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Vince RnQ 07-06-2013 03:12 PM

Deep Cleaning a 22.5" WSM
We were the recent beneficiaries of a great deal on Craigslist where we were able to purchase a brand new, in the box, 22.5" WSM for the bargain basement price of just $225. Brought it home, put it together and then looked at the older and much used 22.5" WSM that was sitting on the back patio. Needless to say, one of these things was not like the other!

So, today I have the older WSM scheduled for some deep cleaning. Here's the plan...

First thing I've done is purchase some 55 gallon contractors plastic bags which ran about $10 for a package of 18 at Walmart. I also have one of those plastic water heater drip pans. The pans are readily available at Lowe's or HD and are also about $10.

I have taken the center section of the WSM and placed it inside one of the plastic bags and made sure it was all the way down into the bag being careful not to tear or puncture the bag. I then placed the bagged center section inside the water heater drip pan just in case I wasn't as careful as I thought I was. Next, I placed the cooking grates and door into the bag. These are placed inside the center section of the cooker.

The next step was to add the liquid. This is a concoction that a friend of mine uses to keep his WSM cooker grates clean and he agreed that it should work on the cooker as well since much of the cleaning power is from the fumes rather then the liquid being in contact with the surfaces. It consists of about a quart of ammonia, a couple of good squirts of dishwashing liquid and about 2 quarts of water. That was all poured into the bag with the cooker parts. I then placed the lid on top of the center section, drew the bag up and over the dome, twisted the bag closed and secured it with a twist tie. A cable tie would also have worked but there wasn't enough material to tie a knot in the bag.

I plan to leave the cooker parts in the bag to "marinate" overnight.

Tomorrow, I'll hook up my pressure washer and start blasting the softened goop off of the cooker parts. My buddy has told me that when he does this with just his grates, all he ever has to do is give them a good blast with the garden hose but I think the material on the inside of the center section and dome will offer a bit more resistance. We'll see.

So, that's the story thus far. I'll post about the results tomorrow once I see how well it works. If it works as well as my friend says it does on his grates, this will be the all-time easiest way to deep clean a WSM or kettle grill!

Harbormaster 07-06-2013 03:17 PM

If this works, I'm gonna have to try it. Beats scraping everything down with a razor blade and scrubbing by hand with an SOS pad.

Vince RnQ 07-06-2013 03:39 PM

No doubt, Clark. I've done that many times on my fleet of 18s. It takes all day and is very slow going.

Shadowdog500 07-06-2013 05:33 PM

Amonia is an old trick that works well. You don't need to soak the grates in amonia, the stinky amonia gas is what softens baked on grease. Put a pan of amonia in your smoker and pull a trash bag over it and you will probably get similar results.

Try not to breath too much of the amonia gas that stuff is bad for you.
Don't mix any bleach with the amonia. It makes a poison gas that will kill you.


Vince RnQ 07-06-2013 09:25 PM

I went outside about 90 minutes ago and saw that the plastic bag had a leak. I guess I should have been more careful when putting the center inside of it. I decided to open it up and see if the cooked on material on the lid and center section had softened and I am sorry to report that it had not.

I took the grates and door out and sprayed them thoroughly with the pressure washer. The grates were partially immersed in the ammonia mixture and the parts that had soaked rinsed pretty clean but not enough to satisfy me. The interior portion of the door also partially cleaned up but, again, not enough.

I then took the sprayer to the center and lid and, again, there was some cleaning happening but nowhere near enough to justify the process. The metal grate holding brackets cleaned up much like the grates but the entire interior of both the lid and center section are going to need scraping and scrubbing in order to really be clean. Looks like I know what I'll be doing tomorrow morning.

Oh well, it was worth a shot!

NRA4Life 07-06-2013 10:05 PM

Oven cleaner inside and out will have it looking like new with very little effort. Heat the parts up with a weed burner before applying the oven cleaner for faster action.

Vince RnQ 07-06-2013 10:49 PM

I agree. I've used the oven cleaner method in the past but haven't been spared a fair amount of scrubbing.

marubozo 07-06-2013 10:54 PM

Wait a second. People clean their WSMs? I was told gunk = flavor. :mrgreen:

TomB 07-07-2013 05:08 AM

Clean? Really? I clean the grates. Am I missing something?

Porcine Perfection 07-07-2013 07:14 AM

Why would you clean?

You need to re-season the WSM.

You introduce air leaks.

You replace that beautiful smoke smell with ammonia. :crazy:

Icekub 07-07-2013 07:33 AM

^^^ I kind of thought the same thing. Clean??? The inside other than the grates? My version of this is taking my charcoal glove, running my hands over the inside to make sure I don't get mystery crunchies/flakes in my food.

Vince RnQ 07-07-2013 10:59 AM


Originally Posted by TomB (Post 2541837)
Clean? Really? I clean the grates. Am I missing something?

A fair question to be sure.

While I don't typically make a habit of deep cleaning the cookers themselves, sometimes it is necessary, especially when the build up on the inside of lid reaches the point where some of the "seasoning" begins to drip onto the food itself. Scraping it down only gets you so far as that will not only remove some of the material but also loosen a lot more which will continue to flake or drip down onto the food. Taking it back down to the porcelain is the only way I know of to keep this from happening once it starts.

As for the center section, if I'm already deep cleaning the lid, I figure I might as well get a lot of the stuff off the center section as well. I don't, however go for the same kind of result that I do on the lid.

Bdub 07-07-2013 11:19 AM


Originally Posted by Icekub (Post 2541902)
^^^ I kind of thought the same thing. Clean??? The inside other than the grates? My version of this is taking my charcoal glove, running my hands over the inside to make sure I don't get mystery crunchies/flakes in my food.

We share cleaning techniques. :mrgreen:

captndan 07-08-2013 09:46 AM

Personally I wouldn't put anything toxic where I cook meat. Think BIG, ever seen someone clean a smokehouse? Steam cleaner only, maybe.

Vince RnQ 07-08-2013 10:37 PM

Thought I'd take a minute and give a final report on this project.

The initial ammonia treatment and subsequent pressure washing did end up yielding some unexpected benefits. After that portion of the cleaning I had left the center section and lid out overnight to dry (like that was going to be a problem here in the Land of Where the Temperature Doesn't Drop Below 90F At Night). On Sunday morning I went out to begin a scraping and oven cleaner session and discovered that much of the material on the inside of the two pieces had dried and cracked so I was able to scrap off about 90% of all the stuff before breaking out the oven cleaner. In reality, with one good spraying with oven cleaner and about 30 minutes of saturation time I was able to get both pieces very clean. I followed that up with a pass of dish soap and water followed by another thorough rinse with the pressure washer.

I know that it is very unusual to do a deep cleaning on a WSM but I had my reasons. Just thought I share the experience so that anyone else who needs to go down this road can learn from my process.

Here endeth the insanity!

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