How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Grill Grates

We all want to keep our cooking implements in pristine condition. But the thing is, it is inevitable for them to get dirty and rusty, especially after much use. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to bring back the splendor of your grates.

You can remove rust from cast iron grill grates by using vinegar, baking soda, or a commercial grill cleaner. You’ll need to first soften up the dirt, grime, and rust build-up with warm, soapy water. Then, you can choose between using vinegar, baking soda, and a grill cleaner to remove the rust.

In this article, I’ll share each step in further detail to make your efforts more effective. Read on to finally get rid of rust from your cast iron grill grates!

Removing rust from cast iron grill grates.

1. Soften Up the Dirt, Grime, and Rust Build-Up

The best way to make rust removal more manageable is to establish the habit of cleaning your grill grates properly after each use.

Here’s how:

  1. Remove any leftover food. Heat your grill grate to the maximum temperature to burn away leftover food.
  2. Scrub away remaining dirt particles and grime. Allow your grate to cool down a bit, then, using a high-quality steel grill brush, give your grate a good scrub to remove stubborn particles that might still be stuck in your grate’s nooks and crannies. Don’t have a steel brush? Here’s a helpful trick: you can use aluminum foil. The best thing about this hack is that you can crumple and mold the foil according to your needs.
  3. Prepare your grate for storage. There’s no need to wash your grate anymore. Simply wipe it with a wet cloth first, then a dry one. Finally, brush it over with a thin coat of vegetable oil before putting it away.

These steps should be enough to keep your cast iron grill grate well-maintained for a very long time.

That said, it is still possible for corrosion to happen anyway. It’s the process where rust (or, as it’s scientifically known, iron oxide) develops. It naturally occurs when three elements come together: oxygen, water, and of course, iron.

Fortunately, rust can be dissolved.

  1. The first step in making that happen is ensuring that your grill grate is completely clean. You can probably skip this step if you’ve been diligent in its maintenance. But if not, then you may follow the cleaning method I’ve shared above.
  2. You may also wash your grill grate with warm, soapy water for good measure. Don’t worry. This step won’t make the corrosion worse. It will soften up the dirt, grime, and rust build-up that will allow your preferred cleaning solution to penetrate your grill grate better.
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2. Use Vinegar to Dissolve Rust

There are two things that I particularly love about using vinegar when using it to strip off the rust. First, it’s a very common household ingredient. I always have a bottle of it in my kitchen for cooking. Second, it’s very effective thanks to its chemical formulation.

There are different kinds (and even flavors) of vinegar, but they all have one thing in common: acetic acid. It’s a compound that triggers a chemical reaction called neutralization when it comes in contact with rust. Simply put, acetic acid plus rust produces salt and water.

Here’s how to put this science experiment to the test and use it to rid your cast iron grill grate of rust:

  1. Prepare your container. You’ll need one that’s big enough to submerge your grill grate in the cleaning formula completely.
  2. Fill the container with equal parts vinegar and water. It doesn’t matter what type of vinegar you use, but choosing a spirit with a higher percentage of acetic acid will work better. I recommend wearing a pair of rubber gloves, especially if you’re working with vinegar with a higher acetic acid concentration.
  3. Submerge your cast iron grill grate and let it soak in the solution for a couple of hours to a couple of days, depending on the severity of the grate’s rusting.
  4. Once you’re done soaking, remove the grate from the solution and scrub off any remaining rust deposits with your grill brush. They should have softened by now. Again, don’t forget to put on a pair of gloves before doing so.
  5. Rinse your grill grate with water and dry thoroughly before storage.

3. Use Baking Soda to Scrub Off Rust

Want a safer and more gentle cleaning solution that’s just as effective in dealing with rust? Try baking soda. It is naturally abrasive and can also trigger alkaline derusting–a chemical process where rust is broken down by an alkaline solution (such as baking soda and water).

Another plus is that it’s a common household ingredient, like vinegar. Using baking soda to remove the rust off your grill grate is easy.

Here’s how:

  1. Create a paste by mixing baking soda with water.
  2. Apply the paste to your grill grate using a sponge.
  3. Allow the baking soda to work its magic by leaving it on the grate for half an hour. Let the paste penetrate longer for more severe cases.
  4. Scrub the paste off using your steel brush. You may also use the aluminum foil trick I’ve shared above. Roll a piece of aluminum foil and use that ball to scrub the rust away vigorously.
  5. Rinse your grill grate with water and dry thoroughly before storage.

Here’s a pro tip: You may replace water with vinegar when making your cleaning paste. Baking soda can efficiently clean organic compounds, while vinegar can break down stubborn mineral stains. This makes them an efficient cleaning combo not only for your grill grates but for your other cooking implements as well.

4. Use a Commercial Grill Cleaner to Deal With Rust

Finally, you may also use a commercial grill cleaner and rust remover for really stubborn cases. I only resort to this step after the previous ones have failed. That’s because I usually prefer using natural cleaning solutions as much as possible.

As such, here are a few things to keep in mind before purchasing any commercial rust remover:

  • Choose a product that’s specifically formulated for cast iron. There are harsh rust removal solutions out there that can definitely harm the integrity of your cast iron grill grate if you’re not careful.
  • Choose a product that doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals. It’s a given that rinsing any cleaning formula is imperative after you’re done with the rust removal process. However, I still prefer using non-toxic formulas just in case it gets in contact with food.
  • Choose a product that’s easy to apply. I prefer commercial rust removers that are ready to use. This way, I won’t have to worry about messing up its application.

I recommend Evapo-Rust Super-Safe Remover (Amazon). It’s a non-toxic, water-based rust remover that can be used on various metal surfaces, including cast iron. I also like the fact that it doesn’t produce any odor or fumes. Finally, it’s straightforward to use.

Here’s how:

  1. Prepare the container. This product will only work if you allow your cast iron grill grate to submerge and soak completely. Thus, you’d want to use a big enough container for this purpose.
  2. Let your grill grate soak in the product. If you’re dealing with light rusting, you may soak your cast iron grill grate for half an hour. Heavy rusting, on the other hand, might require an overnight soak.
  3. Rinse your grate. Finally, just rinse your cast iron grill grate, and you’re good to go. You won’t need to scrub or sand it anymore.

How to Prevent Your Cast Iron Grill Grate From Rusting

Congratulations! Your cast iron grill grate is now rust-free. You can take different steps to prevent it from rusting again in the future.

Below are some tips to keep your cast iron grill grate rust-free:

  • Take care of your grill grate. As I’ve mentioned above, always clean your grill grate after use. Don’t let food juices and grime sit on it for extended periods.
  • Keep it dry. Make sure to wipe your grill grate dry after washing. Then, store it in a warm, dry place. Some people recommend keeping cast iron items in a well-ventilated space rather than an enclosed one since the latter can sometimes cause unwanted moisture.
  • Season your cast iron grill grate. Seasoning is an essential part of maintaining any cast iron item. To do so, just apply a coat of vegetable oil to your cookware and heat it to a high temperature. This will allow the oil to polymerize, protect the cast iron’s non-stick properties, and prevent it from rusting.

In Conclusion

A heavily rusted cast iron grill grate might seem like a lost cause, but it’s surprisingly easy to deal with. There are a variety of techniques that you can do to restore your grate to its optimal condition.

And if all else fails, you can always depend on a commercial rust remover to deal with your grate’s rusting for good. Just be sure to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer, and you’ll be fine. Good luck!

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