Keeping stainless steel kitchen appliances smudge-free and shiny is hard enough. Keeping a stainless steel gas grill pristine requires even more time and attention. It’s outdoors, exposed to the elements sometimes year-round. That exposure is just one reason stainless steel becomes tarnished. “Grease, food particles, and moisture all take their toll on stainless,” says Cindy Fisher, who oversees grill testing at Consumer Reports.

“If you’re going to do just one thing for your stainless grill, keep it clean,” says Kevin Kolman, a spokesman for Weber, which makes grills with both stainless and porcelain-enameled lids. In addition to helping the stainless hold its shine, regular cleaning helps preserve its resistance to corrosion.

The more you use your grill and the harsher the environmental conditions, the more you’ll need to clean it. Salt air speeds up corrosion and rust, so regular maintenance—at least weekly—is especially important if you live near the ocean. Chlorine from a nearby swimming pool can also damage a grill’s finish if it’s not cleaned regularly.

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Stainless steel varies in quality, and manufacturers may use different grades for different parts of the grill. That explains why maintenance advice may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and grill to grill. Be sure to check your manual or the manufacturer’s website for how to handle discoloration, tough stains, and rust on your grill.

A grill’s high heat can also have an effect on stainless. Napoleon Grills, a manufacturer of mid-to-higher priced stainless grills, points out on its website that a grill’s heat can cause the material to discolor over time to a golden brown patina. We’ve seen in our own labs that some stainless grills develop a light yellowish tinge over the course of our testing.

Before you shop, check our gas grill buying guide and gas grill ratings of more than 130 models at all price points.

A Painless Way to Clean Stainless

It’s safe to clean your grill when it’s cool to the touch. For regular cleaning, Weber and Char-Broil, both big sellers of gas grills, suggest using a dedicated stainless steel cleaner. But Char-Broil agrees with other manufacturers that you can also use a mild liquid dish detergent mixed with warm water. Avoid harsh cleaners such as bleach.  

• Use a soft cloth or microfiber cloth. Paper towels can be rough and scratch the surface. And never use steel-wool pads or steel brushes, which can permanently damage the finish.

• Go with the grain of the stainless finish, which is usually from side to side rather than up and down. Wiping against the grain can scratch the surface.

• Rinse with clean water if you’re using soapy water.

• Dry with a clean soft cloth­ to prevent water stains that can occur from air-drying.

As for polishing your stainless grill, several manufacturers recommend against polishing the lid or other parts that get really hot. “While not all polishes will discolor with heat application, many leave a film that can,” says Kyla Camick, a spokeswoman for Napoleon. But she says it’s okay to use it on cooler parts of the grill. “Using outdoor stainless polishes on components such as the side shelves, doors, and control panel will help ward off surface discoloration and corrosion,” she adds.

Grill Cleaning Techniques

Whether it's tail-gating or summer get-togethers, everyone loves to fire up the grill. Consumer Reports' expert, Paul Hope, shares with 'Consumer 101' TV show host, Jack Rico, some great post-grilling cleaning tips.