Are Wire Brushes Bad for Grills? (Reasons to Avoid)

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Whether you stick to grilling out just during the summer season, or if you prefer to use one all year round, they still need to be cleaned after each use. There are plenty of DIY options, and cleaning supplies made specifically for grills. One popular option is wire brushes because they can easily scrape off the built up grime and grease from cooking.

But, are wire brushes bad for grills? Are they safe to use? They are commonly sold as a tool for grill cleaning, but there are arguments over how good they are.

In this article we’ll give you 7 reasons to avoid wire brushes for cleaning your grill, and a few better options.

Are wire brushes bad for grills? – 7 reasons not to use them

Using wire brushes to clean your grill is decidedly a bad idea for various different reasons. From possible health hazards to grill damage, they are plenty of reasons to look for an alternative to dangerous wire brushes. In this list we will lay out seven reasons you should avoid these types of grill cleaners at all costs.

1. Wire gets left on the grill

Grill with charcoals
Grill with charcoals | image by Chris Makarsky via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

If you clean your grill with a wire brush, odds are you’re going to leave behind some of the wire bristles. These bristles can get stuck in your food the next time you fire up the grill, and end up getting eaten. While the taste itself can be unpleasant, it can be a much deeper issue.

2. Health complications

Eating one of the small wire bristles from the brush poses serious health risks. They can easily get lodged in your throat, which will warrant a trip to the emergency room. Even if safely removed, they can cause bacterial infections.

Since doctors have not figured out a guaranteed way to remove these small bristols, there’s a risk of even more complications. Some of these bristles won’t get lodged in the throat, but will actually make their way into someone’s intestines. In many of these causes emergency surgery is required to remove the foreign object.

3. The CDC issued an official warning

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released an official warning urging people not to clean their grills with wire brushes. During that time, one hospital in Rhode Island saw six wire brush related instances in one 18 month period.

In 2016, one study found that around 1700 people visit the emergency room each year after swallowing wire bristles. The CDC warned that because of the size of the bristles, they can be nearly impossible to see on your grill.

4. Bristles aren’t always detectable

Grill Brushes
Grill Brushes | image by Isaac Wedin via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Since the bristles from wire brushes are so small, swallowing one is not always noticeable. Even if you were to realize it had happened, they are small enough that X-rays might not even pick them up. In some rare instances where the bristle isn’t detected, or simply can’t be removed, they pose the risk of a bacterial infection.

Even if the bristle goes undetected, it will likely pose a problem later on when it reaches the intestines. At that point, it is likely to cause sharp pain and discomfort. In some cases, these pieces of metal were up to an inch long.

5. They don’t last

Rusted wire brush
Rusted wire brush | image by Gary Campbell-Hall via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Health risks and complications aside, the wire brushes just don’t last as long as other brushes. In order to safely use them, they can only be used for one season. It doesn’t take long for the bristles to become worn, which will lead to them ending up on the grill and possibly in someone’s food.

Even if the brush is just used a few times, it is still possible for it to leave behind dangerous metal pieces. It is recommended that anyone who cleans with this brush thoroughly inspect their grill afterwards to make sure no bristles fell off.

6. Other options are just better

When it comes down to how quickly wire brushes get worn out, other brushes just look like better options. Many of the top-recommended types of grill brushes are much safer and will last for multiple seasons.

Any brushes with nylon bristles or mesh pads are safe and effective alternatives. There are also other cleaning tools made of stone and wood that are said to work even better.

A wooden scraper

This wooden scraper on Amazon is a popular alternative to wire grill brushes. It uses grad A pine wood that gets the job done just as well with no risk of wire bristles.

Stone grill brush

This stone grill brush on Amazon is another alternative to using a wire grill brush. These are recyclable and each last 4-5 uses. With a stone you also do not have to worry about broken off wire bristles getting into your food.

Aluminum foil

The idea here is to ball up a piece of tin-foil and scrape the grill with it while it’s still hot, using your tongs. It may not be as effective as the wooden scraper or stone brush, but it’ll do in a pinch.

An onion

This way is similar to the previous in that you’ll be using the tongs as the handle. Simply slice a large onion in half and scrape the grill with the flat part of the onion.

Vinegar and ammonia

As a last resort you can try soaking the grates in vinegar and ammonia. You’ll need:

  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 3 cups ammonia
  • 1 cup baking soda

Depending on what you use to soak the grates in, you may need to scale up this mixture. A large, heavy duty trash bag is ideal.

Let them soak for 24 hours.

7. It isn’t worth the risk

At the end of the day, wire brushes are not worth the health risks they pose. Even if you thoroughly check the grill, there is still a chance of leaving behind one of the metal bristles.

The safest way to use these brushes is to only clean your grill with it a few times, which means it likely isn’t worth the price either. The best bet for your grill, and your health, is to find a safe alternative, even if that is just a DIY method.