Can You Clean a Smoker with Vinegar? Here’s What You Need to Know

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 23, 2023

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You know the smell of a smoker can be hard to get rid of. But can you clean a smoker with vinegar?

The acidity in the vinegar helps dissolve dirt and grime, making it easier to remove. Plus, it’s a natural disinfectant that kills bacteria and viruses, so it’s safe to use even on food.

You can use it to clean the interior walls of the smoker and the racks. Plus, it’s great for cleaning stainless steel appliances and other surfaces in the kitchen.

In this article, I’ll share with you all the tips and tricks.

Clean bbq smoker with vinegar

Keeping Your Electric Smoker Clean and Maintained

Regular maintenance of your electric smoker is essential to ensure that it continues to work properly and produce high-quality, smoky meat. Neglecting maintenance can result in damage to the body, wire elements, and other parts of the smoker, which can be expensive to repair or replace. Additionally, a dirty smoker can produce a lot of ash and dirt, which can be difficult to remove and prevent the smoker from working properly.

The Benefits of Cleaning with Vinegar

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to clean your electric smoker is with a mixture of hot water and apple cider vinegar. This simple solution can remove dirt, grime, and even mold from the interior walls and chamber of your smoker, as well as the racks and grill. Here are some of the benefits of using vinegar to clean your smoker:

  • Vinegar is a natural and non-toxic cleaner that is safe to use around food.
  • It is a strong acid that can dissolve dirt and grime, making it easier to remove.
  • Vinegar can help to prevent the buildup of creosote, which is a flammable substance that can accumulate in traditional smokers and cause a fire hazard.
  • It can also help to protect the steel body of your smoker from damage and corrosion.

The Steps to Cleaning Your Electric Smoker with Vinegar

Cleaning your electric smoker with vinegar is a simple process that can be done in just a few steps:

1. Start by unplugging your smoker and letting it cool down completely.
2. Remove any wood or food that is still inside the smoker and dispose of it properly.
3. Use a wire scraper or brush to remove any large pieces of ash or dirt from the interior walls and chamber of the smoker.
4. Mix equal parts hot water and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle.
5. Spray the mixture onto the interior walls and chamber of your electric smoker, as well as on the racks or grill.
6. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow it to work its magic.
7. Use a dish cloth or abrasive pad to scrub away any remaining dirt or grime.
8. Rinse the entire area with water and let it dry completely before putting the parts back together.

Additional Tips for Maintaining Your Electric Smoker

In addition to cleaning your electric smoker regularly with vinegar, there are a few other things you can do to ensure that it stays in good working order:

  • Cover your smoker when it is not in use to protect it from the elements and prevent dirt and debris from getting inside.
  • Use a scraper or wire brush to remove any buildup on the heating elements or other parts of the smoker.
  • Check the power cord and other electrical components regularly to make sure they are not damaged or frayed.
  • Depending on the size and quality of your smoker, it may be beneficial to invest in additional products designed to maintain and protect it.
  • Remember to follow all safety guidelines when using your electric smoker, including keeping it away from flammable materials and never leaving it unattended while in use.

By knowing the key steps and methods for cleaning and maintaining your electric smoker, you can save yourself a lot of time and money in the long run. With regular routine maintenance, your smoker will work better, produce higher-quality meat, and last longer.

Discover the Magic of Vinegar: What Can You Clean with It?

Vinegar is a versatile cleaning agent that can be used to clean a wide range of surfaces. It is a natural and safe alternative to chemical-based products that can affect the environment and your body. Here are some reasons why vinegar is an essential cleaning agent:

  • Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that kills bacteria, viruses, and mold.
  • It is non-toxic and safe to use around children and pets.
  • Vinegar is an affordable and readily available cleaning agent.
  • It is effective in removing dirt, grime, and stains from various surfaces.
  • Vinegar is a multi-purpose cleaner that can be used for cleaning, deodorizing, and disinfecting.

What Can You Clean with Vinegar?

