Because you asked — this is how often to clean an air fryer

To misquote Biggie — no, I don't love ma little nasty girl

Air fryer, cleansing spray and dish brush on purple background
(Image credit: Future)

If you've typed "how often to clean an air fryer" into your search bar — then I assume you sit in one of two camps. Camp A is concerned that they clean is too often and will end up scrubbing off a layer of non-stick. And Camp B.... well, I can smell that greasy basket from here, SNM.

Of course, there have been times when I've come in late from a night out, cooked some nugs to soak up the liquor, and haven't been bothered to clean my small air fryer. But I know if I leave it any longer, I'm opening a whole Pandora's box of sore tums (caused by pathogens) and the risk of practically inviting pests in for an all-you-can-eat. Oh, and did I mention that being a lazy babe can kill your countertop convection oven (RIP, air fryer 💀)

That's right — burnt-on bits are not only carcinogenic (aka harmful to your health), but they can also get stuck onto the non-stick surface (and inadvertently cause damage to your device when you go to remove it). Here, I've scribbled down a timeline with a checklist of what you need to do and when to ensure you (and your small kitchen appliance) can live your best lives. Because, IDK about you — but cooking in my oven is so last season.

How often should I clean my air fryer?

Cleaning your air fryer will also save you $$$ in the long run as it's much cheaper to cook this way versus a conventional fan-assisted oven. I mean, for this reason, solely, air fryers are worth it — let alone how much easier they are to maintain.

If you're the lucky owner of this useful kitchen gadget (welcome to the club), you'll also want to make sure you listen to the advice my gal Eve has on the do's and don’ts for using an air fryer.

WARNING: Before you get into main character mode with cleaning, always wait for it to cool down and unplug it from the mains. And on a more serious note — don't immerse the whole thing in water. It's uber dangerous and nine times out of ten will ruin your machine. Ain't nobody got time  —  or money — for that.

Here's what you'll need

After each use

Even if you can't see crumbs, batter, or grease in your basket — you should really clean the cooking pan every time you use your air fryer. Set your iPhone timer, and I bet you, with a little washing-up liquid and warm water, handwashing the non-stick tin takes no longer than five minutes.

If you're smart — you may have invested in some air fryer liners from Amazon. These lazy girl-approved removable silicone liners won't take long to wash either and will save you a job from cleaning the basket so frequently. Occasionally, when removing these inserts, some debris might fall drip or fall into the main cooking compartment, so you might want to give your fryer a wipe-down with a piece of paper towel. The same goes for if you've created a DIY aluminium foil tray, bb.

Though you shouldn't cook anything too saucy in it, occasionally a li'l BBQ sauce might catch on the pan. In this case, you might want to clean with baking soda to get rid this (or anything else that's a bit stubborn TBF). To do this, you'll need to create a paste (baking soda + water) and spoon it onto the affected area (yeah, it'll be a little crusty but don't panic). Let it dry and then gently handwash it as normal.

Oh, and how many times do you touch the handle to get a BTS look at your battered favorites? Unless you've got an air fryer with a transparent pane (e.g.: the Paris Rhone air fryer or an Instant Vortex air fryer with ClearCook cooking window — both on Amazon btw), it'll be more than you think. So sanitize that touchpoint by washing it with soap, wiping it with an anti-bac wipe, or spritzing a piece of paper towel with a good cleaning spray that's going to disinfect and get rid of any germs.

Got a fancy air fryer toaster oven? Then you'll have to remove the racks and clean them good and proper. Believe me when I say you do not want any burnt cheese to dry on hard. I've been there so you don't have to. Here, you can either clean 'em quickly or leave them to soak in the kitchen sink. While you're at it, scan your air fryer "floor" to see if there's any grease, goo, or gunk that needs attacking. Don't ignore it: at best, your air fryer will be stinky and smoky. At worse, it's a fire hazard waiting to happen. 

Once in a while

Want some good news girl? Unless you've spotted fingerprints or marks on the exterior, you don't *have* to clean the outside of your air fryer. Removing scraps and sauce stains won't affect the performance of the machine, but I'm house-proud. In most cases, you can use a cleaning wipe/spray. I've even been *that* girl who scratches dried-on debris off with my nail prior (don't @ me).

On the odd occasion, you might want to clean the heating element inside your air fryer. But it's important that you don't get it too wet. The easiest way to do this is to lay it on its back and give it the baking soda paste treatment I mentioned before. Once it's dried on, use an old toothbrush to *gently* scrub away at the white coating.

I've been vague with timings here as there are many variables to consider. For example: how often you use your air fryer, the air fryer recipes you cook, and your level of hygiene. No one's calling you out here, but if you quite literally take a "hands-on" approach to handling food, then go pressing the touchscreen functions or turning knobs — things are bound to get sticky and icky.

What happens if you don't clean air fryer?

Like many kitchen appliances, cross-contamination and harboring of bacteria can occur if you don't clean them after use. This may mean that your next batch of food might taste funky, or worse-still, you could get sick from food poisoning.

Is it OK to put water in the air fryer to clean?

By all means, you can soak the removable basket but don't under any circumstances allow the electrical parts of the machine to get wet. By doing so you can damage your machine, invalidate any warranty and electrocute yourself. It's also an electrical fire risk.

Christina Chrysostomou
Former acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the former acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.