You haven’t used your grill for weeks or even months. Then, one day you decide to grill your favorite meat recipe. You pull the grill out where you had stored it and boom! The grates look all rusty!
You start wondering whether to start by getting the rust out or use your grill as it is. Your mind starts racing with the question of whether grilling with rusty grates is a safe practice and whether it will bring any health complications to your body.
Is it safe to cook on a grill with rust?
Answer: It’s completely safe to use a rusty grill to cook food and you can consume food made with a rusty grill to make food without worries of getting stick or developing any serious health complications.
However, we don’t advise you to make it a habit of cooking with a grill with rust because it (the rust) can get loose and mix with your food and affect its flavor.
In worst cases, a hunk of wire might break off from your corroded grill and you might end up consuming it if you’re not watchful.
Rust is basically iron oxide. It’s totally harmless when consumed in smaller quantities (it might even just add an extra dose of iron to your diet J). Consuming much of it, however, might become potentially harmful and should be avoided at all costs.
If you’re short on time, you can a rusty grill, but don’t make it a habit. 1-2 times is okay but not more than that!
Can you get tetanus from a rusty grill?
Barbecuers also fear that using a rusted grill to cook food can cause tetanus. How true is this?
Well, here’s the truth: You CANNOT get tetanus for cooking with a grill with rust. For those who might know, tetanus is caused by a bacterium. If this bacterium is present in your rust grill (the chances are quite low), it won’t stand the high-temperature environment of your grill.
The reason why people think grill with rust would cause tetanus is because rusty nails and other sharp objects that pierce us accidentally tend to cause the same. Unknown to most people, however, the bacteria responsible for tetanus Clostridium tetani usually reside in the dust, manure, or soil.
When the rusty nails and other sharp objects lying on the ground pierces your body and form a wound, they give this bacterium an easy entry into your body system where it causes tetanus.
Rust has nothing to do with tetanus! Rust is NOT among the common causes of tetanus in humans listed on the CDC website. Rust isn’t related to tetanus in any way!
How to clean rust on a grill?
We have confirmed that rust isn’t harmful stuff and you shouldn’t have any fears when using a rusty grill to barbecue.
But that doesn’t mean you should always use that rusty grill.
After you’re done using it, make sure you follow the methods outlined below on how to fix rust on a grill to make your grill clean, 100% safe, and help you grill with full confidence.
Soap and water method
If your grill isn’t heavily infested with rust and only features some minor rust spots, then getting rid of rust can be as simple as using the basic water and soap cleaning method.
You might also consider using the traditional elbow grease to get rid of the minor rust stains on the grates.
For this method, you’d want to avoid wire or brass brush and use a soft-bristled nylon brush to get out the rust without being too hard on your grills.
One of the many uses of the household item—baking soda—is removing rust. It works well for stainless steel grills.
This is how you use baking soda to remove rust on grills:
- Scrub the grill with a soft-bristled brush to help take off as much rust as possible
- Next, set the grates on the barbeque and generously sprinkle them with baking soda
- Turn on the barbeque. This will help produce the heat needed to make the powder bubble. The bubbling process, in turn, eliminates rust
- Now turn off the grill and allow it to cool down
- Lastly, use the soft-bristled brush to clean your grates again and remove any baking soda residue.
That’s it. Your grill is now clean, rust-free, and ready for the next grilling session.
Vinegar and salt blend
Just like baking soda, vinegar is another common item in many households with excellent cleaning properties. Mixing it with salt can make it a potent rust remover that frees your grates from rust.
This is how you use the blend:
- Mix two cups of vinegar and one cup of salt in one large bowl
- Next, place your rusty grills inside a large, heavy-duty garbage bag and leave them to soak in the vinegar-salt blend overnight
- Now get the grates out and wipe away the rust on them using an old rug or towel.
The salt here plays the role of an abrasive that makes it easy to get rid of the rust on your grates.
