For various reasons I won't bore you with, I spend a little time each week looking at free 'classifieds' on Craigslist and the like. On one particular Sunday I came across a "curb alert". Among the items, my keen eyes spotted a Weber Q, a Weber Smokey Joe and a road bike of which I couldn't tell the brand. Considering that my wife's Schwinn has been sitting catching dust because it's a heavy bike to ride in our hilly neighbourhood, I figured I'd see what condition the bike was in and check out the grills while I was at it (having recently cleaned up a Smokey Joe and a 22" kettle I figured if it wasn't too bad I could make an easy sale at least).
Unfortunately for my wife's cycling, by the time we got there the bike was gone and so was the Smokey Joe but the Weber Q, which turned out to be a 1200, looked to be in pretty good shape if you could look past the pollen, dirt and grease. I actually enjoy charcoal cooking so at this point I was set on selling it but once it was all said and done I figured it would be a great addition to our outdoor cooking line up.
So the point of all this is showing how I went about turning a grimy secondhand mess into a zippy clean grill that I'm now happy to cook on. If you've let your grill accumulate a lot of grease and carbon build up over the years this process will work well for you too and generally only takes an hour or so.* Then you can get back to that outdoor cooking goodness!
After years of lurking, I'm glad to finally contribute something to the instructables community in this step-by-step that will help maintain your grill for years to come!
*Drying will take longer according to your climate.
For cleaning your supplies may vary a bit according to the grill and degree of mess but generally you'll need:
- Hot water - seriously, hot water does as much if not more than any detergent you use
- Dish soap - a good grease fighter
- Plastic scraper - It's want I have on hand but loads of people swear by the razor blade scrapers especially on an enamel coating. Just keep an acute angle to the surface and you should be fine.
- Plastic scrubber/scourer - already have on hand and safe on the finish. Extra fine steel wool may also be helpful according the how baked on the grease is
- Old toothbrush - or other cleaning brush. Could also probably get by without it
- Pin/tack/paperclip - Not necessary for charcoal grill as these are used for cleaning the gas holes
- Cloth - old tshirt or other cleaning cloth
- biodegradeable degreaser - safest option for all concerned. Can also very easily whip up some homemade degreaser with vingear and baking soda and even a little salt for abrasion if you see fit.
- Wrench or screwdrivers according to your grill
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Step 1: Disassemble
Disassembling the grill makes it much easier to get leverage to scrub out the grill box not mention giving you access to all the little nooks and crannies
On many grills you will be able to remove the grill grates, thermometer, burner and/or flavour bars, igniter and other components. For this Weber Q:
- I pulled the thermometer as this is a great opportunity to clean it up. Over time they read cooler temperatures than actual from all the build up that's shielding them from the heat.
- It's a good idea to remove the burner bar if you're going to spray the box with water or anything. The drier you can keep it, the better. Although, some situations may warrant soaking to loosen grime before wiping/scrubbing away and letting air dry over a few days. On the Weber Q in particular, there's a bug screen/mesh that can get clogged meaning that you won't get the right mix of oxygen with your fuel and there not getting all the heat you ought to.
I left my igniter in place and just shifted it as needed but you can remove your if it's convenient. Definitely consult the manufacture's manual if concerned. You could also remove the lid handle with a Phillip's head screwdriver at this point but I didn't feel it was necessary and left me something to hold on to.
Step 2: Scrape Inside
Use a plastic scraper to push as much material towards the catchment outlet as possible. When I did my Weber Kettles, I piled all this material near the middle to scoop it out. If yours is more dust and less gunk then you shouldn't have an issue using the ash outlets.
Give it a rinse and scrape again.
Step 3: Scrub Outside
As I mentioned above, hot water, a good dish soap and a little effort will take you very far on a grill clean up.
- Start using a damp cloth to wipe off the burner bar from the grease that drip to the bottom of the bar (not pictured).
- Use an old toothbrush and scrub the bug screen/mesh. It'll make a world of difference on how efficiently your grill uses your fuel (picture taken after reassembly).
- Take your steel wool or brush and scrub at the top/gas release holes. Any clogged holes can be opened with a pin or tack (picture taken after reassembly).
- Wipe again with a clean portion or new damp cloth.
Scrub away at the entire surface. Rinse and scrub again as needed. With the enamel coating of a Weber kettle, you can do your second scrub with extra fine steel wool. This is after the initial plastic scrubber so you'll be able to see any remaining build up and work softly at those spots so as not to damage the surface with too much muscle power.
Clean your stand now as well. This is usually very easy as it doesn't get the same grease build up as the main grill.
Step 4: Scrub, Degrease (optional), Scrub the Inside
Now for the inside...
Give it a scrub with your soapy hot water. You can follow the same process as you did for the outside.
In my case I like to use a biodegradable degreaser to complete my peace of mind on picking up a secondhand grill. Spray it all over the inside (and outside if you see fit) and let it do it's thing. Come back after no less than five minutes and give it another scrub. I took the lid off to do this (next step) but you can leave it attached. Rinse and you've got yourself a very clean grill.
Step 5: Remove Lid (optional) and Scrub Some More
As a final cleaning step, I remove the lid to really be able to scrub away at the inside. It's not resting on the ground here as that would scratch the outside. If you've got grass you can use that but I just propped it on the rim of my bucket with a cloth as a barrier between any metal and the lid.
I call this step optional because the last step really got you where you need to be and at some point you're in the realm of diminishing returns. What can I say, I like my things shiny!
Step 6: Final Scrub
It's a good idea to save the catchment pan and grill grates for last. If not, your water and scrubber will be soiled with grease before you get to the bulk of the grill. In my case, I'd want to change the water and then I'm using more water. That being said, once I had them scrubbed up pretty well, I did dump the water and prepare just a small amount more and grabbed a fresh scrubber to finish them off.
With the catchment pan quite clean, I also popped it into the dishwasher with a load of dishes.
Step 7: Dry, Assemble, Grill.
Let the dissembled parts dry out. If you wet your burner bar than may need more time. Also make sure these parts are oriented to drain properly. If you've got an air compressor maybe you can speed this step up but I had to sit in quiet anticipation.
Once everything is dry, reassemble, snap some glamour shots and get to cooking!
As with any grilling session, let your grill preheat well. This makes it ready for the food but also burns off any residue that may be left but with the cleaning products I recommended and a good rinse you shouldn't have any residue anyway.
With your kettle/charcoal grill you are ready to head off on your delicious culinary adventures!
... for gas grills see the next step for a final safety check.
Step 8: Just a Safety Note on Using Gas Grills
You should regularly check the connections and tank of any gas powered grill. This is extremely import for any grill that you have not been maintaining yourself as well. For this secondhand beauty, I definitely check the connection before I got going.
Just pour a bit of clean soap water over the connections and tank and watch for extra bubbles forming. If you see any bubbles forming it means there's a leak and you should absolutely not use the grill until you've fixed or replaced those parts.
Have a safe and tasty time with your new (to you) grill!
Runner Up in the