Like your burger topped with wire bristles? Heed this grilling season warning


Consumer Reports is out with a timely new warning about best practices for cleaning your grill between uses.

Read more: Best gas grills starting at under $200

Summer alert: Wire grill brush dangers

Most grillers probably don’t dedicate serious thought to how they clean the grates of their grill. They see the brush hanging on the grill, they grab it and they use it, right? It’s not that complicated!

Besides, who can think about clean grates when you have that first bite of grilled deliciousness awaiting you?!

wire grill brush

But perhaps you should spare a moment to address the way you clean your grates. Wire brushes are a popular and very effective tool for the job. But they pose a minor threat to food safety.

Some 1,700 Americans took a trip to the ER between 2002 and 2014 when wire bristles left on the grates from prior cleanings contaminated their food. That’s according to a study published last year in journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Meanwhile, at least one of the study’s authors tells Consumer Reports that those numbers are under-reported because they don’t account for trips to urgent care facilities or doctor’s offices.

Injuries to the mouth and throat from stray steel or brass bristles getting into food are most common. But in some cases, stomach and intestinal injuries have resulted when someone fully swallowed a bristle in their food. About 25% of those extreme cases required hospitalization.

So if you want to have a bristle-free food experience this summer, heed this advice…

Explore cleaning alternatives

Some grills may be better and more safely cleaned by using a pumice store or one of those bristle-free brushes that are shaped like a coil. Consult your owner’s manual to see if yours is one.


Relatively new to the market is the Grillbadger, which has bristles made from natural palmyra plant fibers that burn up if they fall off.


If you want to go really low budget, you can try a crumbled-up piece of aluminum fool to remove food from the grates after they’ve cooled down.

Do a periodic deep cleaning

Liquid grill cleaners (either in spray or foam form) can help accomplish those big cleanings. Use in conjunction with an abrasive pad to scrub away any baked-on leftovers.

Take care if you must use a wire brush

Inspect your grill for any loose bristles left behind after prior cleanings before you fire it up.

Don’t use brushes that are overly worn, warped or clearly have areas from which bristles are coming loose.

Electric grill brushes are best replaced once a season or every 100 uses if you’re a heavy grill user, according to Consumer Reports.

Read more: Charcoal vs. gas grilling: Which is better?

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