How to clean a grill without a brush – 6 expert-approved methods

These six grill cleaning techniques don't require a brush but give a great grilling experience nonetheless

Traeger grill on a deck
(Image credit: Traeger)

If you own a grill then a grill brush is a useful bit of kit to have on hand to keep it in top condition. But, if you don't have one, can’t find it, or yours has given up on life, how can you clean a grill without a brush? 

Cleaning a grill is essential to keeping your food tasting great and preventing an accidental grease fire. Not only does a grimy grill affect the taste of your food, but also breeds bacteria and promotes the spread of foodborne illnesses, making that summer barbeque a one-way ticket to you never hosting friends and family again.

Here, cleaning experts and grill specialists have suggested some top cleaning tips for how to clean a grill without a brush, and one of the options may surprise you.

How to clean a grill without a brush 

These six methods of cleaning grill grates without a brush are perfect in a pinch and help to keep your best grill looking and cooking its best too.

Outdoor grill with outdoor sink and BBQ

(Image credit: Norfolk Grills)

1. Half an onion

Cleaning a grill with an onion may not sound like a logical cleaning hack, but experts swear that it is one of the best last-minute tools to use to clean a grill without a brush. How does it work, you ask? 

It is all to do with natural enzymes, explains Tor Rydder, cleaning expert and founder of Organizing.TV. ‘The onion's acidic enzymes help break down whatever debris is stuck to the grill grates, leaving them clean and grease-free. All you have to do is cut a fresh onion in half and either use your hand or a fork if the grill is hot to rub the grates down. Just wash with plain water and a little soap afterward for a truly fresh clean.’ 

Tor Rydder
Tor Rydder

Tor Rydder is a Norwegian cleaning expert who owns and runs He hopes that his passion for cleaning and his cleaning hacks will make others enjoy this chore a bit more 

2. Dawn powerwash

There are several surprising things you can clean with Dawn Powerwash, and a grill is among them. Not only is it ideal for the grates but the exterior and accessories too, says chef Trisha Pérez Kennealy owner and culinary educator of the Inn at Hastings Park, Massachusetts. 

‘The key to good grilling is making sure your grates and the grill itself are as free of grease as possible. I really like Dawn as a dishwashing detergent because it cuts grease with a little scrubbing,’ Trisha shares. ‘I remove the grates from the grill and bring them inside, place them on parchment paper, spray them down with Dawn, and then let them soak for five or ten minutes. I then rinse them with hot water and lightly wipe them with a sponge, and they are as good as new! 

Trisha Pérez Kennealy

Trisha Pérez Kennealy is a professionally trained chef, having received both her Diplôme de Cuisine & Diplôme de Pâtisserie from Le Cordon Bleu, as well as a mom, so she does her fair share of grilling.

Dawn Powerwash Starter Bundle | $8.44 at Amazon

Dawn Powerwash Starter Bundle | $8.44 at Amazon 
This Powerwash starter kit includes one complete Dawn spray bottle and one refill pack.

3. A nylon scouring pad

Good for both grill grates and cleaning stove grates, a nylon scrubbing pad is a simple and cost-effective way of cleaning a grill without a brush, says cleaning expert Tor Rydder. ‘Commonly used in kitchens for cleaning pots and pans, can also be used to clean grill grates effectively. Run the scouring pads back and forth with a degreaser across the grill grates to remove any debris.’

One downside to nylon pads like these from Amazon, however, is they wear through rather quickly, meaning they may not be useful after one or two uses

4. Aluminum foil

There are numerous foil hacks for cleaning – using aluminum foil in the dishwasher is one example, as is cleaning a grill without a brush. Aluminum Foil is also a popular method for cleaning a grill without a brush. 

The good news is that this method is relatively easy to do too, shares Shawn Hill, founder of The Grilling Dad. ‘To use this method, ball up a piece of aluminum foil and use it to scrub the grates. The abrasive texture of the foil will help to remove any stuck-on food debris, Shawn explains. ‘Be careful not to tear the foil and leave any small pieces behind that could get stuck in the grill,’ he warns. Balling the foil up into a tight ball should help to prevent this 

Shawn Hill

Shawn Hill started The Grilling Dad to help people find the best grilling tools and techniques for creating delicious foods even kids will enjoy! 

5. A steamer

Cleaning with a steam cleaner is not limited to your clothing and upholstery; these powerful multipurpose cleaning tools are great for your outdoor grills too, suggests cleaning professional Tor Rydder, especially if you are having a hard time getting stubborn food off the grates. ‘They really help to dislodge tough deposits that you just can’t budge any other way,’ he says.

6. Baking soda and vinegar

As with many other household items, cleaning with vinegar is a go-to for many professionals. Not only is it readily available, but it is also food safe – making it perfect for cleaning a grill without a brush. 

‘Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle and generously spray the grates,’ begins Shawn Hill, grilling expert and founder of The Grilling Dad. ‘Allow the solution to sit for a few minutes to loosen any debris, then scrub with a nylon scouring pad or ball of aluminum foil. Rinse the grates thoroughly with water after cleaning.

‘Baking soda is another natural cleaning agent that can be used to clean a grill,’ he adds. ‘Mix baking soda with water to form a paste then spread the paste over the grates. Allow the paste to sit for a few minutes to loosen any debris, then scrub with a nylon scouring pad or ball of aluminum foil. Rinse the grates thoroughly with water after cleaning.’

6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar | $11.99 at Amazon

6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar | $11.99 at Amazon
This specially formulated white vinegar with cleaning strength at 6% acidity lifts grime and breaks down grease, mineral deposits, lime scale, and built-up film for a clean space with no residue left behind and no rinsing required.

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How do you clean a grill naturally?

One of the best ways to clean a grill naturally is to make a paste of white vinegar and baking soda and apply it to the grates of your grill with a brush or scouring sponge. Cover the grill in this paste and allow it to sit for a little while before scrubbing and rinsing with plain water to help remove burnt-on food and tough grease.

How do you clean a grill quickly?

Cleaning a grill is no easy task, and it is good to know that it is difficult to do quickly while also doing it properly. One of the best methods of reducing how long it takes to clean a grill is to use a degreasing solution such as a specialized grill cleaner of vinegar and baking soda and allow it to sit on the grill grates for around half an hour. You can then try scrubbing the grill clean and repeating the steps as necessary.

You can make cleaning a grill quicker each time by keeping on top of your grill cleaning. Cleaning it after every use while the grills are still warm but not hot to the touch can help to make grease come away easier and not build up to super tough deposits.

No matter if you have a coal grill, or the best gas grill, cleaning a grill without a brush is simple when you know how to do it. Although a grill brush is a good investment for avid grill cooks, these six household cleaning methods are wonderful alternatives and come with the expert seal of approval. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.