Guide To Cleaning A BBQ Effectively

Mitchell Fisher By Mitchell Fisher Updated 22 Apr 2022

A BBQ will accumulate quite a lot of grease and leftover fat as a result of the cooking process. While it may not be immediately obvious that this is happening, the aftereffects of frequent BBQ sessions will become quite visible, and the inside of your grill will start to look less and less appealing.

If you want to get rid of all of the accumulated grime but don’t actually know how to clean a BBQ, then we might have the answers that you’re looking for. We can take you through our simple step-by-step instructions on how to clean both a charcoal and a gas-powered BBQ so that you can maintain them and keep them in proper working condition.

We’d like to note that you won’t need any expensive cleaning products—we’ll go over the entire list of items that you need to get beforehand. So, without further ado, let’s just get into it.

How Important Is It to Clean Your BBQ?

You need to clean the grill after each use, to keep it hygienic and safe to cook on.

However, doing a full clean of all the other parts of the BBQ is a much bigger job that you don't have to do every single time. The exact interval at which you should wash your BBQ is going to vary on how often you use it, but in general, you should make a point to clean it at least once a year. Stick to cleaning it every six to twelve months, and you should have a BBQ that’s in tip-top condition and always ready to be fired up.

Get the Right Tools For the Job

You’ll need to get a few things before you properly clean your BBQ. The items in question are:

  • A few basic kitchen sponges
  • A hard bristle brush with a handle or a specialised grill cleaning brush
  • A stiff metal scraper
  • A few large containers for water
  • Dish soap
  • Rubber gloves
  • Fine steel wool
  • A few aluminium drip trays
  • Degreaser spray
  • A few dry cloths

There are also a few specialised detergents that you can get to clean the BBQ, but in our experience, the items that we just listed work just as well as most commercial cleaners, so there’s really no need to get them unless you want to.

Cleaning a Charcoal BBQ

A charcoal BBQ model is usually a lot less complex than your standard gas-powered BBQ, so it’ll also have a lot of parts that need cleaning as well, which makes things easier for you if you own one of these models.

Getting Ready

The first thing that you’ll do is put on your rubber gloves, fill up a bucket or a container with water, squirt in a bit of dish detergent, and use the brush to give it a good stir and make the water soapy. We’d also usually recommend firing up the grill a few hours beforehand and letting it cool down slightly before you actually clean it.

The heat can knock loose some of the fat deposits and leftover food specks off the grill, and it makes cleaning it a lot easier when it’s warm. However, a lot of people feel like this is just a waste of charcoal, so whether or not you actually do it is up to you. If you’re cleaning a cold grill, put in a bit more elbow grease.

The Grill

Take your brush and scrub the top of the grill until you’ve gotten as much of the food and ash particles as you reasonably could. The dish soap should be good enough for the task, but if you have some particularly heavy fat deposits, you could use a mixture of white vinegar and water instead.

The acidic nature of vinegar has been known to break down fat deposits pretty effectively, and it’s much cheaper and more readily accessible than commercial cleaners.

After the grill is scrubbed, take it off and place it in a container filled with soap water; let it soak. Then, take the brush and do the exact same thing to the charcoal grate underneath, subsequently placing it in the soapy water container as well.

Get the Scraper

After the grill and the grate have been removed, take your scraper and scrape the inside of the BBQ from the top towards the bottom to collect all of the accumulated grease and fat.

Scrape all of the remains towards the bottom of the BBQ, and pay special attention to the sides just below and above the grill itself since that’s where most of the grease and fat usually accumulates. Keep in mind that this might be the toughest area to scrape clean.

Once all of the remains have been driven towards the middle, turn the blades in the middle of your BBQ in order to push the debris into the ash collector below. Empty out the collector, and place a plastic container just below the hole that’s now been opened to collect the water that we’re going to use.

The Inside of the BBQ

Get the degreaser, spray down the BBQ’s inside, and then scrub the sides with a length of fine steel wool. Most charcoal BBQ models are made out of porcelain, which shouldn’t get damaged by fine steel wool, and the same applies to steel models as well, but if you’re afraid of leaving marks, then you can use the rough side of a standard kitchen sponge instead.

