Grilling Cleanup Tips
Summer and cookouts go hand-in-hand, but inviting guests over for grilling comes with a lot of prep work, including cleaning. When the party disperses, you still have lots of cleanup work to do. Instead of spending your whole night tidying up, think strategically to minimize messes. With our 13 party cleanup tips, you can tackle the barbeque cleanup quickly, so you can kick up your feet and relax.
1. Start With a Clean Space
One of the best cookout cleanup tips is to start with a clean house. Your home looks great when your guests arrive, and you have less to do after the party. Do a thorough cleaning of your home and outdoor space the day before the party.
You can also clean up while you’re handling party prep. It’s easy to let dishes pile up while you’re prepping food and getting ready for your guests. However, once you’re done with all of your food prep, wash all of the dishes you use, and put them away in their proper storage spots.
Have a place to keep your pets to make sure they stay away from the food prep areas, and consider wearing gloves as you prepare the meal. When cooking for a crowd, cleanliness is important. It’s also a good idea to ask your guests if anyone has a food allergy.
You’ll generate dishes during the party, but if you do some washing beforehand, you’ll already have a jump start on cleanup. If you use your dishwasher, let the full cycle run and empty the clean dishes. By putting everything away, you leave the dishwasher empty for the dishes that accumulate during the cookout.
2. Keep Outdoor Cookout Decorations Simple
Decorations add that wow factor to your backyard party, but they also leave you with more to clean after the guests leave. If you want to dress up your backyard with cookout decorations, keep them simple, so you have less to get rid of after the gathering. Here are a few ideas:
- Party favors: One option is to use centerpieces that guests can take home as favors. You might use small potted plants on the tables, for example.
- Balloons: Helium-filled balloons are a big hit with kids. Send each young guest home with a balloon you used as a decoration.
- Serving trays: Use large trays for placing the food so you will have less to carry outside. After the cookout, you can carry your dishes back inside more easily.
- Napkin holders: Get some napkin holders from the nearest party supply store. They help prevent the wind from blowing away your napkins, and they keep the germs at bay.
- Banquet tables: If your outdoor table is too small for all of your guests, rent or invest in some foldable banquet tables to join together for one extra long table.
- Tablecloths: Use tablecloths to protect surfaces from spills and make cleaning up easier.
- Creatively placed food: Use the food as part of your decor. The main items of a colorful, creative feast can make the best centerpieces.
These items add a fun decorative touch, and your guests clean them up for you when they leave.
3. Stock up on Disposable Items
When looking for cookout and picnic cleanup ideas, think disposable. Disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils are much easier to clean up after a party. Even if you don’t normally use them, you might consider them for your barbeque. Guests can easily throw their things away when they’re done using them, so they handle some of the cleanup for you. Anything that does get left behind is easy enough to throw away yourself. Plus, you eliminate the need to wash a sink full of dishes after everyone leaves.
You can get disposable items that look similar to the real thing, including:
- Plastic utensils that come in decorative designs, including pieces that look like silverware.
- Disposable plastic cups that look like crystal glasses for an upscale barbecue look.
- Sturdy, colorful disposable plates that hold up like regular plates.
- Plastic trays and bowls from the dollar store that you can toss after the party.
- Aluminum foil for lining your grill, so the sticky juices from cooking meat stay off the grate.
- Slow cooker liners if you need to let a dish stew.
At the end of the night, everything goes in the trash or recycling bin, so you have less to wash.
You can get disposable items that look similar to the real thing. Plastic utensils come in decorative designs, including pieces that look like silverware. Pick up disposable plastic cups that look like crystal glasses for an upscale barbecue look. Choose sturdy, colorful disposable plates that hold up like regular plates. Head to the dollar store for plastic trays and bowls you can toss after the party. At the end of the night, everything goes in the trash or recycling bin, so you have less to wash.
4. Set up Trash Stations
Make it easier for guests to clean up after themselves by setting up several trash stations, both inside and outside. Place covered trash cans in strategic locations where people will likely eat and congregate. Place a trash station near the food area, by the door, in the garage and in the kitchen, so guests can easily find a place to throw away their items. A cover, like a lid, keeps the trash from blowing back out of the can for outdoor stations.
You can also set up recycling tubs next to the trash cans. Encourage guests to place bottles, paper and other recyclable materials in those containers. You can easily place the recyclable material in the appropriate recycling bin at the end of the party, so you reduce your overall waste for the event.
