The Unsafe Mistake You're Making When Cleaning Your Grill

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Keeping your grill clean is an important part of summer cooking, but depending on how you're cleaning it, you may be putting yourself and others at risk. Grill brushes, typically made of stainless steel or brass bristles, are a common cleaning tool; however, over time, the thin wires of a brush can deteriorate and fall off — and end up sticking to the grate of your grill. Fast forward: If this wire gets into the food you're cooking, it could end up in your mouth and throat. It could even make it to your gastrointestinal tract, though this is less common.

A 2016 study by the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery estimated that approximately 1,698 patients visited the emergency room due to injuries from wire grill brushes between 2002 and 2014. C.W. David Chang, MD, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, told Consumer Reports that even more people are likely affected by the brushes. "[The study] does not account for cases presenting at urgent care facilities or other outpatient settings," he said.

Safer alternatives for cleaning your grill

Rather than risk swallowing a piece of wire from a wire brush (as in the case described above by @beachgem10, a pediatric emergency medicine doctor in St. Petersburg, Florida), there are several other ways to clean your outdoor grill that won't send you to the emergency room. Metal scrapers and coiled wire brushes, which can be purchased from Amazon, have no bristles that could fall off, making them great alternatives to traditional wire brushes.

Wooden scrapers, such as this one from Amazon, are also effective. You might also try using a scouring pad or a ball of aluminum foil, which can be thrown away afterward. Onions that have been cut in half will also work well for scrubbing your grill. If you don't want to scrub the grates, try heating your grill to a very hot temperature to burn off the residue, similar to the self-cleaning setting on ovens. Grills can also be cleaned with steam by spraying the hot grates with water.