This is usually unnecessary since the fine steel wool doesn’t scratch up the walls unless you put a lot of force behind it, but using a sponge is also an option, as long as you keep in mind that it’s not as effective at getting rid of stubborn grease stains.

Get a hose or a bucket of water and rinse out the inside of the BBQ. Now that it’s wet, use a bucket of soap water and a sponge to go over the sides and get rid of any residue from the degreaser that you just used.

All that’s left now is to spray down the BBQ with water again, let it drain out, and wipe it down with a dry cloth. People usually dry gas BBQs by firing them up, but as we said before, a lot of people see that as just a waste of perfectly good charcoal.

The Lid

The lid of the BBQ is where a lot of burned-up grease and fat will collect, and if not cleaned properly, it could lead to “debris” raining on top of your food when it gets dislodged from the heat of your next fire.

Either scrape all of the gunk into a trash can or scrape the lid as you’re scraping the inside of the BBQ, collecting all of the debris into the ash collector at the bottom for easy disposal.

After you’ve done that, do the same thing to the bottom segment. Spray the lid with some degrease, scrub it clean, rinse it out, sponge it down with some dish soap, rinse it again, and towel it down.

The Grill (Again)

If you were wondering about whether or not we forgot about the grill and the grate, we didn’t, and it’s time to finish them off. Go to the soap water container and place a clean water container next to it.

Use the rough side of a sponge to clean out the grill and grate, and then rinse them out in the clean water container before drying them with a cloth. The soapy water should have knocked loose any and all leftover fat and grease, but if there are a few stubborn clumps still remaining, then use the brush again before you sponge it.

After they’re dry, place them back on the BBQ. As a bonus, you might want to put a bit of cooking oil on a cloth and spread it on the grill; the oil keeps the grill nice and lubricated, and it’s an extra layer of protection from rust and corrosion.

The Outside of the BBQ

For the outside of your BBQ, get a sponge and use a bit of soap water to clean it. This is largely for the sake of appearance, and it doesn’t really do anything for the BBQ except make it look nice, so whether or not you do it is entirely up to you.

Cleaning a Gas BBQ

Gas BBQ models are a lot bigger than the charcoal variants, and they have a lot more parts that you need to learn how to clean. However, as long as you follow our instructions, you should still be able to easily figure it all out, regardless of the exact type or model.

Getting Ready

Before you get to cleaning your BBQ, we’d turn it on for a bit and then let it cool down slightly. Now that the components are warm (but not scorching hot to the touch), they’ll be a lot easier to clean since a lot of the fat and grease has been loosened up.

While you’re waiting for the BBQ to cool down a bit after you’ve used it, go ahead and detach the propane tank. While the water we’ll use to clean the BBQ shouldn’t damage the propane tank, it’s still a lot better to be safe rather than sorry when working around equipment powered by flammable gas.

Get a bucket of soapy water ready as well as a few drip trays or plastic containers that you can use to clean the parts in.

The Grill

The same procedure as before; scrub the grill with a brush soaked in soapy water while it’s still on the BBQ, then take it off and soak it in a container full of water and dish detergent. 

Then, let the grill soak in the container while you clean the rest of the BBQ. Once you’ve cleaned the rest of the BBQ, take out the grill, scrub it down with the rough side of a sponge or a brush again, and dry it with a cloth before putting it back on the BBQ.

The Lid

As we mentioned before, the inside of the BBQ lid collects a lot of grease and food particles that will fall on top of your food while you’re cooking unless you clean it semi-regularly.

Use the scraper to collect all of the debris collected in the lid and push it down and into the centre of the BBQ. Then, get a dry brush and scrub the lid to remove all of the particles left from when you went over it with the scraper.

That’s all you really need to do since we’re not really trying to make the inside of the grill look brand new and all we need is to collect most of the food particles and keep the BBQ in working shape.

The Hot Plates

Hot plates are also called heat dispersers or even flavour plates. Still, regardless of the term that you use for them, these are the triangular pieces of metal that go over the burners and are used to conduct the heat while also keeping food scraps, fat, and grease from dripping into the holes of the burners.