Keep an eye on the trash cans throughout the party. If one of the cans starts to get full, pull out the trash bag, and replace it with an empty bag. This prevents the bags from getting overstuffed while continuing to offer guests a place to put trash. You can also assign someone else trash duty, so you can continue circulating and keeping an eye on other tasks.
5. Keep Cleaning Supplies Handy
Spills are part of the territory when you invite friends over for food and beverages. Make it easier to tackle those messes when they happen by keeping cleaning supplies handy. Here are some preparations you can make:
- Have a roll of paper towels available outdoors where most people will eat.
- A multi-purpose spray cleaner can also help you clean up messes before they become stains.
- Have a tub of cleanup supplies ready under your kitchen sink, so you can start in on the cleaning as soon as your guests leave.
- Include bottles of cleaner and other supplies you may need to clean up the backyard after a party.
- Have extra trash bags handy to collect any leftover trash.
- Bring out some pre-moistened wipes for hands and spills on the surfaces of tables.
Have a tub of cleanup supplies ready under your kitchen sink, so you can start in on the cleaning as soon as your guests leave. Include bottles of cleaner, paper towels and other supplies you may need to clean up the backyard after a party. Have extra trash bags handy to collect any leftover trash.
6. Use Disposable Tablecloths
Disposable tablecloths come in handy at the end of the party. Remove anything you want to keep, such as centerpieces, utensils and plates that aren’t disposable. All of the trash, spilled food and other debris can stay on the table. Pull the corners up and toward the center of the table to wrap up all of the trash inside the disposable tablecloth. Bundle it up carefully to ensure nothing falls out. Toss the entire thing into a large trash can, and the table is instantly clear.
An added bonus: The plastic construction of disposable tablecloths keeps spills from soaking through to the table to keep the surface clean. If you would rather use a patterned tablecloth or something more delicate and decorative, you can place a plastic tablecloth underneath to prevent stains from soaking through.
7. Prep Early
Prepping all of the food early helps you out in several ways. It reduces stress because you aren’t rushing around right before guests arrive trying to get everything done. You also have more time to clean up the dishes and get the house organized. Ways to prep your food include:
- Marinating the meat overnight in your refrigerator
- Making and storing the salads
- Assembling the snack trays and other supplies
- Prepping the burger toppings
- Making or ordering the desserts
You can also save time by setting up extra tables and different party areas. Designate certain spots for food and drink, for example. Since those items generate most of the mess, keeping them in a particular location helps contain the mess. Set up designated eating areas with tables and chairs to encourage guests to keep their plates full of food in those areas for additional mess control.
8. Clean up as You Go
You don’t have to spend the entire party time scrubbing and polishing, but cleaning up as you go helps you finish the job faster once your guests leave. If you notice trash lying around during the party, toss it in one of the nearby trash cans. If you create trash yourself, throw away the item as soon as you’re done using it. For example, if you have empty plastic zip-top bags on hand after removing meat from them to grill, toss those bags right away instead of leaving them sitting by the grill. Not only does this keep the party area looking better, but it also saves you on time when you’re ready to pick up.
Putting away food once everyone is done eating is another helpful way to clean as you go. It’s also a good way to prevent food poisoning from the leftovers. Getting food into the refrigerator ensures it stays at a safe temperature to minimize bacterial growth.
Have food containers ready to go before the party. When you’re sure everyone has had their fill of the cookout goodies, pull out the containers, and transfer the leftovers into them. Rinse the serving containers to remove any food remnants. You don’t need to completely wash the dishes while the guests are still there, but rinsing them prevents stuck-on food that can be challenging to clean off the dishes later. If the serving tray is dishwasher safe, put it in the dishwasher right away to save time after the party.
9. Clean the Grill
The grill plays a central role in your cookout, so it ends up getting quite messy by the end of it all. Use our grill cleanup tips to make the job easier:
- Clean as the grill cools: Instead of ignoring the mess until later, tackle the cleanup while the grill is still warm. Let it cool a little, so you don’t burn yourself, but don’t let it cool completely. If you wait too long, the leftover food hardens and becomes much more difficult to remove.
- Get an onion from the kitchen: One trick to clean off the warm grill is to use an onion. Cut a whole onion in half and poke a skewer into the rounded side. Rub the flat, cut edge of the onion onto the grill grate. The onion contains a natural disinfectant and helps remove the grilling debris from the grates. It also leaves behind a bit of its flavor, so your next grilled meal gets a bit of natural seasoning.
- Get the aluminum foil back out: Scrape residue from the grates using a crumpled-up ball of aluminum foil. The foil is hard enough when wadded up to remove the remaining charred patches.
