The grates on your grill have seen better days, haven’t they? Or maybe you picked up a grill from a yard sale, and you quickly came to realize that the part that comes in contact with your food could use some sanitization.
Either way, the main thing is that your grates are begging for tender loving care. But that kind of attention requires time, which you may not have right now. You know how to clean your grill with soapy water and a bristle brush. But, when that isn’t an option, what else can you use?
Let us introduce you to good ol’ ammonia, the underdog method for cleaning your grill.
What interests you about this method more than anything else is that it’s as hands-off as they come. (Well, let’s be honest among ourselves here, it is not completely hands-off.)
You see, the thing that’s attractive about ammonia is that it does the majority of the work for you, allowing you to get other things on your TO BE DONE list, er… you know, done.
So, let’s take a few minutes and see what ammonia can do to bring your grill’s grates back to the mint condition that they rightfully deserve. We’re confident you’ll be happy you did.
What Is Ammonia in the First Place?
Ammonia is a chemical compound comprising one nitrogen and three hydrogen atoms. Essentially, a colorless gas with a pungent odor. You will find it in fertilizer, mediation, and, you guessed it, commercial cleaning products.
This begs the question: How do you use a gas to clean grill grates?
You don’t. The ammonia being discussed here is “household” ammonia, also known as ammonium hydroxide or ammonia water. This is a typical household cleaner that’s often found as an ingredient in things like glass and oven cleaners, but you can (and should) also buy it standalone.
Wait, what was that about oven cleaner?
Ovens can get grimy and tough to clean. If that sounds like it might work on grill grates, as well, you’d be absolutely correct.
Why Ammonia for Grill Grates?
The thing that makes household ammonia great for cleaning grimy and greasy grates is because of its alkalinity. In other words, like dish soap, it acts like a degreaser that common fatty or oily foods hate.
The other benefit is the smell. Well, that’s not completely true. Household ammonia is pretty pungent. But the odor wears off, leaving no lingering scent and sparkling clean grates.
Sounds Great! So How to Do the Actual Cleaning?
Hey, you’ve got the right idea here: How do you clean using ammonia?
For one, get some gloves to avoid getting ammonia on your hands if you have sensitive skin. It can irritate you, and it will cause a rash. Next, get a heavy-duty garbage bag, the kind that won’t rip easily.
Then get each of the following:
- Two or three cups of household ammonia;
- Two or three cups of white vinegar;
- One cup of baking soda.
Keep the ratio of ammonia to vinegar equal. Then, on a sunny day, place your grates in the trash bag outside. Combine the ammonia, white vinegar, and baking soda in the bag. Seal the bag up, tightly. Then agitate or shake the bag to get the solution on all of the grates.
(Two things. First, grill grates are heavy, so make sure you are in good condition for some exercise. Second, you want to have plenty of space to do this and someone to watch over the kids or grandkids—who you do not want around—for you.)
Then, you wait.
Oh, yeah, you were wondering when you could go focus on getting other things done because your time is limited. Well, now is the time, because you’re going to let the grates sit in the cleaning solution for 24 hours while it works its cleaning magic.
The next day, open the bag outside and remove the grate. Rinse it off and that should be it! Your cleaning solution should do all the work without any scrubbing or extra effort.
When disposing of the solution, pour it down a sink and not outside. It’s toxic, so be sure to keep it away from any children or wildlife that may be a little too curious for their own good.
But Wait, There’s More
Say you don’t want to deal with making a solution. You just want to use ammonia. Is that feasible? Well, the great news is there’s a technique for doing it that way as well.
First, get another trash bag. Two, get your ammonia. Three, get some clean rags.
Don’t worry, the rags aren’t for scrubbing. Instead, put the rags in the trash bag and saturate them with ammonia. Then put the grates on and around the rags and seal up the bag. Again, let them sit for 24 hours.
A day later, remove the grates, wipe them down and then rinse them off. Your grates should be as good as new or pretty damn close to it.
The drawback with this method is dealing with the rags afterwards. The positive, though, is that ammonia is an effective laundry aid. You just might have to do more work on the backend, compared to making your own solution.
Maybe try both methods one time and see which one you prefer. Consider them grill cleaning experiments.
As already mentioned, it’s recommended you wear cleaning gloves when handling this solution or any product meant for this level of cleaning.
In addition, avoid eye contact and know the recommendations for flushing your eyes. Because of household ammonia’s odor, and especially if you have sensitive lungs or sinuses, you should seriously consider wearing a mask while doing this type of work.
If you’ve ever watched contact sports like football or boxing and seen a player use smelling salts to kind of “wake” up after a big hit, that’s another ammonia product. They pretty much always look like they’ve been shocked with a taser. That’s the impact the smell of ammonia can have on you.
And don’t forget to keep this solution out of the reach of children and away from any animals. Poison control is always a phone call away if needed. As with anything related to grills, from cooking to cleaning, always use caution.
Not only is household ammonia a great agent for cleaning grill grates, it does almost all of the dirty work for you.
If your grill grates carry the battle scars of many steaks and pork chops and has seen its fair share of grease through the ages, consider cleaning them with ammonia. It’s tried and true when it comes to battling the remnants of food grilled long ago.
Ammonia saves you time, prevents you from the frustration of trying to scrape away all the grime with a brush, while allowing you to walk away for a day and come twenty-four hours later with grates ready to wow.
Why wouldn’t you give household ammonia a try? You’re probably going to wish you had known about using it sooner.