5 Safe Grill Brushes That Won’t Send You to the ER This Summer

And you thought the mandoline was scary.
Two nylon bristle grill brushes on grill grates.
Photo by Travis Rainey, Styling by Joseph De Leo

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Is your grill brush trying to kill you? Okay, I realize that sounds a bit extreme, but if you’re not using one of the safe grill brushes to clean your dirty grill grates, you or someone you love could end up in the ER this summer.

Yes, grill brushes may seem like simple, harmless cleaning tools, and for the most part, they are. But in case you’ve forgotten all the bad press they got a few years ago, grill brushes have been known to cause severe injuries, and maybe not in the way you’re thinking. While it is possible to hurt your hand by grabbing a wire brush by the bristles (please don’t do that!), the real threat is much less obvious, and far more terrifying.

The painful truth is that those little brass or steel grill brush bristles can actually break loose from the brush head, get stuck in residue on the cooking grates, and eventually end up in someone’s food—leading to throat or abdominal injuries. One study estimated that between 2004 and 2012 nearly 1,700 people went to the emergency room with injuries related to grill brush bristles. That’s a pretty insignificant number compared to knife and mandoline injuries, but I’m guessing you don’t want to be one of the approximately 130 folks who end up with a steel shard in their throat or stomach this grilling season.

Does this mean you should stop using grill brushes with metal bristles? Honestly, probably. Which I realize is kind of annoying, considering that they’re generally the most effective at removing gunk and char from grill grates, whether you use a gas grill, a charcoal grill, or an infrared grill. But unfortunately, even some of the wire grill brushes billed as “safe” are plagued with reports of loose or lost bristles after very little use.

Luckily, grill brushes are one of those grilling accessories that are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. So if you have a wire grill brush that’s seen better days, it’s probably time to toss it and shift to something a little safer. It might mean you have to use a little extra elbow grease when cleaning the grill, but on the bright side, you won’t have to worry about a stabby metal wire ending up in your dinner—or worse, your stomach!

Nylon grill brushes

Let’s just get this out of the way: Nylon bristles don’t have the same deep cleaning power as stainless-steel bristles, but they’re still pretty powerful when used properly. Unlike wire grill brushes, which are meant to be used on a hot grill, these comparatively safe grill brushes are meant to be used once your grill has cooled. The best grill brushes with nylon bristles also have a steel scraper attachment to help dislodge tough buildup, and the combination of a brush and grill scraper is generally a more effective grill cleaner than even the best bristle-free grill brush alternatives, like coil grill brushes, standalone scrapers, or scrubbers.

When shopping for a nylon grill brush, look for one with a fairly full brush head rather than one with wide-spaced rows. You also want a brush with brightly colored bristles so you’ll notice if one gets stuck on your grill surface or ends up in your dinner. A long handle is less important than it would be if you were using the brush to clean a hot grill, but most grillers are probably used to a long-handled brush and the added leverage can help to give you that extra oomph.

Because nylon bristles are less durable than wire bristles, you may need to replace a nylon grill brush or brush head more often than you would a traditional wire grill brush. But grill cleaning tools (even dangerous metal ones) aren’t meant to last forever. If it helps, think of your grilling brush like a toothbrush and get a new one when it starts to look frazzled—especially if it’s already starting to shed bristles.

Oklahoma Joe's Blacksmith Combo Grill Brush

Unicook Heavy Duty Nylon Grill Brush with Scraper

Char-Broil Nylon Bristle Grill Brush with Scraper and Replacement Brush Head

Ignite Stainless Steel Cool Grill Brush with Nylon Bristles

Room Essentials Long-Handled Nylon Grill Cleaning Brush

Wire grill brushes, if you must

Still set on your trusty wire grill brush? Fine, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. And at least do yourself (and your cookout guests) the favor of replacing your wire brush at the very first signs of wear and tear—preferably with a well-made model that won’t lose its bristles right away—so everyone can enjoy safer outdoor cooking this season.

GRILLART Grill Brush and Scraper

BBQ Butler Brass Grill Brush

Outset Rosewood Stainless Steel Grill Brush With Scraper and Brass Bristles

Weber Bamboo Grill Brush

Kona 360 Clean Grill Brush