Expert advice on how to clean and fix a barbecue, including removing charred food from the grill, cleaning burners, and more. Also, basic barbecue repairs.


Is it time to clean your barbecue?

Funny thing, but when guests see you throw a slab of meat on a grill that is blackened with crud and ash, they tend to lose their appetites.

Not only is a food-and-grease-caked barbecue unsanitary, but its burners can also cease to work properly.

How to Clean a Barbecue

If this is the condition of your barbecue grill, it’s time for a clean- up. Below are easy-to-follow directions that show you how to clean a barbecue.

Though the barbecue shown here is a typical stainless-steel gas barbecue, the techniques are relatively universal for all barbecues. If you have the manufacturer’s instructions, be sure to follow them.


• A couple of newspapers

• Latex gloves

• A bucket of soapy water

• A water hose

• Oven cleaner

• A barbecue scraper/ brush

• A sponge with an abrasive back

• A scouring pad

1 If yours is a gas or propane barbecue, turn off the fuel at the source. Open the barbecue cover and lift out the grills and burner covers (if your barbecue has them). Using a scraper/brush, scrape and brush ash and residue from the grills.

clean a barbecue grills burners
Remove the barbecue grills and burner covers. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips


2 Scrub the burner covers in a bucket of water, rinse, and set aside to dry. Spread out the grills on a few layers of newspaper on a surface where you can hose them off later, such as a driveway.

3 Following the directions on the can, spray oven cleaner onto the grills, coating both sides. Allow the caustic cleaner to “work” per the label directions. Wear latex gloves and don’t get the oven cleaner or its residue on your skin or in your eyes. Avoid breathing the fumes.


how to clean a barbecue spray on oven cleaner
Lay grills on newspaper and spray with oven cleaner. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

4 Wearing latex gloves, use the scraper/brush to scrape and brush the baked-on residue from the grills.


how to clean a barbecue scraping
Scrub grills with a scraper/brush. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

5 Once you have removed most of it, use a scouring pad to remove any stubborn matter. Rinse the grills with clear water as you work and, when you’re finished scrubbing, rinse the grills thoroughly. Slide out or remove the ash tray, if your barbecue has one, and scrape its contents into a garbage can. Scrub the tray with a scraper/brush, clean it with soapy water, and rinse.


clean a barbecue burner
Use a wire brush to scrub the burners. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

6 If the burners are not operating properly, you will need to remove and clean them. Scrub the surfaces with a wire brush. Then find the screw or cotter pin that holds each burner in place and remove it. Then simply lift out the burner. Clean any obstructions from the gas ports, using a paper clip as shown. If the barbecue electronic ignition starter doesn’t work, see How to Fix a Barbecue Starter Quickly & Easily, below.

clean a barbecue burner port
After removing burners, clean gas ports with a paper clip. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

7 Replace all the components. Use a sponge and soapy water to clean a barbecue’s surfaces. A non-toxic stainless-steel cleaner can also be very effective at removing grime. For stubborn stains or residue, use the abrasive side of an abrasive sponge (not steel wool or SOS) to gently scrub. Be very careful not to scratch the finish. Then rinse and buff dry with a clean rag.


how to clean a barbecue soap
Clean barbecue surfaces with soapy water. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

How to Fix a Barbecue Starter

Gas barbecues with electronic starters are amazingly convenient: You just turn a knob, push a button, and PRESTO, you have fire. Then again, after using this type of barbecue for a few seasons, you may find that you push the starter button and there is no ignition spark…gas just keeps billowing out of the burners, creating a combustible hazard.

If this happens to you, turn off the burner and let the air clear, then use a log lighter to ignite one of the burners after turning it back on to “low.”

Be careful when doing this! The gas should ignite within a couple of seconds. If it doesn’t, turn the burner off and fix the starter before proceeding.

This work-around will allow you to barbecue on schedule. Then, when you have a few more minutes, fix the electronic barbecue ignitor as described below.

fix a barbecue starter
Here’s how to fix a barbecue starter: Just replace the AA battery. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

In most cases, fixing an electronic barbecue starter is a surprisingly simple job—it’s just a matter of replacing the battery inside the device that’s used to provide the spark.

1) Just unscrew the trim around the starter button by turning it counterclockwise.

2) Pull the button out. Behind it you should find a AA battery.

3) Pull out the battery and replace it with a new one.

4) Replace the button and the trim.

5) Try it out. The chances are very good that it will work now!

How to Replace a Barbecue Ignitor

If that doesn’t do the job, you’ll need to replace the electronic ignitor, which involves disassembling the part and replacing it with an exact match, which you can buy online from an appliance parts dealer. To remove the old ignitor, just follow steps 1 to 3, above. Then, using a screwdriver, press in on the mounting tabs that lock the ignitor to the barbecue. Push it through the mounting hole and remove the wires from it. Then install the replacement by reversing these procedures.

Barbecue Care

After you clean a barbecue, it’s important to take care of it. To keep your barbecue grill from building up residue, after cooking, remove all food and then close the barbecue lid and allow it to cook on high for another 5 or 10 minutes. Allow the grill to cool and then scrub it with a barbecue brush.

To avoid bacterial contamination, be sure to cook only on a clean grill and to let it heat up before putting food onto it.

If you have a gas grill, periodically turn off the gas supply to the barbecue and check the burner orifices to make sure that they are not clogged with meat drippings. You can use a brush and/or a paperclip to clean them.

NEXT SEE: Barbecue Cooking Accessories

Author Image
About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” served as MSN’s home expert for several years, and is featured as Yelp's home improvement expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort