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Outdoor Kitchen Cleaning & Maintenance: How to Keep Your Island Good as New in 3 Steps

By Gabrielle Desmarais

January 24, 2024

Whether you’re already an outdoor kitchen owner or not… At some point, you’re going to have to contend with cleaning and maintaining your island.

We all know that outdoor kitchens are a pricey investment.

So in order to keep your backyard upgrade looking as shiny and new as possible… Your island’s going to need some TLC.

And as with most things… There’s more to the topic than meets the eye.

So in this article, we’re uncovering every little detail you need to know about outdoor kitchen cleaning and maintenance.

From countertops, to the appliances, to the island itself… We’re leaving no stone left unturned.

cleaning and maintenance featured image

All the information you’re about to read comes from our direct experience. We regularly educate our customers on proper outdoor kitchen maintenance… So this topic is firmly in our wheelhouse.

And to bring that expertise to a maximum… You’ll be hearing from one of our Project Experience Managers, Philip Aldrich.

He assists our customers with this topic and so much more… So let’s get started, shall we?


Why is outdoor kitchen cleaning Important?

reclaimed grill island with grill and side burner

In our experience, we’ve found that many homeowners don’t fully understand the importance of cleaning and maintaining their island.

Your island is a big, solidly constructed structure. So it should stay in tip-top shape without any effort… Shouldn’t it?

Well, you certainly wouldn’t think about your car in this way.

A well-built, brand new car can usually run up to 300k miles no problem… But only if you take care of it.

If your car doesn’t get a single oil change… You’re going to run into catastrophic problems real quick. (And you can kiss that 300k odometer reading goodbye!)

But you catch our drift.

If you want your outdoor kitchen to run smoothly and look good as new for years to come… Regular cleaning and maintenance is a requirement.

So as far as cleaning goes… What’s involved?

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Cleaning Your Outdoor Kitchen in 3 Steps

While it’s true that cleaning is a part of regular maintenance of your outdoor kitchen… In general, cleaning is primarily beneficial for aesthetic purposes.

When it comes to outdoor kitchen cleaning… It’s all about keeping up appearances.

How to Clean Your Island

must have grill cleaning tools

We have to kick things off with a caveat.

How you should clean your island structure depends heavily on what your outdoor kitchen is made of. Stone, brick, concrete, stainless steel, and powder coat finishes will all have their own quirks.

Our islands are made from high performance concrete, so we’ll be speaking from that perspective.

So if your island is made from a different material… Be sure to check with your builder for proper cleaning recommendations.

In any case, for a concrete outdoor kitchen, the first thing out of Phil’s mouth was:

“Definitely no power washing.”

We’ve all seen those addictive power washing videos online… And it’s truly incredible how much grime this method can erase from a brick wall or patio.

Unfortunately, power washing is far too harsh for most outdoor kitchen solutions.

The intense spray can easily damage your finish and simply is not worth the risk. For most applications, a simple spray with the garden hose is more than enough.

And if you have some trouble spots that need extra attention… A sponge or soft cloth with dish soap is all you need. Something soft is key here. 

“Don’t use rough edges, you don’t want to scratch the finish or anything like that”, Phil explains. 

So when it comes to cleaning your island… It all comes down to a garden hose, soft sponge, and dish soap. (It’s almost like washing your car.)

Let’s see if the countertops are just as simple.

General Countertop Cleaning Tips for Concrete and Granite

Thankfully, things are much the same over here.

But first, let’s talk about a couple simple ways to prevent stains.

You won’t believe how simple this is.

Treat your outdoor kitchen countertop like your wooden indoor kitchen table.

Sure, your wood table has a protective stain on it… But you know as well as we do that you’ll still end up with water stains if you neglect coaster usage.

Your BBQ island countertop behaves in the exact same manner.

Yes, there’s a seal on it. But the material is still porous underneath… And over time, that seal will wear off.

So using coasters and other similar items will save you a lot of grief right there.

But if a spill or something else happens… Just go back to the good ol’ hot, soapy water and a soft cloth.

Sop it up as quickly as you can… And your countertop should still be looking pretty darn pristine.

But if you’re dealing with “deep staining and leaf staining, I recommend a reseal in that case”, Phil shares.

We’ll come back to countertop resealing in the next section… So worry not, we’ll get back to this!

Before we move onto cleaning appliances… Here’s one last word of caution for your outdoor kitchen countertops.

Don’t use it as a cutting board!

It might seem like it can handle it… But you’ll be scratching your countertop all over the place. And that’s not a good look.

Alright, now let’s move to outdoor kitchen grill cleaning.

Tips for Cleaning Appliances

beautiful custom outdoor kitchen with built in appliances

Last but not least… How about those lovely stainless steel appliances of yours?

Our outdoor kitchens come with 304 stainless steel appliances from Coyote… So thankfully, the process is quite straightforward. 

But there is one key thing you’ll need to avoid doing.

Don’t scrub your appliances with harsh abrasives like steel wool or a wire brush. It might not seem like a big deal… But this can create scratches and scuff marks that are quite unappealing to look at.

