Here’s how to clean your barbecue now that bristle brushes have been deemed dangerous

Person wiping barbecue with a GrillStone cleaning block

As you may have heard, barbecue brushes have recently gone from a trusty grill tool to public enemy number one. At a recent meeting of Canadian ear-nose-and-throat physicians, surgeons found recently there has been a widespread issue of people accidentally swallowing the metal bristles from the brushes—and there’s no good way to remove them.

The wires from barbecue brushes are extremely sharp, but small enough that they can become lodged in food and swallowed without people noticing. The bristles then often become caught in the throat or intestines, where they can cause significant damage and pain.

Lisa Wadden of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, swallowed a metal brush bristle in a hamburger, and two years later, the bristle is still in her throat. She told the CBC about the experience of realizing the bristle was caught in her throat: “Every swallow, it just was this crazy pain, burning.” Surgeons were unable to remove the bristle, but enough scar tissue has now formed around it that it no longer causes her daily pain.

Since bristle brushes have been deemed dangerous, grillers are going to have to find other methods for barbecue cleaning. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get the grime off your grill.

Steam it

If you want to loosen up the gunk on your barbecue so it can easily be wiped away, steam will help. Just put water in a metal baking tray, and put it on the grill when it’s still hot. Close the lid, and the interior of your barbecue will become a steam room. When you’re done, use soapy water and a rough cloth or scrubber to wipe away the grease and buildup on the grill.

Scrape it

There are actually lots of barbecue tools that don’t use bristles but can still help you reach all the nooks and crannies where grease and old food build up. Brushtec has a bristle-free brush, or you can use a wooden scraper, or the Grillstone cleaning block. GrillFloss is also a great tool for scraping down the individual rods of your grill.

Use vinegar

Vinegar is an amazing all-purpose cleaner, and its powers extend to grills as well. Put some vinegar in a spray bottle, then spray down your grill and leave it for a few minutes. It should break down some of the grime, which you can then wipe away. If the buildup on your grill is extra stubborn, take the grilling rack off and soak it in a mixture of 3 cups vinegar, 3 cups ammonia, and 1 cup baking soda. Leave it for a day, and the black residue will slide right off.

Try an onion

We’ve heard that rubbing a slice of onion on a warm grill helps dislodge grease and residue. So next time you have nothing on hand but the leftovers from your barbecue, grab an onion and give it a try!