Lemon juice and detergent
Lemon juice contains citric acid which has excellent rust removal properties. when combined with a powder-type dishwashing detergent, it produces even greater rust cleaning results.
- Mix the detergent plus lemon juice to form a thick paste.
- Apply this paste to the grates and let it sit overnight.
- On the following day, most of the rust will have gotten off your grates and you can now use warm water and a soft piece of cloth or sponge to scrub the grates clean.
- Finally, rinse your grill with warm water.
Use a wire brush to remove rust
Another great method of fixing the rust on a rusty grill involves using a wire brush.
- Take the grate off the grill and place it on a flat surface, such as the driveway or concrete patio.
- Slide your wire brush across the grate to remove the rust. Remember to work on the other side of the grate as well.
- Finally, wipe off the grate with an old towel or rag to remove any residue rust.
We advise you against using this method frequently as it might end up damaging your grates with repeated use.
Sandpaper for removing rust
If your grates have a lot of rust that’s hard to remove using the other methods explained above, you might consider using sandpaper to get the job done.
You wrap a section of sandpaper around the rust rungs of your grates and slide it up and down. Do this for every rung at a go to get rid of the stubborn rust.
NOTE: Using sandpaper on your grill can easily scratch the surface, so we only recommend using this method if none of the other methods seem to work for you.
Using commercial rust removers
If the rust on your grill won’t go away with the non-chemical cleaning methods explained above, the final resort is to invest in commercial rust removers. These are chemical products and work magically to take away the rust on your grill and leave them clean.
When looking for a rust remover, watch out for products that contain hazardous chemicals like hydrofluoric acid (HF). Such products could leave behind these toxic chemicals on your grill and risk your health. Look for water-based, non-toxic rust removers to ensure you’re on the safe side.
How to prevent rust on grill?
Would you prefer spending your time and energy getting the rust off your grill grates or keeping your grill rust-free and safe for use at all times?
You’ll definitely go with the latter as it sounds like an easier route.
Use these quick tips to prevent rust from catching up with your grill include:
Clean your grill after every use
One of the simplest ways to keep your grill rust-free is to clean it after every use. This practice is not only hygienic but also helps remove foods that would otherwise encourage rust to form.
Once your grates are clean, make sure you season them with a coat of vegetable oil (especially if you own rust-prone grills like those made from cast iron). This natural water repellent will further keep rusting away.
Waterproof your grate
You can also prevent rusting for your grill by covering it with a grill mat. Get a mat that properly fits your grill to help keep moisture off for a rust-free environment.
Alternatively, you can consider covering your grill with waterproof vinyl or nylon cover. This will also keep off moisture and other elements that contribute to rust.
Get a rust-free grill
The ultimate solution to keeping your grill free from rust would be getting one that doesn’t rust. The ceramic coated grills are a perfect choice as they can keep water and moisture from getting underneath and causing rusting.
Besides, the ceramic surface makes the grates non-stick for an easy cooking experience.
Bonus Tip: Know how to store your grill
If you don’t plan to use your grill for months, you need to store it properly to ensure it doesn’t turn rust.
One way is to bring your grill indoors, say in your garage or shed, where moisture can’t reach it. If you reside in areas prone to snow and high humidity levels, you’ll also need to keep your grill indoors.
If you stay near an ocean, the salty air could easily corrode your grill, so make sure you weatherproof it or season it with oil after cleaning.
Grilling your favorite meat recipe on rusty grates isn’t as harmful as you might have been thinking. It also can’t cause tetanus, contrary to the common knowledge you’ll find out there.
But using a rusty grill for your food should be a one-off affair. It only becomes unsafe practice if you continue using rusty grills to prepare your food. Not to mention foods made on rusty grates might taste gross.
Fixing the rusted grill is a fairly easy process and using the great rust removal tips we have discussed in this guide you should be able to get the rust out of your grill.
The additional preventive tips will also help ensure you protect your grill from catching rust again.