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Summer Sanitization: Getting Grill Ready

If the rain truly stops and the sun decides to stay out, you may be thinking about finally getting out your grill, summer serving trays, and cooking utensils.  According to the Cleaning Institute home page, the answer as to whether you should clean or disinfect those items and what the difference between the two is:


“CLEANING works by using soap and detergents, water and friction to physically remove germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection by removing them. Hot water (120° – 140°F) also helps to reduce the level of dirt and germs.”


“SANITIZING reduces, but does not necessarily eliminate, microorganisms in the air, on surfaces or on inanimate objects. Look for a product whose label is registered as a “sanitizer” under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA; 7 U.S.C. section 136 et seq.)”


“DISINFECTING destroys or irreversibly inactivates infectious or other undesirable bacteria, pathogenic fungi, or viruses on surfaces or inanimate objects. These products are labeled (and registered with the EPA) as a “disinfectant” under FIFRA, 7 U.S.C. 136, et seq.).”

Food Safety

“Depending on where you stored your summer picnic gear, i.e. in a basement corner where mice or insects may reside, you may choose to sanitize or disinfect them before the first use this spring. And remember:  when grilling this season, be sure to avoid cross-contamination by never using the platter that contained raw meat, fish, or poultry to hold cooked foods unless you wash it thoroughly in hot, soapy water first!”

Maintenance Is Key

There’s nothing quite like grilling food on a warm summer night, but you pull your grill out of the garage only to find that it’s a sea of dirt and grime. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to give your grill a proper cleaning before setting it up for the spring. Whether you prefer cooking with charcoal or gas, one thing remains the same – routine and yearly cleaning and maintenance is essential for great grilling.

Visually inspect the grill’s burners, cooking grates, ignition, and fuel line hoses. If you see anything that looks rusted or worn, replace it.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions prior to cleaning. While the instructions provided here are generic, your own barbecue may have specific requirements that need to be addressed to avoid harming the barbecue.

Cleaning Tips

Most have heard that it is best to clean your grill while it is still warm, so fill a foil pie plate with water and place over one of the burners. Turn on the grill only enough to make the water slowly boil, and then close the lid. Don’t overdo it, as you want just enough steam to keep everything soft until you get a chance to clean it, which will be MUCH easier because the food residue has been loosened by the steam. CAUTION!  Live steam can cause scalding, so turn off the burner and wait a few minutes for the steam to dissipate before slowly and carefully opening the lid.

Make sure you disconnect the gas bottle before doing anything. Put on some disposable gloves to protect your hands. Then disassemble the BBQ, except the gas conveying bits, and give everything a good clean.

Clean the cooking grates and hot plate in an automatic dishwasher. Unless the grate or hot plate are huge, they should fit in your dishwasher. Use regular automatic dishwasher detergent and set for the pot scrubber cycle, if your washer has this feature. It is okay if they are still black when done, as long as the food and grease residue is gone.

Baked on dirt inside the grill is best attacked with a stiff wire brush or a stainless steel paint/putty scraper, along with mild soap and warm water. Scrape out and discard any carbonized debris from the underside of the lid.

Scrape and remove as much debris as possible from the cook box below the heat diffuser. Use care with the burners and just wipe them clean, unless some of the small burner holes are clogged. If so, carefully clean them out with a small metal point such as a bent paper clip or metal skewers. Try to clean the blockage out and not push it inside the burner.

There is an easy way to clean the grease drip tray. First, line it with aluminum foil. Then fill it with kitty litter. When it is saturated with grease, remove it by lifting out the foil. The result is an instantly clean grease drip tray. Keeping your grease tray clean can also help prevent potential grease fires and can make food taste better, as heating up old rancid grease does nothing for the taste and smell of your food.

You can purchase a non-stick grill sheet to put over the hotplate. These sheets keep all of the food off the actual hotplate and makes cleaning up a breeze. Wipe the grill sheet clean periodically.

If your grill has lava rocks, and they become old and dirty, you could try to clean them in a bucket of hot water and dish detergent. However, the easier solution is to buy fresh lava rocks, replacing them yearly.

Cleaning the outside of your grill should be a much easier task. Stainless steel and painted surfaces should be cleaned with mild soap and warm water using sponge or non-scratch scrubbers. If necessary, use a citrus-based degreaser. Use stainless steel polish after cleaning.

Put all the grill parts back in place. Check that all connections are good.


The final step to the cleaning process and the first step to the cooking process is to oil the grill grates and pre-heat the grill for at least 15 minutes, after you re-install the parts, to re-season them. This will burn off any residual dirt and grease that may have been missed and kills germs on cooking surfaces.

To keep your grill working properly, and ensure your grilled food tastes great every time, it’s best to do a periodic cleaning.


Dirty Grill

Contact Our Expert!


Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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