Vinegar can be used to clean a variety of surfaces, including:

  • Stainless steel appliances and surfaces: Vinegar can remove smudges and stains from stainless steel without damaging the material. Simply pour some vinegar onto a cloth and wipe the surface clean.
  • Glass and mirrors: Vinegar is an effective cleaner for glass and mirrors. Mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and use it to clean the glass surface. Wipe the surface with a clean cloth to remove any streaks.
  • Floors: Vinegar can be used to clean floors, especially hardwood floors. Mix 1/2 cup of vinegar with a gallon of water and use it to mop the floor. Vinegar helps to remove dirt and grime from the floor without leaving any residue.
  • Bathroom fixtures: Vinegar can be used to clean bathroom fixtures, including sinks, toilets, and showers. Mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and use it to clean the fixtures. Vinegar helps to remove soap scum and hard water stains.
  • Kitchen appliances and surfaces: Vinegar can be used to clean kitchen appliances and surfaces, including countertops, stovetops, and ovens. Mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and use it to clean the surfaces. Vinegar helps to remove grease and grime from the surfaces.

How to Properly Use Vinegar for Cleaning

To get the most out of vinegar as a cleaning agent, it is important to follow these tips:

  • Always dilute vinegar with water before using it as a cleaner.
  • Test the vinegar mixture on a small area before using it on a larger surface.
  • Use a clean cloth or sponge to apply the vinegar mixture to the surface.
  • Cover the entire area with the vinegar mixture and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it clean.
  • For tough stains, you may need to repeat the process several times.
  • Store vinegar in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
  • Do not mix vinegar with other cleaning products, as it can create harmful fumes.
  • Always wear gloves and eye protection when using vinegar as a cleaning agent.

Can Vinegar Really Clean Creosote Buildup in Your Smoker?

Creosote is a black, tar-like substance that builds up inside your smoker over time. It’s a byproduct of burning wood or charcoal and can be dangerous if not cleaned regularly. Creosote can cause fires, ruin the taste of your food, and even damage your smoker.

How Does Vinegar Clean Creosote?

Vinegar is a natural acid that can break down creosote and other buildup inside your smoker. When you soak your smoker in a solution of water and vinegar, the acid in the vinegar dissolves the creosote and makes it easier to clean off.

When to Use a Propane Torch Instead

While vinegar can be effective at cleaning mild to moderate creosote buildup, it may not be enough for heavy buildup. In these cases, you may need to use a propane torch to burn off the creosote. Here are some signs that it’s time to bring out the torch:

  • You can see thick layers of creosote buildup on the inside of your smoker.
  • Your smoker is producing excessive smoke or flames.
  • Your food has a bitter or acrid taste.

Why Vinegar is a Powerful Cleaning Agent for Metal Grates

When vinegar comes in contact with metal grates, it creates a chemical reaction that helps break down dirt and grime. The acidity in vinegar helps to dissolve particles that are stuck to the surface of the grate, making it easier to remove them. Vinegar is also a natural rust remover, which is important for maintaining the longevity of your metal grates.

How to Clean Metal Grates with Vinegar

Cleaning metal grates with vinegar is a simple process that requires a few household items. Here’s how to do it:

  • Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a cup or bowl.
  • Dip a stiff-bristled brush or sponge into the mixture and scrub the grates thoroughly. For extra cleaning power, add baking soda to the mixture to create a paste.
  • Allow the mixture to sit on the grates for a few minutes to break down any remaining dirt or grime.
  • Rinse the grates with warm water and dry them with a paper towel or soft cloth.
  • If desired, apply a small amount of olive oil to the grates to protect them from rust and create a non-stick surface.

Important Tips to Keep in Mind

While vinegar is a good way to clean metal grates, it’s important to take care when using it. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from the vinegar solution.
  • If your grates are cast iron, avoid using soap when washing them as it can damage the surface.
  • If you’re having difficulty removing dirt or grime, use a wire scrubbing pad to help scrape it off.
  • Inspect your grates carefully after washing them to ensure that all dirt and grime has been removed.
  • For an annual deep clean, soak the grates in a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to break apart burnt-on food.
  • Repeat the cleaning process as needed until your grates are as clean as desired.


So, can you clean a smoker with vinegar? 

It’s a great cleaning agent for many surfaces, but you have to be careful with the acidity. I would recommend using it to clean the interior and exterior of the smoker and using a non-acidic cleaner for the parts. 

Plus, you can use it to clean your glass surfaces, your bathroom fixtures, and your floors. So, don’t be afraid to give it a try!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.