- Use a wire brush: Wire brushes are often used to clean grill grates, but it’s important to use caution. The wire bristles can break away from the brush and stick to the grates, where they can become lodged in food the next time you grill. Inspect the brush before you start scrubbing. Once you’re done, look over the grate to make sure you didn’t leave behind any wire bristles.
- Dispose of the remains: If you use a charcoal grill, you’ll also need to dispose of the ash and remaining charcoal. Let the remnants cool completely before removing them from the grill. Dispose of them once you’re sure they’re safe to handle.
Wire brushes are often used to clean grill grates, but it’s important to use caution. The wire bristles can break away from the brush and stick to the grates, where they can become lodged in food the next time you grill. Inspect the brush before you start scrubbing. Once you’re done, look over the grate to make sure you didn’t leave behind any wire bristles.
If you use a charcoal grill, you’ll also need to dispose of the ash and remaining charcoal. Let the remnants cool completely before removing them from the grill. Dispose of them once you’re sure they’re safe to handle.
10. Complete Cleanup When Guests Leave
It’s tempting to take a break once your final guest leaves, but don’t be drawn into the trap. If you don’t start cleaning right away, you may end up sitting for hours before you tackle the mess. That extra time gives food a chance to harden onto dishes, making them more challenging to clean. If anything spilled, those stains have time to set.
Instead, stay on your feet as your guests leave. Go directly to the messes, and start digging in to get the job done. If you don’t sit down, you are better able to keep moving until you’re done cleaning. Once you’re done with the cleaning, reward yourself with a special treat and some relaxing time with your feet up.
11. Focus on One Task at a Time
It’s easy to get distracted and bounce from one cleaning task to the next, but you’ll be more efficient if you focus on one thing at a time. You might start in one room and clean it from top to bottom before moving to the next area.
Another approach is to do one specific task in all areas. For example, you might go through with a trash can first and pick up all of the remaining trash from all of the rooms. Next, you might go back through those areas with a bottle of all-purpose cleaner and a rag to wipe and sanitize the surfaces. By handling one task or room at a time, you can move through your cleaning list much faster.
12. Use a Wet or Dry Vacuum
That wet or dry vacuum you have in your garage isn’t just for indoor use. Because the vacuum is so powerful and can handle wet materials, it can be very useful in cleaning up outdoor spaces.
Instead of cleaning up individual pieces of trash, dropped food and other items left in your backyard, flip on the vacuum, and suck up the debris. Don’t forget to empty out the vacuum afterward, especially if you suck up food that could spoil inside the vacuum compartment.
13. Get Everyone Involved
You may be the one who planned the party, but that doesn’t mean all of the cleaning falls on you. By providing lots of trash cans and setting an example yourself, you encourage guests to clean up for you as the party happens.
Once the guests leave, have your family members jump into action. Assign each person a certain job to get the work done faster. Even kids can help clean up the backyard area once everyone heads out.
Avoid taking a break after the guests clear out, or you might start to feel sleepy. If you save cleaning for the next morning, it will be more difficult to clean the grill and scrape caked-on food wastes out of the serving dishes. In addition to that, if you leave napkins and stacks of paper plates out overnight, it could rain on them, or the wind could blow them into your or a neighbor’s yard.
14. Create a Cleaning Checklist
Focus your cleaning efforts by having a checklist of things you need to do after everyone leaves. Many of the cleaning tasks are obvious, but the list keeps you focused and ensures you catch everything.
Here are some common cleaning tasks after you host a party or cookout:
- Pick up any trash or leftover food on tables and countertops indoors and outdoors.
- Wipe down all surfaces, including tabletops, tablecloths and counters.
- Look for stains on cloth napkins, tablecloths, countertops, tables and other surfaces.
- Wash dishes used during the party. Use the dishwasher for as many things as possible to save time.
- Place all kitchen and bathroom towels in the laundry.
- Clean the toilet and sink surfaces in the bathroom.
- Sweep and vacuum floors.
- Mop hard surface floors.
- Put away any extra tables, chairs and other items you use during the party.
- Take out the trash and recycling.
- Straighten up your furniture, kitchen countertops, decorations and other items that were moved during the party.
Order Premio Sausage for Your Next Cookout
With these tips to clean up after a cookout, you can have your house and backyard fresh and clean in no time. How do you clean up quickly after a cookout? Share your best tips. Before your next cookout, stock up on Premio sausages to delight your guests. Find a store near you and download a coupon to get the party started.