How to Clean a Grill Without a Brush? (6 Ideas to Explore)

Devon Ferguson
Published by Devon Ferguson
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

As an avid grill enthusiast, I make it a point to give my grill a thorough cleaning at least once a week.

However, during my most recent cleaning endeavor, I encountered a minor setback – I couldn't find my trusty grill brush anywhere.

I spent countless hours researching methods on how to clean a grill without a brush. I also spent several weekends experimenting with different grill cleaning techniques to find out what works best.

Today, I’ll give you my top six ways how to clean your grill without a brush, and I’ll let you in on my proven tips on how to keep your grill in top shape.

Quick Summary

  • There are several ways you can clean your grill without using a brush.
  • It’s important to clean the grill after every use to prevent bacteria from developing.
  • You can use natural solutions to clean the grill, such as onion, vinegar, and baking soda.

6 Ways to Clean a Grill Without a Brush

If you want to enhance your grill cleaning routine further, with or without a brush, make sure to read our comprehensive article that lists and ranks the best grill cleansers based on their performance, ease of use, and price, ensuring optimal cooking and prolonged grill lifespan.

Here’s an overview of all the alternative methods of cleaning a grill without relying on a brush.

1. Aluminum Foil

an aluminum foil as an alternative to cleaning a grill without a brush

Aluminum foil is the best alternative to a wire brush.

You don’t even have to wait for the grill to cool before you clean it.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Crumple aluminum foil into a ball. Make sure it’s large enough to hold with tongs.
  2. Clasp the aluminum ball with the tongs and scrape away the dirt.

It’s as simple as that. Aluminum foil has an abrasive texture that can remove stuck food debris.

However, aluminum can leave small bits and pieces behind. If this happens, let the charcoal grill cool and wipe it with a damp cloth to remove the aluminum pieces.

Pro tip: It’s best to clean the grill with aluminum foil right after you finish cooking so the food residue doesn’t have time to stick to the grill.

In case you have leftover food from your previous cooking session, here’s how to clean it with aluminum:

  1. Turn on the grill.
  2. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on the grates.
  3. Close the grill lid.
  4. Leave the grill on for a few minutes so the grates turn hot and the food residue loosens.
  5. Remove the aluminum sheet, and scrub the grill grates with an aluminum ball and tongs.

This method works because the aluminum sheet traps the heat around the grill grate, which helps burn and loosen food leftovers.

2. Onion Half

Cleaning a grill with an onion

This one may sound strange, but it works wonders. Once you’re done grilling, cut an onion in half, stab it with a fork, or hold it with a pair of tongs.

Hold the cut side down and wipe the onion on the grill grates. The onion will loosen stuck food.

Same as with the aluminum foil, you can use this method before you start grilling if you have food leftovers from the previous cook time.

Turn on the grill and let it heat. Once the grates become hot, wipe them with an onion.

This method works because onions have acidic enzymes that break down debris stuck to the grates [1].

“All you have to do is cut a fresh onion in half and either use your hand or a fork if the grill is hot to rub the grates down. Just wash with plain water and a little soap afterward for a truly fresh clean.”

- Tor Rydder, Norwegian Cleaning Expert

Pro tip: I like to toss the onion on the charcoals after I’m done cleaning to give extra flavor to my food.

Note: If you have charred remains that are extra difficult to remove, spray the onion with lemon or vinegar.

The extra acidity breaks down all grime, resulting in perfectly clean grill grates.

This method works best while the grill is still hot, so you need to be careful not to burn your hands. Stick an onion on a barbecue fork, or wear some gloves for protection.

3. Nylon Scouring Pad

Person cleaning a grill with a nylon scouring pad

You can use a nylon scouring pad for cleaning both grill grates and stove grates.

This is a great solution if you don’t want to splurge on a specialized grill cleaner, as you most likely already have a scouring pad for cleaning pots and pans in your kitchen.

Wait until the grill cools, and run the nylon scouring pad back and forth across the grates to remove debris. If you have particularly stubborn food residue, you can use a degreaser.

Note: Scouring pads usually wear through quickly, so expect you’ll be able to use it once or twice at the most.

You can find scouring pads in different shapes, sizes, and materials, but it’s best to use nylon scouring pads, as other materials can damage your grill.

4. Steamer

A steamer is another great substitute for a brush, especially if you have caked-on grease or a very hard time removing food from the grill.

In fact, even if you have a grill brush, it can be difficult to clean a grimy grill and scrape off stuck food.

Use the steamer on the grates to dislodge stubborn debris that won’t come off.

Overall, a steamer isn’t a direct replacement for a grill brush, but it helps if you’re struggling to remove stuck-on food that piled on the grates over time.

5. Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar bottles

You can use vinegar and soda separately to clean a grill or together. Let’s start with only vinegar.

