12 Simple Steps to Clean Your Grill After Winter

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated December 21, 2021
BBQ cooker in winter time
Photo: tab62 / Adobe Stock

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Backyard barbecues are just around the corner. From rusty grill grates to grimy grease traps, cleaning the grill after winter will get you one step closer to grilling season. Whether you have a charcoal or gas grill, use this easy guide to get your grill in working order in no time. 

Do You Need to Clean Your Grill After Winter?

 A metal grill with a glowing wood
Photo: romantsubin / Adobe Stock

Even if you prepared your gas grill for winter and kept it stored away, the odds are you need to do a few things to get it ready for your next cookout. A dirty grill will not only impact flavor but it can also affect the grill’s performance. 

Debris can fall between the cooking grates causing problems with the flames, dirt can get trapped behind knobs and handles and in burner tubes, and rust spots can form. Whether you’ve got a compact charcoal grill or you want to clean your gas grill, it’s a good idea to give your grill a spring cleaning before you use it again. 

How to Clean Your Grill After Winter

Set aside an hour on a Saturday afternoon and tackle cleaning your grill after winter by following these 12 simple steps. 

1. Gather Your Supplies

Get together your cleaning supplies. You will need:

  • A bucket of soapy water (use dish soap)

  • Clean rags and paper towels

  • A grill brush

  • Steel wool 

  • A plastic scraping tool or butter knife

  • A tarp, old sheet, or cardboard to put your grill on and keep the mess off your deck

2. Start Inside the Lid

Over the winter, carbon deposits can build up under the lid. These can look like peeling paint or flakes. They aren’t toxic, but you don’t want them on your food. Use a stainless steel grill brush to scrub them off, then wipe clean with water and a rag or paper towel. 

3. Remove Cooking Grids

Pull off any grilling grates and sear plates and put them in the bucket of soapy water to soak for a few minutes. Once they’ve soaked, use steel wool to scrub them clean. You can also run them through the dishwasher.

4. Clean Any Heat Distribution Components

Some grills have metal strips to help distribute heat more evenly. On Weber grills, these are called “flavorizer bars.” Because they are under the cooking grates, they can get a buildup of grease and gunk. Use your grill brush to scrub them down and then wipe them clean. 

Other grills use lava rocks or ceramic briquettes to distribute heat. These can be removed and scrubbed with a wire brush, but don’t use water or soap on them as that can cause deterioration. 

If the metal strips are rusty or the briquettes have begun to crumble, you probably want to replace them before the grilling season. 

5. Scrape It Clean

Wire brush with wooden handle
Photo: Marek Gottschalk / Adobe Stock

Using your scraping tool and your wire brush, remove any grease or stuck-on mess from the inside of the grill and then wipe it out with a paper towel. 

6. Carefully Clean Any Burners and Tubes 

If your grill has gas burners, you don’t need to remove them to clean them. Carefully clean them with steel wool and a rag. Inspect the burner tubes (where the flames come out) for any blockage. You can remove the burner tubes and scrub them clean as needed. 

7. Clean the Catch Pan 

The catch pan, also known as the grease trap or drip pan, is on the bottom of your grill, and it does exactly as the name implies: catches all the dripping grease and debris when you’re cooking. Remove it, scrub it with a wire brush, and then wash it quickly with soapy water. 

8. Vacuum Your Grill 

When your grill sits all winter, it can attract spiders and other bugs. A handheld vacuum or hose attachment will remove any spiderwebs and other debris. If you have a propane tank attached, give that area a quick vacuum.

9. Shine It Up 

Close the lid of your grill and wipe down all exterior surfaces with soapy water to remove lingering grease or dirt. Shine the stainless steel exterior with a stainless steel cleaner, or wipe it down with a clean rag or paper towels.

10. Reassemble Your Grill 

Return the drip pan. Put back any burner tubes and heat distribution rocks or bricks. Set the cooking grills and plates back in place. If you have a gas grill, you can reconnect it to the fuel source. 

11. Season Your Grill Grate

Apply a thin coat of vegetable oil to your clean and dry cooking grates. Just as you season a cast-iron skillet, this process will help prevent future sauce and fat from sticking to your grill. 

12. Fire It Up 

If your grill is gas, you can start by firing up one burner at a time to make sure the burner tubes are clear. If you have a charcoal grill, let your grill burn hot for at least 10 minutes before you cook anything on it. 

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Grill?

Don’t skip cleaning your grill after winter. Not only is cooking on a dirty grill unsanitary, it also affects your food's flavor. If you don’t have the time to clean the grill yourself, you can hire someone to help you, like a local gas grill repair company or even a local handyperson service

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