How to clean a rusty griddle – 4 steps to a summer-perfect grill top

Get your griddle summer ready with these expert cleaning solutions for rust

A griddle outside on a deck
(Image credit: Alamy)

As temperatures begin to rise, more of us will be looking forward to summers in our gardens with family and good food. If you when heading out into the backyard after winter you have found that your prized griddle has rusted, however, those hopes may be dashed. 

No need to panic, as just like cleaning a grill, there are a few clever cleaning tips that professionals swear by that will get even the worst-looking griddles fighting fit again. 

Here, experts have explained how to clean a rusty griddle, why it may have rusted, and how to prevent rust in the future so you can focus on more important things, like what you're going to cook.

How to clean a rusty griddle  

Restoring your griddle to new and removing rust will require a little elbow grease, but it can be done in just four easy steps, experts assure us. 

A griddle outside cooking food

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Use a wire brush to loosen surface rust

Similar to cleaning grill grates, a tough abrasive such as a wire brush is the perfect tool for removing any food, grease, or loose rust from the surface of your griddle, says Alex Bayev, Ukrainian food blogger and chef at Bayevs Kitchen. This step also works with a scraper or steel wool, like these from Amazon, he adds. 

‘If you don't have a steel wool pad, crumple a piece of aluminum foil and use it as a scrubber to remove rust,’ Alex suggests. This is also a great tip if you need to clean a grill without a brush.  

Alex Bayev

Alex Bayev is a Ukrainian chef and food blogger who began documenting his recipe process to help others learn to cook step-by-step and collect all of the most delicious recipes in one place. As a result, he knows his way around a kitchen and cooking methods, making him an expert in all things food and kitchens. 

2. Remove embedded rust with a rust remover

Rust often sits below the surface of your griddle too, making removing it a tough job to remove. A brush or scrubber should also be paired with a rust-removing solution to help remove rust embedded in the metal. 

Apply vinegar: Cleaning with vinegar is popular for a reason. The strong acidity of this common household cleaner is perfect for breaking rust away from your griddle surface and leaving it looking new without the need for harsh chemicals, explains Alex Bayev, food blogger and chef.

‘Soak the griddle in 1:1 vinegar and water solution for three to eight hours depending on the severity of the rust,’ he recommends.

Apply a baking soda scrub: Cleaning with baking soda is a great way to remove rust from stainless steel and restore cast iron, making it perfect for cleaning a rusty griddle.

This method works best when you create a paste with baking soda and a little water, says food blogger and chef Alex Bayev. ‘Apply the paste to the griddle and scrub with a scouring pad. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can help remove rust without damaging the griddle surface.’

Use a commercial rust remover: If natural remedies have not worked for you, consider a commercial rust remover like Clean My Steel Rust Remover from Amazon.

‘Allowing this to sit for a few hours will break down any rust with ease,’ says Ahmad Jamal, cleaning expert and advisor at CleanersAdvisor.

Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad is a self-proclaimed 'clean-freak', with years of experience tackling tough cleaning projects and advising others on how to deal with the worst of messes. 

3. Rinse and dry the griddle

After treating a griddle for rust, cleaning it with a neutral soap such as Dawn Powerwash and water will help to remove any final flecks of rust and leftover cleaning solution. Once clean, dry the griddle thoroughly with a clean towel to ensure no liquid remains.

Water is the friend of rust, so leaving any area damp will only encourage rust to form once again. 

4. Season the griddle

Seasoning a griddle is vital for an even cook and for preventing rust from developing again in the future, says Jarvis Rippin, cleaning specialist at Cookery Query

‘To season a griddle, apply a thin layer of neutral oil such as flax, or vegetable and heat it until the oil smokes. Let the griddle cool down, and repeat the process several times.’

‘The oil will polymerize, forming a protective layer on the griddle surface,’ Alex Bayev, food blogger and chef explains. ‘After heating, allow the griddle to cool completely. Wipe off any excess oil with a clean cloth or paper towel. Your griddle is now restored and ready for use. Store it in a dry location to prevent future rusting.’

Why your griddle has rusted

A griddle outside cooking food

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rust forms easily on anything stored outdoors, especially if you live in a particularly wet or humid climate as metal oxidizes when exposed to water and oxygen. However, griddles can rust for a variety of reasons, even when covered. 

For example, if the griddle is not cleaned thoroughly after each use, food particles and moisture can remain on the surface, leading to rust formation,’ explains Alex Bayev, food blogger and chef. ‘It may also form if the griddle has not been seasoned correctly, or the seasoning has worn off. This may be especially true during the winter months when you are not using the griddle as often.

‘Other factors may include storing the griddle in a damp or humid environment, such as a basement, and prolonged contact with acidic or salty foods,’ he adds.

‘Additionally, if the griddle is not dried properly after washing, moisture can remain on the surface and lead to rust.’


Is rust on a griddle bad?

Rust is not only visually unappealing on a griddle but incredibly unappetizing, too. Rust can drastically alter the way your food tastes and could even make you ill if consumed. If your griddle has rusted, it is a good idea to clean and remove all the rust entirely before reseasoning the griddle or, in cases where the metal has begun to erode away, replace the griddle entirely.  

How rusty is too rusty for a grill?

Any amount of rust on a grill could be considered too much, but there is certainly too much rust for safe cooking if the rust is flaking, the metal has been compromised and crumbles or warps, or the rust covers more than a quarter of the grill or griddle top. The rust should either be thoroughly removed, or the grill grates or griddle replaced for food safety.  

Removing rust from a griddle pan can require a lot of effort, but is simple to do yourself if you don't mind a little manual labor. Trying this expert step-by-step will help to restore the worst of griddles in time for summer, at a fraction of the price of a new one.

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.