How To Remove Rust From Cast Iron Grill Grates

When rust builds up on a grill it can make for an unpleasant cooking experience, and can also be harmful for your health if you ingest it. However, it’s not uncommon and in most cases is quite easy to remove with safe common household solutions. If it’s more stubborn there are commercial rust removers made for grills that are safe to use, and help restore quality too. 

After you’ve successfully removed the rust, it’s best to take some care to prevent it from coming back in the future. This guide will break down the process of how to remove rust from cast iron grill grates easily and simply.

Close-up of a barbecue grill

How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Grill Grates

The first step before applying any solution to the grill to remove rust is to scrub the grill grates with a quality made wire grill brush. A strong grill brush should have wire bristles. This can be used to remove the residue and some of the rust without damaging the cast iron or stainless steel grill grates.  A good technique before using the grill brush is to heat up the grill on a medium heat for 15 minutes to loosen the residue and weaken the rust. Then simply turn off the grill and start scrubbing. Applying a coat of oil to the grates will also help protect the grill.

How to Remove Rust From Grill Grates Using Household Solutions

If rust persists on the grill grate after you’re finished scrubbing it’s time to apply a rust remover. There are several common and safe household items that can be used as a rust remover on cast iron grill grates.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Baking soda is an abrasive, which makes it a great substance to use to fight rust. When mixed with vinegar it makes a thick paste that can be applied on the rusted grill grates to dissolve the rust. 

Simply start with ¼ cup of baking soda in a bowl, and slowly add vinegar and mix until you get a thick paste. You can always add more baking soda or vinegar if you need more of the paste. Apply is generously to the rusted spots of the grill and let it sit for roughly 30 minutes. Give it a quick rinse with warm water and the rust should be gone, if there is any left give it a gentle scrub with the grill brush and it should flake off. 

Lemon Juice and Detergent

If the vinegar and baking soda solution didn’t rid all of the rust, or you don’t have vinegar or baking soda you can try using lemon juice and powder detergent. This method uses the acid in the lemon to dissolve the rust but tends to take a lot longer to work it’s magic. 

Squeeze the juice of a couple of lemons into a bowl and slowly add powdered detergent. Mix with a spoon until it forms a thick paste. Apply this thoroughly to the rusted areas. Make sure to cover the grill grates as best you can with plastic wrap as this will prevent the lemon mixture from drying out. Let it sit overnight and up to 24 hours to dissolve the rust. Once complete simply rinse with warm water and scrub any remaining rust off with the grill brush as it should be heavily loosened or dissolved.

Best Way to Remove Rust from Grill Grates

If the home remedies can’t rid the rust don’t worry, as there are specialised rust remover products that are designed to do just that. These are more heavy-duty and reliable solutions built to break rust down. Just remember, since you prepare food on the grill, make sure to find a non-toxic specialised rust remover product that is safe to use.

The are some, like the Evapo-Rust,  that are made for removing rust and restoring cast iron grill grates that are non-toxic, biodegradable, and non-corrosive. Simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and wash it off thoroughly. 

How to Prevent Rust on Grill Grates

Once the rust is gone, it’s important to take some simple precautions to keep the grill rust free and long-lasting. Here are 5 easy and basic steps you can take every time you use it to give your grill the best chance of remaining rust-free.

1) Clean Your Grill After Every Use

Clean your grill when it’s still warm. This is so the food, juices and oils remain warm, and don’t harden onto the grill. First use a grill brush, and once you’ve gotten as much as you can, use a cloth with warm water or a grill wipe. 

Cleaning Grill Grates

2) Use a Quality Grill Brush

Using a quality grill brush really makes a difference, making it easier to scrape off the remaining food and residue reliably. Well made grill brushes are also made to not scratch the grill grates or remove the non-stick qualities.

3) Seasoning Your Grill

This refers to the process of heating oil on the grill grates to keep them in optimal condition. This makes it both easier to cook on for next time, but protects it from rust and keeps the non-stick quality.  Simply coat the griddle with oil by spreading it evenly using a clean cloth or paper towel. Heat the grill to around 350-400°F or until the oil starts to smoke. Once the grill has cooled down, wipe away any excess oil. 

4) Get a Grill Cover

Moisture is the main reason rust forms. Using a grill cover maximises the protection against any moisture, whether it’s rain of even moisture in a wet climate. 

5) Store In a Dry Place

Where the grill is stored also plays a large part in rust prevention and its overall durability. If possible move the grill into a dry place, preferably indoors like in a garage or shed. If it’s not possible, ensure to put it as much undercover and out of the way of any harsh or wet weather conditions.
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