Saturday, December 9, 2023


Using ketchup to clean your RV’s BBQ grill, plus other tips to keep it like new

Everyone loves to use it, but very few of us like to clean it. What is it? A BBQ grill. This trusty workhorse helps RVers enjoy yummy burgers, steaks, and hotdogs all season long. And that’s exactly why we all need some tips, tricks, and hacks to easily clean our RV’s BBQ grill.

Clean grills are good grills

Even a top grill master can have trouble cooking on a dirty gas grill. Excess carbon deposits, burned-on food, and grease buildup all can cause a grill to heat unevenly. And no one wants to taste last night’s grilled fish when they bite into today’s veggie shish kabobs.

Experts advise that grill owners thoroughly clean their propane grills at least twice a year. (Clean even more often if you notice grime building up on your grill grates.) The first cleaning should happen before you grill the first burger of the grilling season. If your grill has spent the winter in the RV’s basement, it might have cobwebs, dust, and even mouse droppings inside. Nobody wants that kind of “seasoning” on their meat, so get it cleaned up!

About halfway through the grilling season, experts recommend that users once again clean their grill (if needed). Finally, once grilling season comes to an end, you’ll want to give the grill a thorough scrubbing. That way insects and vermin can’t snack on any “summer leftovers” that may be stuck to the grates, sides, or bottom of your grill.

Clean up that grill! Here are some tips and hacks to help you do just that!

Quick and easy grill cleaning tips


  1. Steam it off. Pour water into a metal baking pan. Place the pan inside your grill and heat until the water comes to a boil. Then turn off the burners and close the grill lid. Leave the grill closed for about 20 minutes. The steam should help loosen spills and any carbon deposit buildup inside the unit.
  2. Disconnect the gas. Then, use a wire brush to quickly clean the grill grates. (Use grill gloves if grates are too hot to handle.) A putty knife or stiff, metal spatula will remove food spills from the sides and bottom of the grill. Discard the solid residue by scraping it out of the grill and placing the “gunk” on several layers of newspaper. Fold up the mess and safely discard.
  3. Once solid residue has been removed from the grill, use Dawn dish detergent to soak removeable grill parts, like grates and burner shields or flame deflectors. A stiff brush should finish the job after a brief soak. The detergent will cut through residual grease and burned-on food particles. Rinse thoroughly. Be sure to completely dry cast iron grates to prevent rusting.
  4. Check to make sure the grill burner holes are unobstructed. Use a brush to clean clogged holes. Then wipe everything down. Reconnect the gas and heat the grill for 15 minutes or so to eliminate any soap residue.


While there are many effective rust removers on the market, I hesitate to use them on our grill. I just don’t trust that I can rinse the chemicals off well enough. So, I use ketchup instead. I apply ketchup to any rust spots or rusted areas. After a 15–20 minute wait, remove the ketchup. Much, if not all, of the rust will be gone. (The acidic nature of ketchup does the job. No chemicals needed.)


Grease, dirt, and grime will collect on the exterior of your grill, too. You can quickly clean it all away. (Disconnect the grill from the gas first.) Just add a few drops of dish detergent to a bucket of hot water. Then use a sponge to apply the soapy water to the exterior of your grill.

Note: Stainless steel grills can easily be scratched. Do not use coarse scrubbing pads, steel wool, or any other highly abrasive pad on the grill’s stainless surface.

Cleaning grill grates

Once the major grill cleaning is complete, you will occasionally need to clean the grill grates as the grilling season progresses. How often depends on what foods you are grilling. It’s best to remove gooey cheese and other sticky substances immediately. Here are some tips on ways to clean the grates.

  • Grill fork and onion. Cut an onion in half. Then use your long-handled grilling fork to rub the onion over the hot grates. Follow up with a stiff coil brush and any cooked-on food will disappear.
  • White vinegar. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. Put the mixture into a spray bottle and use it to apply the solution to the grill grates. After about 30 minutes scrub the grates clean.
  • Coffee. Got leftover coffee in the coffee maker? While you heat the coffee to boiling, remove the grates from the grill. Pour the hot coffee over the grates and use crumpled aluminum foil to scrub the grates clean. (Acids in the coffee will break through grease and food residue.)
  • Dishwasher. If they’ll fit, you can clean your grill grates in the dishwasher. Afterwards, replace the grates and heat the grill for 15 minutes. This will ensure that no cleaning residue remains.
  • Baking soda. Make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the grill grates and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Then use a wire brush to thoroughly clean the grates. Rinse well.
  • Lemon and salt. Halve a lemon. Dip the lemon half into salt and use it to scrub gunk off the grill grates. (This is most effective when the grates are still warm.) Rinse and you’re done.
  • Beer. Pour half a bottle of beer over warm grill grates. Use a coil brush to scrub off food and grease remnants.

Some cautions

In recent years, emergency rooms have had to deal with problems caused by metal grill brushes. The bristles in some brushes can come loose or break off. Then the bristle finds its way into the grilled food and a person unknowingly swallows it. Needless to say, an ingested piece of metal can cause severe pain and is dangerous.

