups of vinegar for every one cup of baking soda. You can then leave the grill gates in the bag with the mixture overnight before removing them in the morning and wiping them clean.

There’s also a coffee-based remedy you can try. Using the natural acidic powers of coffee, fill a tub or bucket big enough to hold your grates with a few pots of coffee. Place the grates in the coffee, and let soak for at least an hour. The coffee bath should eat through some of the tough grease spots on your grates, and you can then scrub them clean.

Storing A BBQ

The most important thing to keep in mind if you’re storing a BBQ away for the season is to ensure you’ve identified a safe place to store your propane. According to Kauffman Gas, propane tanks do not deteriorate in cold weather in the same way that they do in hot weather. In the summer, those tanks shouldn’t be seeing temperatures higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. But in the winter, propane tanks can withstand temperatures down to about negative forty degrees Fahrenheit.

Propane tank sitting outside

In the winter, the best place to store your propane is outside in a dry, preferably covered place. Of course, make sure you’ve also detached your propane from your gas grill if it’s not going to be in use. The gas tubes and burner unit on your gas grill can also be cleaned with some warm soapy water if they seem in need of a tune-up, though you should carefully read your owner’s manual before taking out parts to inspect them yourself.

After stashing away your propane, your next task is to protect your grill from the elements as much as possible. If you have a portable grill and access to space in a climate-controlled area like a storage unit, now’s an excellent time for storing a BBQ there.

For stationary grills or those who don’t have a climate-controlled area, the best thing to do is to buy and deploy a weather-proof cover over the exterior of your grill. Especially for materials that rust easily, covers help keep out moisture and debris.

A grill cover should fit snugly, in order to keep out the elements. It should also be placed on your grill once it’s completely dry–no sense locking in the moisture you’re trying to keep out for months. And of course, make sure your grill cover is waterproof.

Prepping the Grill After Winter

Once you’re ready to fire up your grill again, it can never hurt to do some final maintenance. For gas grills, make sure to grab a toothpick and clean out the burner pots from which the gas escapes in order to keep the flame coming out smooth and even.

Finally, if the outside of your grill is looking a little put-upon, mix some dish soap and water and give the outside a scrub. If you need to scrub any tough stains, consider using a brass-bristle brush, which won’t scratch nearly as much. Then, give the whole unit a final once over with regular old water and you’re as good as new!


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