It has recently been discovered that wire grill brushes can be hazardous to human health, especially the lower quality ones. If you’re wondering whether there are any alternatives to your preferred BBQ tool cleaner of choice, don’t fret!
Instead of a wire grill brush, you can use a wooden scraper, tinfoil, a coil brush, a pumice stone, or a various assortment of liquids like beer to remove rust, grime, and oil from your BBQ pit grates.
To find out more about some possible alternatives to the conventional wire grill brush that are easy to obtain and use, keep reading.
Note: most links in this article are Amazon.com Affiliate links, see Affiliate Disclosure, thank you.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a Wire Grill Brush
Wire grill brushes have gained a bad reputation for being dangerous. The bristles from the wire brush can come off and get stuck in the grill bars when you’re cleaning it. This might be fine when you’re washing the dishes because the filaments from a wire metal brush are going to end up in the sink drain.
However, the dislodged filaments from the wire grill brush found in the grill grate can then get stuck in the pieces of meat that you barbecue on your grill. You might unwittingly swallow these pieces of contaminated meat down and face some severe damage to your throat or intestines – doctors still haven’t found a foolproof method to remove these wires from people’s throats.
You would think that it would be possible to detect the presence of a foreign, sharp object in your mouth, but these wires can be very tiny and impossible to find out until after they’ve been swallowed.
One might suggest just being more cautious when you’re scrubbing the grill with a wire brush, but humans are notoriously error-prone. It is very easy to miss a small wire lying about in your grill. Instead, you should stop using these brushes altogether – better safe than sorry.
Alternatives to a Wire Grill Brush
Here are some alternatives to a wire grill brush that are much safer and potentially much cheaper.
This might sound bizarre, but you can use an onion to scrub down the bars on your grill. According to this 2016 study by Ahmed & Associates, onions are known to have antibacterial properties. Even if it smells terrible, you don’t have to worry about it attracting bacteria and fungi.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Heat the grill. This loosens any stuck food residue.
- Cut the onion in half.
- Spear each half with a fork and use it to loosen any food residue stuck between the bars.
- Once done, throw the onion away. If using a charcoal grill, you can toss it into the charcoal to burn and infuse your meat with flavor.
This method might not work as well as a wire grill brush, but it works rather well, and the onion-infused flavor to the meat is a nice touch. You can try to clean your grill with other vegetables such as potatoes, but an onion is the best to use because the multiple layers ensure that it lasts longer.
Tin foil and tongs are the go-to technique for a lot of people.
These are the steps to follow:
- Place some tin foil sheets on the grates.
- Close the lid and turn on the heat.
- Once the residue seems easier to come off, remove the tinfoil sheets. These sheets intensify the heat’s intensity in the grate, letting food residue come off in a shorter amount of time.
- Scrub the grates with crumpled tin foil. Do this while using a pair of tongs because you could burn yourself if you try to do it by hand.
A slightly more unique tool to use is a wooden scraper, like this Easy Function Wooden BBQ Grill Scraper. This looks a bit like a metal paint scraper and works somewhat in the same way.
Here’s how you should be using it:
- Heat your grates.
- Use the uppermost flat edge to clean the top surface of your grill. Ensure that you have carefully placed the grooves of the scraper on the grill gate.
- If there is food residue between the grates, turn it sideways and move it up-down or side-to-side motion to get rid of residue.
- After approximately five uses, the grill’s heat will burn teeth into the wood scraper’s serrated edge. These teeth are custom made to fit the dimensions of your grates.
This way, you’ll get a custom-made scraper for your grill at a very low price, and you will take much less time cleaning the grates over time. This is by far a better solution than most of the other because you will not have to worry about easily dropping your preferred cleaning tool of choice between the grates when using tongs.
These coil brushes are made of the same wire that makes up a wire grill brush, but they’re much safer. This is because of the coil brush’s structure; all the wires are tightly coiled together and thus extremely unlikely to come out, even if you’re scrubbing very hard.
On the other hand, a wire standard grill brush’s bristles can fall out very easily, especially if it is of inferior quality or if the same brush is used for a very long time.
To use a coil brush:
- Heat the grill.
- Scrub the grates and the grill using the coil brush.
If you can’t find a coil brush at your nearest hardware store or Walmart, you can order this highly recommended Kona Bristle Free Grill Brush for all grill types from Amazon.
If you don’t want the same problems you faced using a wire grill brush occurring with a coil brush, get a high-quality brush so that the bristles don’t melt off and fall into your food.
A pumice stone pulls rust, dirt, and grime off your grill with ease. It’s a versatile and handy tool, and like the wood scraper, adjust itself to create custom grooves. Even if it sounds loud, you don’t have to worry about damaging your grill because pumice is made of a less dense material than barbecue grills. Pumice stone is a preferred method for cast-iron grill grates.
Here’s how you use this stone:
- Spray oil on your grates.
- Rub the stone up and down on a particular section. You should notice that grooves form on the stone, which gets deeper the longer you use it.
- Use the other side of the stone to clean your grill covers.
We recommend you try this CALUVAR Grill Scraper Pumice Stones from Amazon because it includes a handle and a scrapper.
Grill Scraper Tool with Handle
A scraper tool is a flat piece of metal that has different cutouts to fit on multiple grill grates. The tool is very compact and can be stored with any grill or even in a pocket for use when you are done grilling. With the addition of an optional handle this tool works well on hot grills and smokers when you are finish with your cooking.
