How to remove rust from grills and barbecues: follow this simple guide

Learn how to remove rust from grills and barbecues and get yours back to its former glory for outdoor cooking

how to remove rust from grills and barbecues: aerial shot of food on barbecue
(Image credit: Maskot/Maskot/Getty Images)

Keen to cook up a storm outdoors this season? Then you might want to know how to remove rust from grills and barbecues first.

If your cooking equipment has been out of action through winter, your best BBQ could now be looking a little worse for wear. And unfortunately, a bit of rust is not one to overlook. In other words, don't slap on your burgers and veggie kebabs and hope for the best. That built-up, copper-colored layer can come loose, attach itself to your food, and turn your delicious dinner into something not-quite-so-appetizing.

As the team at FirepitsUK (opens in new tab) says, 'Rust can add appeal to the look of steel, especially when set against a natural backdrop such as for plant supports and garden features. However, it's not what you want when cooking on a BBQ rack, and luckily there are easy ways to clean it off.' 

So, before you set out to buy a brand new one, learn how to remove rust from grills and barbecues with these simple tips.

How to remove rust from grills and barbecues with vinegar and salt

how to remove rust from grills and barbecues: blue BBQ on patio

Keep your outdoor cooking set-up looking its best by learning how to remove rust from grills and barbecues

(Image credit: Spike Powell/Future)

'Just as salt and acid can cause rust, it can also help remove it!' says the FirepitsUK team. It's a great solution if you want to avoid chemicals, and is budget-friendly too. If you don’t want to use vinegar and salt, just soak it in soapy water, they add.

Simply follow their tips below:

  1. Soak your BBQ rack in a solution of vinegar and salt (1/4 cup per 1 litre of vinegar) for about 30 minutes.
  2. Scrub all over with a wire brush.
  3. Rinse well, making sure no loose wire bristles have been left on your grill. Then, give it a final scrub with a Brillo pad (opens in new tab) (this wire wool contains soap, so your rack with be pristine for cooking on) before rinsing and putting over your fire to use.
  4. When putting it away, rub it with a little flax or cooking oil after cleaning and drying it. This will help to prevent rust building up in the future.

Looking for more cheap garden ideas? Take a look at our feature.

How to remove rust from grills and barbecues using baking soda

how to remove rust from grills and barbecues: portable grill from Gardenesque

Keep your grill in tip-top condition for the best summer BBQs – this portable kettle charcoal barbecue is from Gardenesque (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

You probably already have baking soda in your cupboard. So, if you're after an alternative non-toxic, super-affordable solution to tackle rust, try this simple trick.

  1. Brush away as much loose rust and dirt as possible.
  2. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to your grill in an even layer.
  3. Turn your BBQ on at a high heat for a few minutes. The baking soda will start to bubble – this means it's working its magic and lifting the rust.
  4. Turn off the BBQ, let it cool down, and then give it a good rinse, scrubbing all the residue away with a brush.
  5. Rinse again, and dry thoroughly.

How to remove rust from grills and barbecues with mechanical help

how to remove rust from grills and barbecues: chicken cooking on grill

Cook up a storm on a rust-free grill

(Image credit: Charlotte Tolhurst/Future)

Is the rust on your barbecue or grill super stubborn? Feeling handy with the power tools? The team at FirepitsUK says that you can also use a power drill with a special attachment to get your cooking equipment looking as good as new:

  1. If you have a Black & Decker (opens in new tab) power drill (or similar tool) you can use a 'wire wheel' attachment to scrub off the rust. Make sure you wear suitable protective clothing (such as goggles, gloves, and a long-sleeved top) to protect yourself from wire fibres and bits of rust that will come loose.
  2. Rinse your grill well, making sure no bits of wire wool or rust are left, and then give it a final scrub with a Brillo pad before rinsing again thoroughly.
  3. As mentioned above, try to make sure you put your BBQ or grill away clean, dry, and protected from future rust by rubbing it with a touch of cooking oil.

How to remove rust from grills and barbecues using off-the-shelf products

how to remove rust from grills and barbecues: barbecue food

Removing rust from a grill isn't as difficult as you might think

(Image credit: Future)

There are lots of off-the-shelf products available from good DIY and homeware stores that you can use to remove rust. But, be sure to opt for one that is specifically made for BBQs and grills, to avoid harmful chemical residues being left on your cooking equipment.

If you want to learn how to remove rust from grills and barbecues this way, it's generally quite straightforward – but follow the instructions on the packet as some may vary.

For day-to-day maintenance, take a look at our guide on how to clean a BBQ for more advice. Our best BBQ cleaner buying guide will come in handy, too.

Other top tips on how to remove rust from grills and barbecues:

Want extra advice for keeping your best BBQs in tip-top condition? Jacques Shelton, Director at CENA Outdoor Kitchens (opens in new tab) shares more top tips:

  • For fiddly areas, try applying a paste of lemon juice and salt as a DIY rust-removal mixture.
  • Don't have a wire brush to hand? Try a toothbrush or even some scrunched up tin foil to scrub your chosen concoction from your BBQ or grill.
  • Make sure you’ve removed all loosened debris before cooking, by washing the grill down. You can also heat up the grill to burn off any remaining paste or liquid before you cook on it.

The best grills and BBQS

If your grill or BBQ is beyond repair and you're in need of a new one so you can enjoy cooking outdoors this spring and summer, check out these top deals. 

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Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day.