How to clean and restore your rusty bbq charcoal and gas

How to clean your bbq for the first time this year

Yep you are regretting the lack of planning last year and debating slinging your manky BBQ and you probably didn’t read my how to stop a bbq rusting either :)! Just like me you left the bbq out all through Winter and it is looking shocking. Mine might even be worse than yours – I didn’t even bother with a cover. My charcoal bbq is practically falling apart so I’m just going through my reviews considering a new one but for today this old banger is going to have to do and I need it hygienic enough to eat from. This article works wether your cleaning a gas bbq, food smoker, portable gas bbq, portable charcoal bbq, and I even clean out my fire pit this way too.

I’ve got the gas bbq under cover to be fair but quite frankly I want that bbq smoker flavour. If you’re a charcoal fan you know full well gas doesn’t even have a touch on a nice lump wood bbq, especially a nice chicken thigh…yummy! If your mouth isn’t watering it should be. Bit off topic but smoker wood chips are a must try if you’re into a charcoal bbq, you won’t be disappointed with the flavour transfer I promise.

There’s a few ways to get the old nasty grim off the griddle, some easier than others. For me though it’s not just the griddle, I need to clean the whole thing. Here’s two ways to get the bbq up to scratch looking and feeing fresh.

Use a heavy duty petrol pressure washer to blast off the rust and grime

Don’t worry if you don’t have a petrol pressure washer, you’re going to skip to step two but if you do have one, then pat yourself on the back for being a tool junkie as well as having half a jerry can of petrol in the shed. You got double points for being that organised, I had to shoot up the garage this morning to fill up the jerry can (and would you believe it two bottles of my favourite red fell into the basket with the kids weekend treats :D).

Lay your bbq on its side and dig out all the ash into a flower bed or a bag. Personally I love mixing up all the ash into the beds. It’s excellent for almost everything and if you want to get technical then mainly you’re doing it for the Potassium. So really don’t throw it away if you do have a flower bed or two. It’s not that much effort to keep the ash, you might even argue it’s easier than bagging it up and cleaning up after….

Here’s how I lay mine on its side:

BBQ laid on its side and all the griddles and mase removed and knocked off to remove the ash build up

Once I’ve got the ash out its already looking better:

Ash removed from the bbq looking better already

Once you’ve dug out the ash then its petrol pressure washer time. Absolutely hammer it full blast and you’ll be amazed how easily this al cleans up half decent. I’m using the Wilks 750 petrol pressure washer and there is a full review at the link. You’re not going to get a new bbq but certainly one you feel good about eating from. First I attack the griddles and the base:

Cleaning down the griddle with a pressure washer


I turn the drum upside down to help dry out, there’s nothing magical about this approach, it just works lovely. A word of warning, You could do with a solid surface behind the bbq you don’t mind getting dirty as the highest powered pressure washer throw the bbq about.

How much fun did I have doing that. You can see how much power that pressure washer delivers. I absolutely blasted the camera lady covering her in head to toe in bbq grease and ash, inadvertently of course 🙂 You can see her chicken out and jump back – I would have edited it out but too good for a laugh 😀

Ok ok here’s how you could do it without caking everyone in a load of grease:

Anyway, fun and games plus the mess over, it’s come up half decent looking well good enough for a bbq with a random good day of weather or certainly more than fine for another bbq later today.

The other option to clean the bbq is the hard way: burn off and scrub

Take the griddle in doors and scrub the life out of it with washing up liquid and a wire brush. Then, before I had a pressure washer I would actually throw in a load of kindling and start a fire. This will heat everything up and kill anything nasty on it. Put the fire out after 15 minutes or so (assuming you need it right now) with your hose.

Start a fire to burn off the grease – it will make life much easier if you don’t have a pressure washer

This will turn the nasty black on the griddle a more manageable ash that comes off far more easily than the nasty black residue from a bbq.

Once all is cooled down, clean it out and then get the wire brush on the bbq too with a running hose. Just keep going at it until it comes up. Remember, if it’s not perfectly clean you’re about to burn again in it at serious temperatures so you’ll not have any problems hygiene wise.

Once it’s all clean, light your bbq, be it gas or charcoal for the second time and then put the griddle back on for fifteen minutes to half an hour and let the flames really give it another clean off.

Pat yourself on the back, you just saved your bbq from the tip for at least another year. Now I’ve cleaned mine up it’ll be hard to throw it away for a new one!


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message:

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