Get the scraper and get as much of the debris off of the hot plates as you can. After the excess has been removed, you’re going to get the soap water-dipped brush and scrub the top of the plates as best as you can in order to get off the grease and the leftover fat.

Additionally, before you remove the plates, we’d take the time to use the scraper on the top of the inner BBQ walls to scrape off and push as much grease and fat towards the bottom of the BBQ you can. It’s best to do this now while the burner holes are still covered since doing it later might result in debris falling into them.

After you remove the plates, you’re going to scrub them on the inside as well, and you’re going to take a bit of time to also check them for cracks or holes. Rust is pretty common and not something to worry about too much, but if the plate is damaged, then it might be time to get a replacement since it can’t protect the burner that it’s covering anymore.

After you’ve gone over the plate with the brush, you’re going to let it soak in soapy water for a bit. Then, you’ll spray it down with some degrease on both the outside and the inside, scrub it, soak it in soapy water again, and scrub it one final time.

The Burners

There are two types of burners: ones that have circular openings for the flames and ones that have slits. The slits are easier to clean, and all that it takes is a brush, but the circular ones might require you to use a toothbrush to get any buildup in the holes.

When cleaning your burners with a brush, remember to go side to side on the burner cylinder rather than up and down. Scrubbing up and down just pushes particles from one burner hole into another, which usually just ensures that more gunk gets collected rather than making sure that the holes are clean.

People also remove the burners entirely and channel water through them to clean them, but that’s unnecessary unless the holes are clogged up, and you need to clean the burners a lot more thoroughly to bring them back to proper working shape.

You might also want to inspect the burners themselves to check for any cracks or rust marks since those are tell-tale signs that it’s time to invest in some replacement burners before the ones you have fail on you completely.

The Inner Walls

Get the scraper and use it on the inside walls of the grill to push all of the debris into the middle so that it can fall into the grease trap underneath. Get a dry brush, scrub off the remaining debris and ash from the side, and push it towards the inside of the BBQ.

The sides of the grill don’t need to be spotless, and all you really want to do is get rid of the excess gunk to ensure that it doesn’t burn up and accidentally end up on top of your food.

The bottom of the BBQ might also have heat deflectors located under the burners that will need to be removed and placed on a drip tray. You’re going to scrape off any excess and use a brush and a bit of soap water to clean them and remove any grease.

The Tray

The tray in the middle of your BBQ is there to collect the grease, the ash, and everything else that drips down from above, so it gets really dirty really fast. It usually has a hole placed at a decline in the tray that’s centred over a drip tray that collects most of the grease. These drip trays are aluminium and are disposable, so just replace the one that you were using.

On the other hand, the collection tray is usually made out of porcelain, which makes it pretty easy to clean. Remove it from the BBQ, throw away all of the collected materials inside, scrape off the leftovers, spray it down with a hose or just splash some water on it, and get the degreaser spray and the fine steel wool.

Spray it with the degrease and use the steel wool to clean it as best as you can. Get a sponge, dip it in some soap water, and go over the tray before hosing it down and wiping it off with a dry cloth. All that’s left to do now is place the collection tray back in the BBQ.

Finishing Touches

After you’ve cleaned all of the parts and placed them back in the BBQ, all that’s really left to do is use a cloth to coat the grill in some cooking oil to keep them lubricated and protected from corrosion, re-attach the propane tank and turn on the grill to make sure everything is dry and working properly.

Before you re-attach the propane tank, you can use a vacuum cleaner or a broom to collect some of the dust that may have accumulated at the bottom of the BBQ, and you can also use the sponge and the soap water to clean the outside of the BBQ as well.

The last step really isn’t all that necessary, and it’s primarily for cosmetic purposes. However, it only takes a few minutes, and you might as well do a thorough job while you’re already cleaning. 


We tried to keep things as simple as possible and tried to cover all of the components that your BBQ might have. Not all models are the same, and some might have different components or slightly different designs, but most BBQ models usually have the components that we mentioned just in a slightly different position, so following our guide shouldn’t be a problem for you.

The one thing that you should remember is not to bother too much about the appearance of the BBQ. Trying to get it to look factory new is impossible, and you’ll just wear yourself out scrubbing for hours to no avail.