Vinegar is food-safe, which makes it a perfect substitute for cleaning a grill without a brush [2].

Here’s how to use vinegar for grill cleaning:

  1. Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle.
  2. Thoroughly cover the grill grates with the mixture.
  3. Let the solution sit for a couple of minutes to loosen debris and caked-on grease.
  4. Scrub with a scrubbing pad or aluminum foil.
  5. Rinse the grates with water after cleaning.

Instead of vinegar, you can use baking soda. It’s a natural cleaning agent that turns into a paste when mixed with water.

Here’s how to use baking soda to clean a grill:

  1. Mix soda with water.
  2. Spread it over the grates.
  3. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes and scrub off.
  4. Rinse the grates with water after cleaning.

Finally, you can use vinegar and baking soda together if you have a lot of stubborn, caked-on grime that won’t loosen.

This is great if you want to deep-clean the grill grates or you don’t want to scrub after applying the mixture.

Here’s how to use vinegar and soda:

  1. Let the grates cool.
  2. Mix two cups of vinegar and one cup of soda in a trash bag or a large container with a lid.
  3. Place the grates into the bag and seal with a rubber band.
  4. Leave the grates in the bag to soak overnight.
  5. After 12 hours, remove the grates from the bag and rinse with water. In case there’s stubborn residue, scrub it away. It’ll be looser than before soaking.
  6. Return the grates to the grill.

Pro tip: Another way to clean a grill is to mix ammonia with white vinegar. This combination is a powerful cleaner.

Follow the same steps as for the baking soda and vinegar, but combine three cups of ammonia with three cups of vinegar.

This is an effective method, but it should be used in extreme circumstances when you can’t get the grill clean using other methods.

6. Oil the Grill Before Use

Oil being poured into a spoon

Oiling the grill before your next cookout doesn’t mean you won’t need to clean it afterward.

However, this makes the grill cleaning easier.

Use a paper towel and run the oil onto the grates to prevent food from sticking to the grill.

This method cuts the cleaning time significantly, and it’s great if you hate to clean a grill after every cooking session.

3 Tips on Cleaning a Grill

Brush cleaning a grill

Here are more tips that’ll make the cleaning process a breeze.

1. Clean When Warm

It’s best to clean a grill when it’s still warm. It shouldn’t be extremely hot, but don’t let it cool completely before cleaning.

If the grill is warm, the grease won’t harden completely, which makes it easier to brush away debris.

Of course, don’t touch the grill directly, and make sure to use tongs or a fork. You can also put on gloves to make sure you’re safe.

Pro tip: If the grates are too greasy because of marinades and sauces, let the grill stay hot for a few minutes to burn as much grease as possible, then scrape away.

2. Clean After Each Use

Person cleaning a grill with a cloth

Leaving the grill unclean allows for the grease to harden and build up, and it’ll be more difficult to clean your grill afterward.

Here’s what you should do after every grilling session:

  • Brush the grates and racks - Brush all surfaces that touch the food while still warm.
  • Scrape off burnt food - Use a scraper tool, such as a wooden scraper. Some brushes have a built-in scraper that you can use.
  • Wipe the grates and racks - Wipe the grates with a damp cloth to get rid of loose food bits.
  • Soak the grates - You don’t need to do this after every use, but you should soak the grates and racks after about three to four cook sessions.
  • Empty the ashes - If you have a charcoal grill, empty the ashes after each use. Ashes can collect moisture, which can turn into a hard substance that’s difficult to remove.

Also Read: Should You Clean a BBQ Grill After Every Use?

3. Always Clean the Lid

Finally, when you clean your grill, make sure to clean the lid as well. Debris and grease can get on the lid’s inside and dry.

Then it’ll drip down onto your food the next time the grill turns hot.

You don’t need to clean the lid each time you use the grill, but do it every few cook sessions. Wipe the grill with a damp cloth to remove debris.

Note: Don’t use soap to clean the lid because then you’ll have to re-season the grill.

Read More: How to Clean a Grill Brush


How Do You Clean a Grill Naturally?

You clean a grill naturally by using half an onion and moving it up and down across the grill. You can also use baking soda or vinegar in a spray bottle.

What Happens If You Don't Clean Your Grill?

If you don’t clean your grill, food and grease will build up. This dirt attracts germs and bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. The heat can’t kill all bacteria. The only way to do it is by cleaning.

Do I Need to Clean My Grill Every Time?

Yes, you need to clean your grill every time you use it. It’s best to clean the grill once you’re done cooking. However, you don’t need to do a deep clean each time. It’s enough to clean the grates.

What Type of Grill Lasts the Longest?

Stainless steel grills last the longest. Still, regardless of the type, keeping your grill clean will keep it looking newer for longer no matter the type.


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