But as you’ve come to expect, the solution is quite simple.

To keep your stainless steel grill and appliances looking shiny and impressive… Once again, a sponge and soapy water is going for the win here.

It’ll easily eradicate fingerprints and help stave off rust.

But if you really want to make those appliances sing… “We always recommend Bar Keepers Friend”, Phil says.

This product is specifically formulated for cleaning stainless steel. So really, you can’t go wrong there!

And if you run into a little rust… Bar Keeper’s Friend also sells a kit to take care of that properly. Throw on a stainless steel approved polish after, and your appliances will be looking good as new.

Sound good so far?

Well… We still have the maintenance side of things to deal with.

Want a Beautiful Outdoor Kitchen that’s also Easy to Maintain? 

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The Rundown on Outdoor Kitchen Maintenance

All the cleaning steps we just outlined should be completed on a regular basis. When things are starting to look a little dingy… It’s time to clean.

But you also have some less frequent maintenance tasks to keep on the docket. Most of these only need to be done once or twice a year… But they’re essential not to forget.

Cadence of Re-Sealing Countertops

While it’s true that your countertops will come with a fresh seal on them… Over time, this will wear off and need to be re-applied.

So how do you know it’s time to reseal your countertops?

As with most things, it depends. 

Our customers have the choice between concrete and granite… So again, we’ll be speaking from that perspective. 

Either way, both materials will give you a sign when it’s time for a reseal. 

When to Reseal Concrete Countertops

concrete countertop sealer

At minimum, you want to make sure you’re resealing concrete countertops once a year.

But depending on your climate and frequency of use… It might need an extra application or two.

If you notice your concrete tops are becoming scratched or getting a lot of water marks, it’s time for a reseal.

But the importance of maintaining your countertops goes beyond the simple scratches or water marks.

As Phil put it, “Resealing will increase the longevity of the aesthetics. After a while your concrete will look faded, and there will be some cracks. If you take good care of it, the appearance of the natural wear and tear will be significantly delayed”.

Just like us humans… Concrete isn’t immune to the signs of aging. But you can stave it off for quite some time with proper care.

And as for what sealant to use, we generally recommend Ovation for our concrete tops.

When to Reseal Granite Stone Countertops

granite countertop featured image

As for granite countertops, you’ll also want to reseal them once or twice a year.

To know if it’s time for a reseal… There’s a nifty trick called the “water test” you can try.

Either leave a few drops of water, or a wet paper towel on your granite tops for about 10 to 15 minutes.

If the water soaks into the countertop and darkens it… You’re ready for a reseal.

This means that your granite countertop is becoming more porous, making it less resistant to stains. A reseal will quickly bring things back into order.

Not sure which sealant to use? If you’re an RTA customer, just give us a shout! Otherwise, your granite fabricator will have a specific recommendation for you.

Deep Cleaning Your Built-in Grill

Now, what about your trusty built in grill?

Unsurprisingly… This is another once-a-year task, at minimum.

“Do a deep clean every year for grills. It helps keep the burners nice and clean and prevent clogging.”

It’s also smart to keep your grill clean for safety reasons. Whether it be a charcoal, pellet, or gas grill… Food grease will build up over time. And if you let it go too long, this could make your grill prone to a grease fire. (Yikes!)

Either way, deep cleaning your grill is easy to do. It just takes some time.

You’ll want to do a quick wipe down around the edges of the grill to start.

Then, you’ll remove your grill grates and flame tamers or ceramic briquettes. Knock off any debris that easily comes off, and then give them a more significant brush off. (Use a grill-safe brush made from nylon, not metal!)

Then, you’ll put your flame tamers (or ceramic briquettes) and grill grates back inside, top side down.

Turn all your grill burners on high, and let it sit with the hood closed for about 15 minutes. This will allow all that food buildup to burn off.

Once you’ve let it cool fully… You might as well clean the exterior of your grill and apply a polish. Good as new!

Winterize Your Sinks

Live in a cold climate? If the winter months in your area are dominated by a deep, sweeping freeze… Winterizing your sink is going to be a necessary task.

What’s the risk?

Well, if you’ve ever had your pipes freeze and burst… You’ll know exactly what the risk is.

Lucky for you, this couldn’t be easier. In fact, Phil explains it in a single sentence.

“Just drain the lines and turn off the water”, he says.

It only takes a matter of minutes to care for your outdoor sink. Just set a reminder so you won’t forget!

Bring in Your Fridge During the Winter

the back of a brand new coyote outdoor refrigerator

Your outdoor refrigerator also isn’t immune to the harshness of old man winter.

Compressors and other electronic components can get a little iffy as the temperatures plunge below freezing… And to ensure a long lifespan, it’s worth putting your fridge under shelter during the winter months. (Coyote actually specifically recommends this.)

“It’s not a life or death situation, but better to do it if you can. Lines will drain on their own and not be susceptible to cracks when turning it on the following spring”, Phil explains.

As long as you’ve got a dolly… It’ll be pretty easy to cart your fridge to safety for a few chilly months.