If you choose to use a wire brush, be extra careful. Continually inspect the brush for any damage. Also carefully check places where you use the wire brush. Look for loose pieces that become stuck on the grill grates.

Alternatives to wire brushes

After biting into a wire bristle in my grilled hamburger last summer, we’ve stopped using wire grill brushes. Here are some alternative products we use instead.

  • Aluminum foil. You can crumple up a piece of aluminum foil and use it to clean your grill grates. This works best when the grill is still warm.
  • Coil brush. Check out this alternative. This non-bristle brush works really well!
  • Pumice stone. Don’t let the name fool you. It works well for cleaning stubborn residue on your grill grates, too. Remove the grates. Wet the pumice stone with water. Then use gentle pressure to rub the dirty area. Use a clean rag to wipe off the grate. If any residue remains, repeat the procedure. When clean, wipe the grate with a clean, soft rag.

Do you have any tips or tricks for cleaning your grill? Please share your ideas with us in the comments below.

Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



4.4 8 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Bob Walter (@guest_242163)
5 months ago

Never buy an Expert Grill brand from Walmart. They are total junk! Mine rusted clear out in 1 year. I did everything by the book as far as cleaning & maintenance. Never again!

Last edited 5 months ago by Bob Walter
Tommy Molnar (@guest_241805)
5 months ago

I just bought a new gas grill for home. My old one died of total neglect. Not this time. I’m all of a sudden ‘a*al’ about keeping this new beauty clean. Even to the point of having a specially designated polishing towel at the ready. Once the grill cools off I actually rub it down with this towel. Wifey just ordered the tool Gail linked to. Even though I read a ton of one-star reviews, there were many more five-star reviews. I DO want to get rid of the wire grill scraper. My RV grill is your basic cheapo Wally World gas grill – and it does just fine. I scrape it out – occasionally.

Gary W. (@guest_241804)
5 months ago

So, what about the ketchup?

Diane McGovern
5 months ago
Reply to  Gary W.

Hi, Gary. Look in the paragraph regarding rust. Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at

Jim Johnson (@guest_241798)
5 months ago

Get a large ‘zip lock’ style bag into which place an entire grill grate. Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of household ammonia cleaner in to the bottom of the bag and seal. Let sit 8+ hours in a warm place. Ammonia gas will be released inside the bag and attack all the baked on crud. This is exactly what many foaming oven sprays do, only the foam holds the ammonia gas bubbles against the oven sides. The sealed bag is more effective.

Drain the bag. It won’t hurt grass – farmers use ammonia to fertilize crops. Any carbonized crud will harmlessly work its way into the soil. Now grab your gloves, Dawn and follow Gail’s washing instructions. The grate should be easily cleaned.

Luke (@guest_241795)
5 months ago

Saw a commercial for a “Grillbot Automatic Grill Cleaning Robot” the other day. My oh my, what’s next?!

Carl (@guest_241792)
5 months ago

My only question is “who certified that some is an expert on grills and as such is qualified to make cleaning recommendations?”

Gene Sannes (@guest_241821)
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl

I suspect that a person that has done the deed and found one way that cleans the grills, is probably the expert for that item. What makes a politician a certified expert that tells others how to do something they themselves know nothing about.

Diane McGovern
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl

Really, Carl? Someone has to be certified or be an expert just to give BBQ grill cleaning tips?🤨 Not to mention the fact that a lot of those BBQ grill cleaning tips are from experts. Sheesh. Have a good day. 🙂 –Diane ta

Carl (@guest_241868)
5 months ago
Reply to  Diane McGovern

Really, Diane? A lot of those tips are from experts. Just what, in your mind, qualifies these unidentified individuals as experts? Sheesh.

Diane McGovern
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl

Hi, Carl. I didn’t do the research on this article, but I would bet that the main tips are from BBQ manufacturers (like for the interior and the exterior of the BBQ, as well as the cautionary notes). Sure, the quirky tips are most likely from individuals who tried them and they worked for them. No, they’re not “experts” (I’m “assuming” that), but they certainly came up with some interesting ideas. I never BBQ so I don’t know anything about it, myself. (As a side note, I divorced a Carl 54 years ago.😲😅) Have a great day. 😀 –Diane

Gigi (@guest_241774)
5 months ago

I put my grill parts in my self cleaning oven, turned it on and got myself a spotless grill, No fuss, no mess. If you don’y have one ask family or friends when your visiting.

Dan (@guest_241779)
5 months ago
Reply to  Gigi

Good idea, I’m gonna try that the next time I clean the oven. Normally at home I use a long handled grill brush over the hot coals followed by a ball of foil. We also have a Coleman Sportster for the RV. That grill just fits in the dishwasher at home.

Gail (@guest_241785)
5 months ago
Reply to  Gigi

Amazing, Gigi! Thanks so much for telling us!

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.