Accidentally left grill grates outside during the winter and rust built up.

Tried to search online and ask at Lowe's, but didn't find a good solution.

What worked for you?

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  • 5
    You want to avoid any form of rust converter. Given this is a food surface you don't want to have black Iron Phosphate on the grille, so products like bondall.com/ranex-rustbuster are bad here. Commenting cos not an answer.
    – Criggie
    Jul 16, 2017 at 7:16
  • What about a power washer like at a commercial car wash? I suppose there is a lot of cleaning of these using a wire brush. I have heard of wire bristles coming off the brush, staying on the grill and then getting into meat subsequently cooked on the grill. These cases (presumably rare) caused illness eventually leading to surgery to remove a steel bristle penetrating the intestine or have migrated into the abdominal cavity. Jul 16, 2017 at 11:14
  • @JimStewart That is scary but if you do as Ed suggests, the rust will basically fall off after the metal is heated. You can use that method for cast iron cookware as well.
    – JimmyJames
    Jul 17, 2017 at 13:49

7 Answers 7


Put them in the grill and get them HOT! Then use a wire brush and scrub the scale and rust off. After that I usually coat them with olive oil but any cooking oil will work.

  • If this is a gas grill, it will probably be necessary to build a fire and put them in. Gas doesn't get all that hot compared to a wood or charcoal fire. Good excuse to buy/build a fire pit if you don't have one.
    – JimmyJames
    Jul 17, 2017 at 13:47
  • If you have good ventilation, you'd be amazed what the "oven clean" setting on your oven will do too. Jul 17, 2017 at 18:17
  • I tried a couple of methods from other answers, but this one eventually did the job. I heated them up in an oven to 550F and then used a wire wheel and power drill to scrub the rust off. Then oiled them like you recommended. The grates are like new now.
    – Nikita R.
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:16

Soak them overnight in vinegar. It works like magic to remove rust. Afterwards rub them with oil or they will get rusty again.

  • Have to admit I tried it, but unfortunately, it didn't help much. Some bigger pieces dissolved, but overall it still looked very rusty. Ed's response about heating and scrubbing helped though.
    – Nikita R.
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:12
  • Sorry to hear that. I'm curious though what type of vinegar you used? I've done this many times with various metal items, tools etc, with much success.
    – user6591
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:15
  • This is what I had sitting at home, which I think is a regular bare bones vinegar. Though the rust was really bad on the grates. Maybe a thinner layer would have been removed with vinegar. Or maybe I should have tried doing it a couple of times. Great advice anyway, I'm going to try it on other metal items that are impractical to heat up and scrub.
    – Nikita R.
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:19
  • It's funny, the reviews there complain that it is basically food grade vinegar & I actually always used regular white food vinegar:) The most shocking results were with a garden sharer that I found buried in years of mud and rust. Came out beautiful, spring and all. Anyways, good luck in the future!
    – user6591
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:35
  • Yeah, I only saw the reviews now. I used it only because that was the only vinegar I had in the house. But I'll keep the method in mind, it's good to know. And I'll also try different brands.
    – Nikita R.
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:49

Excellent electrolysis results:

You need:

  • One rusty grill grate.
  • A plastic container.
  • Some DC power source.
  • An iron plate (NB pure iron, NOT stainless steel!).
  • Sodium hydroxide, NaOH (alternatively sodium carbonate, Na2CO3).
  • Rubber gloves.


Put the grill grate inside the container making sure that it is not lying flat on the bottom but have room for fluid to move under it, place some stands under it if needed.

Place non-conducting thin spacers on top of the grill grate and put the iron plate on top of that (e.g. parallel but not touching). Connect correct electrical wires to each of the grate and the plate.

Put on the gloves (safety glasses are also a very good idea), mix sodium hydroxide and water in a bucket (warm water dissolves more quickly), and pour the liquid into the container, repeat if needed until fully covered.

Turn on the power source, it should start to bubble a little and you see rust being generated. Let it stay until done. You might need to clean the iron plate from time to time (although if you do not the process only goes slower).

When done, take out the grill grate, dry it and brush it with a wire brush and enjoy your almost as good as new grill grate.

images of electrolysis process

The above is just the general instructions, look up a couple of the hundreds of tutorials on rust removal electrolysis available on the internet for details.

From the pictures you see that I got hold of a quite large iron plate. It is not strictly needed to have one that fully covers the grill grate, but it will ensure even coverage (with uneven coverage just move the anode around over time or just let it run longer). Concrete reinforcing rods are an alternative. Using graphite instead of iron as the anode is a better solution as it avoids making the liquid so messy, but I have not tried it.

The waste from this should be safe and non toxic, but check with your local authorities for disposal. And again no stainless steel! Also avoid copper wires inside the solution.

  • 3
    Also avoid chrome plated steel, there is a chance of hexavalent chrome forming.
    – PlasmaHH
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:59
  • Sodium hydroxide is basically drano without the aluminum it will work but it is toxic. When I worked in a clean room we used a very similar method to electro polish metals and etch microscopic probes.
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 17, 2017 at 19:03
  • I'm sorry, I just have to channel Jesse Pinkman here. YEAH! SCIENCE! Jul 29, 2017 at 2:21

The most reasonable low-labor suggestion for a homeowner is an angle grinder with a wire cup. It's a moderately priced tool that will likely be useful for something else down the road.

A no labor solution is electrolysis, which will pull the rust off. However it involves an electrical source, water, and home-made wiring so you should be somewhat comfortable with basic concepts of electricity before employing google-fu.

  • 4
    You don't need an angle grinder, a standard corded power drill would work as well. Wire brush or cup bit.
    – DaveM
    Jul 16, 2017 at 13:51
  • What eventually worked is a combination of yours and Ed's response: I heated it up to 550F and then used a wire wheel and power drill. It looks like new now.
    – Nikita R.
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:14

Just as another option, you can use lemon juice and salt as a scouring scrub for the rust (this is a technique borrowed from cast-iron skillet maintenance) that is (obviously) food-safe. Squeeze lemon juice onto the grates, salt them with coarse salt, and then use a half lemon like a scrub brush. It's kind of a combination of the vinegar (acid) + wire brush (abrasive), with inherently food-safe stuff.


Use Evaporust. Non toxic and amazing.


Wad up a sheet of aluminum foil and scrub the grate.

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