Cover Your Appliances

2 grill covers on outdoor kitchen

When it comes to covering your outdoor kitchen appliances… We’d consider this to be an ongoing, consistent type of maintenance.

Whenever you’re done grilling for the day and the grill has cooled off… Slap on an appliance cover for your grill.

Simple, yet effective. (That’s what we like to see!)

While it may not seem like it does much… An appliance cover does provide a barrier to the elements. Particularly if you live in a coastal climate with salty air.

An appliance cover will provide that extra barrier for corrosion and rust resistance… Keeping your investment looking pristine for that much longer.

Phil also recommends to “get a full-sized cover if you’re not going to use your outdoor kitchen for a couple weeks, or if you know a storm is coming.”

Which leads us to our next point

...And Cover Your Island!

You might be a little confused here. We’re already recommending specific appliance covers… Why do you also need an island cover?

Well, those wonderful outdoor kitchen cabinets of yours also benefit from some extra protection.

This is especially true for all you northerners out there… Braving those cold, frosty winters.

During the winter, an island cover “gives you a little bit of barrier for freeze thaw. If you don’t cover your island, you’re getting direct snow and ice onto it”, Phil shares.

Now, it’s important to note that RTA outdoor kitchens in particular are extremely resilient to freeze thaw. 

So although an RTA island can weather the winter problem-free sans cover… It’s still a nice touch to keep things looking fresh and new for longer.

You’d be surprised how much a layer of fabric makes a world of difference in terms of protecting your investment!

Starting to feel a bit more confident?

There’s a bit more to understand about island covers before we wrap up.

Additional Notes on the Topic of Covers

An outdoor kitchen cover is just a piece of fabric. How complicated could they really be?

Well, we’re just full of surprises today.

Materials for Your Island Cover Matters

Now that you understand how important BBQ grill island covers are… You’ll also need to know that you can’t use just any cover.

The materials matter.

You might think that a completely waterproof cover is going to be the smartest choice. Rain and melting snow won’t be able to permeate through… So that’s the best option, right?


As Phil put it, “You don’t want to trap moisture under there. This can lead to mold, mildew, island discoloration, and paint issues”.

If you choose the wrong kind of island cover, you might think you’re doing the right thing… But you end up creating more problems for yourself. Ugh.

Keeping this cautionary tale in mind… That’s why we recommend breathable island covers. (We work with CoverPros in particular.)

Breathable material prevents the issue of trapped moisture… While also still providing a robust physical barrier for your island structure.

Can I Skip a Cover if I Have a Gazebo?

l shaped outdoor bar under gazebo

Now, here’s something else you might be wondering.

If you’ve got an overhead structure like a gazebo or pavilion… Is an island cover still necessary?

“While it provides a lot more protection than open air, I would still treat it the same. If anything, a full sized cover in a storm might not be necessary”, Phil explains.

Redundancy, folks.

A gazebo will protect your island from rain, snow, and ice. But if you can add an extra layer of protection with minimal effort… Why not just go for it?

You’ll get additional protection from wind and salty air if you live near the ocean… And for a small additional cost, it’s well-worth the peace of mind.

And that’s all there is to it!

Reading all this may make maintaining a grill island seem like a real pain in the rear-end… But the vast majority of these tasks only take a few minutes, once or twice a year.

Even so, you might be looking for a way to put in the least amount of time possible.

Looking for a Low Maintenance DIY Outdoor Kitchen?

mike pyle with his family at their custom outdoor kitchen with a modern concrete finish

Although there’s a baseline level of maintenance required to keep your outdoor kitchen in tip top shape… It’s true that some islands will require more care than others.

Stainless steel outdoor kitchens will need far more careful attention to prevent rust and corrosion… Stucco loves to crack… And tile islands are prone to pieces falling off after a while.

So what outdoor kitchen solution comes with the least amount of headaches?

It’s got to be a ready to assemble outdoor kitchen.

Our grill island solution is manufactured with high performance concrete composite… And designed to be a frameless system.


Let’s step back a second.

Most outdoor kitchens are constructed with many layers. Metal or wood frames, cement board, mortar, and then the actual finish itself.

Each additional layer adds another point of failure where things can go wrong. And the more you increase your risk of problems… The more maintenance you’re going to have to stay on top of.

So at RTA, we flip this concept on its head.

Our outdoor kitchens are completely frame-less… Being poured into a single, solid, monolithic layer.

There’s no point of failure where things can go awry. And we can’t forget that these islands are made from concrete that’s rated for 100 years. These things have got some staying power!

Corrosion, rust, swelling, warping, and insect damage are all a non-issue… Allowing you to remain focused on the necessities of outdoor kitchen cleaning and maintenance.

Oh, and did we mention RTA outdoor kitchens are backed by a limited lifetime structural warranty?

Let’s just say we’re in it for the long haul.

Well, what do you think? Are you ready to take your outdoor living space to the next level?

If so… Check out our free online design tool to begin creating your own custom design.

And from there, we’ll be in touch to bring your dream (and low maintenance) outdoor kitchen to life.

Happy designing!

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