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Simple Guide To Cleaning A Charcoal Grill

Grilling is one of those summer activities we just can’t get enough of, and charcoal grills remain a favorite for many people. Some choose them for the taste. Others may like the lower cost. But one of the big drawbacks of a charcoal grill is the cleanup!

Sure, any grill can be tough to clean. But the addition of ash makes cleanup of a charcoal grill a bit tougher. Here are some pointers for getting rid of that ash and keeping your grill in great shape!

Whether you’re buying a new charcoal grill or already have one, these tips will help keep it in great shape.

How Often To Clean Your Grill

We recommend doing basic cleaning every time you use your grill. That includes dumping old ashes and thoroughly scraping down the grate. You can wipe it down, too.

At least twice a season, do a full cleaning that includes all parts of the grill.

Tools And Supplies You’ll Need

It always helps to have your cleaning supplies ready. Here’s what you’ll want on hand to do a good job cleaning your grill:

  • Grill brush with a scraper on the back
  • Aluminum foil
  • Bucket of soapy water

Learn about various types of barbecue grill

Disposing of Ashes

Getting rid of ashes can be messy if you’re not careful. It also requires caution because there may be hot spots hidden underneath a cool outer surface. 

Before removing the ashes, let them cool down for at least two days. Moving them around a couple times during this period will help assure that they’re cool.

cooking on a public charcoal grill

If you don’t want to wait that long, mix in some water. Stir it in so that it penetrates to the center of the ash pile.

Once you’re certain the ashes are cool, you can carefully pour them into another container for disposal.

If your charcoal was additive-free, you can use it as fertilizer. It’s great to help increase the pH level of the soil.

However, briquettes usually do have additives. Some other forms of charcoal may, as well. For safety, wrap them in aluminum foil before disposing of them in the trash.

Cleaning the Grate

The grate is the most important part of the grill to keep clean. Your food directly touches this surface, so you want to be sure it’s a suitable surface at all times.

It’s easiest to clean the grate while it’s warm. That leaves you basically three times you could do it.

After cooking, the coals are going to keep the surface clean for a good amount of time. This will let you eat and still come back to a warm grill. 

Before cooking, you need to let the coals warm. You could elect to clean the grate before tossing your food on.

Or you could warm the grate another time with a small pile of charcoal. This is the least practical alternative, in our opinion.

Once you do have the moment and a warm grate, use your grill brush to scrape it thoroughly. You can let the waste drop right onto the charcoal underneath. For general cleaning, you don’t have to remove the grate; the brush will get the bulk of the material on the other side.

After using the brush, use a ball of aluminum foil to scrape the grate more. This will help remove smaller gunk and grease.

When you do a more complete cleaning, remove the grill and soak it overnight in a bucket of soapy water. A bucket is better than a utility sink because of the grease that will come off. It’s not a lot of grease, but it can build up in small household drains. However, the concentration of grease is small, so pouring it into a storm drain or directly into the ground shouldn’t be a problem.

Cleaning Inside And Outside the Grill

You don’t need to do a thorough cleaning of the grill every time you use it. However, a quick wipedown of the lid and outer surface will help cut down on grease build-up.

We do recommend doing this type of cleaning when you break the grill out in the spring and again before storing it in the fall, though. And if you don’t have to store it, still wipe it down a few times a year!

For the inside of the grill, you can use a canister vacuum or “shop vac” to clean out any ash that is stuck in the crevices of the grill. If the finish on the inside of the grill is chipping or flaking, use the metal edge on the back of your grill brush to remove them. If you don’t have a metal edge, a bristle brush works just as well.


All good things come to an end, including grilling season. Ok, that’s not really true – there are plenty of places where the weather’s fine year-round. And there are those tough grillers that will still be grilling in a foot of snow. For the rest of us, though, there comes a time to store the grill – but always knowing that spring will come again!

Make sure your grill is clean before packing it away. Also, be sure it dries out completely. 

We also recommend covering it or storing it for winter, too. This will help keep dust and natural grease from building up. It also keeps moisture away.

Keep your grill in a dry spot so that it will hold up longer.


Cleaning a charcoal grill can be messy if you’re not careful, but the great taste of burgers, steaks, and more makes it all worth it. Fortunately, cleaning the grill isn’t all that complicated and doesn’t take a lot of time. Be sure to dispose of ashes properly and keep your grill in good shape so you can enjoy it year after year!

About Us

Tom and Sarah Greenwood are the dynamic duo behind “Yards Improved,” dedicated to the joys and challenges of gardening, pool maintenance, and lawn and patio care. With Tom’s passion for landscape design and Sarah’s enthusiastic approach to gardening, they share their journey of transforming their backyard into a thriving retreat. We strive to offer practical advice aimed at helping you enhance your outdoor space.