Here’s how you use this scraper tool with handle:
- heat your grill
- use included wrenches to attach the handle to the scraper
- rotate the scraper on the grill grate until the scrapper tool matches well
- start from one side of the grate and pull the scraper tool from the back to the front
- move across the grate until all debrie is removed
We recommend The Sage Owl Barbecue Grill Scraper Tool with Handle from Amazon.
There are several liquids that you can pour on the grill to make it less grimy and greasy.
- Steam. Heat the grill until it is very hot, and then pour water on the grates. A vapor of very hot steam will be created, which loosens food residue up very quickly. You can use a cloth or a nylon brush to get this residue off.
- Beer. Pour some beer over oily grates on a warm grill. The alcohol reacts with and breaks down the oil, and it should come off clean if you wipe it with a damp cloth.
- Vinegar. Spray regular cooking vinegar over grease on your barbecue pit. Vinegar contains acid, which reacts with oil to form a mixture that can easily be removed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Okay, so now you’ve got the lowdown on what to use to clean your BBQ instead of a problematic wire grill brush, but if you’ve got the time, you could learn even more from our brief yet informative FAQ segment.
What happens if you swallow a wire bristle?
Swallowing a wire bristle from a grill brush is never a good thing. If you’re “lucky”, the stray bristle will stab into and lodge somewhere in your throat — ouch, we know!
Doctors will try and remove it by threading a long tube down your throat (more discomfort), but, as we mentioned at the beginning of the article, this procedure isn’t always successful, which means you may end up needing some pretty serious surgery.
If you’re wondering how taking a sharp metal bristle to the back of the throat is lucky, well…let’s just contemplate the alternatives for a moment.
Sometimes, that little metal pin will tear your throat up something fierce but fail to fully embed itself in the soft tissue, allowing it to make its way further into your body. Upon reaching the digestive tract, it’s likely that it will pierce the intestinal wall.
What happens next is unpleasant, to say the least. The contents of your GI tract spill out into your abdomen, causing an infection known as peritonitis. Unaddressed, peritonitis quickly leads to sepsis, which can be fatal.
It might take the bristle around a day to reach its final destination, but once it’s there, it will make itself known immediately. People in this unfortunate situation claim to experience debilitating abdominal pain.
To remove this wayward grill brush bristle from your intestine, you’ll either have to go under the knife or a doctor will schedule you for a colonoscopy, a procedure that itself can lead to a torn colon.
Sometimes the bristle will make it all the way to the stomach before dropping anchor in your flesh, and there have even been a few cases in which the bristle manages to migrate all the way to the liver after breaching the intestinal wall, causing further infection.
There have also been occasional reports that some people are asymptomatic after swallowing a wire bristle, meaning they pass it without feeling pain or becoming ill. However, this is an extremely rare occurrence, which is why it’s best to play it safe and retire the wire grill brush for good.
Is Grill Rescue worthwhile?
The price tag of the Grill Rescue brush scares a lot of grill masters away, but we think that it’s worth every cent. As it uses steam to dislodge debris, you don’t have to use force, which makes the dreaded clean down far less strenuous.
But this gentle approach to grill upkeep isn’t just great for your hands, wrists, shoulders, and back, it’s also fantastic for your grill components. Delicate items such as porcelain grates are particularly at risk when using a traditional wire grill brush, as the friction can compromise the surface, allowing water to reach the metal core, causing rust. This simply isn’t a worry with Grill Rescue.
It’s not just for the delicate stuff, though. It works as wonderfully on stainless steel and cast iron as it does on porcelain and ceramic.
Granted, the Grill Rescue pad never really gets all the way clean after the inaugural steaming session, but it doesn’t impact cleaning performance whatsoever. In fact, a single pad can last as long as 100 uses.
How do you use a steam grill brush?
There are two main types of steam grill brushes. One type uses a brush or pad to hold water, much like the Grill Rescue. The idea is that you preheat your grill, give the sponge a dunk in some fresh water, and then get to scrubbing. The heat of the grill boils the retained moisture on contact, forming the steam that loosens the bonds of debris.
The second type of steam grill brush holds water in a handle cavity. They work similarly to steam irons. There’ll usually be some sort of switch or button that opens a valve in the head of the brush, releasing the water onto your hot grill. The grill turns the moisture to steam, and voilà; all the gunk and grime loosens, and dislodges from the grill.
Can you use aluminum foil to clean your grill?
Yes, we highly recommend using aluminum foil to clean your grill if you ever find yourself without a suitable grill brush. There are two main stages to the foil grill-cleaning method. Firstly, just as you would if you were using a steam brush, you need to heat your grill, but before it gets too hot, place some aluminum foil over the grates.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, the reason you dress the grates with foil is that it helps to magnify the heat, and the hotter the grill gets, the easier it is to get all the crud off.
Once your grill is nice and toasty, Ball up some fresh aluminum foil, hold it with an old pair of tongs, remove the tinfoil sheets, and get scrubbing. You should find that it works almost as well as a standard grill brush, although it can be hard to apply pressure using tongs, so it’s perhaps not the best method for heavily soiled BBQs.
It would be best to avoid using wire grill brushes at all because they can be dangerous as they can get stuck in the grill and, in turn, get stuck in your food, and you may swallow it.
It might seem inconvenient and even expensive to start using another tool, but it’s a lot cheaper than a trip to the ER. Hence, be sure to use one of the six alternatives to wire brushes provided in this article.
Check out our article Appropriately Cleaning Your Grill