Burnt bread, Pop-Tarts, or English muffins? No matter what comes out of yours, it's' time to learn how to clean a toaster, kids! Aside from my small coffee maker, my beloved toaster is my favorite small kitchen appliance. What else can give sourdough that crisp crunch or upgrade a woeful slice of Wonderbread? It's the perfect foundation for my avocado or eggs on toast, and uh... the best thing since sliced bread (sorry, not sorry).
But, if you don't know how to clean a toaster thoroughly, then that caramelized carby scent that wafts through your home in the AM may become not so pleasant. And, if it's really far gone — it could be a fire hazard.
Whether yours needs turning upside down or not, cleaning a toaster is easy, it's just also easily forgotten. Free yours of crispy crumbs and other burnt things using my expert knowledge. Class dismissed in under half an hour — promise!
Good to know
Time: Up to 30 minutes
Frequency: This depends on whether you have a pop-up or an air fryer toaster oven. We're focusing on pop-up toasters here. Melissa Maker, author, cleaning expert, and creator of Clean My Space (opens in new tab) advises you should clean your toaster ideally once every couple of weeks and a more thorough clean once a month. "A dirty toaster can smell, smoke, catch fire and make your food taste bad," says Maker.
Here's what you need
- Access to your kitchen sink or your backyard
- Access to a faucet
- Dish soap — Method's geranium scent (from Amazon) will have your appliance smelling like roses! (opens in new tab)
- A sponge — call me basic, but I love a Scrub Daddy (which you can get from Amazon) (opens in new tab)
- A clean microfiber cleaning cloth or paper towel (Bounty is super strong and available at Amazon (opens in new tab))
- Some cream of tartar or a good stainless steel cleaner, such as Bar Keepers Friend (opens in new tab) or The Pink Stuff (opens in new tab), both available at Amazon
- A new toothbrush or invest in this Oxo Good Grips brush set available on Amazon (opens in new tab)
- A handheld vac (optional)
- Cotton swabs (optional) — I love a Q-tip (opens in new tab)!
Step 1: Wait for your toaster to cool
Let your toaster cool and enjoy your breakfast.
WARNING: We know you know, but just as a polite and necessary reminder, you must unplug the toaster before you start. Give it time to cool down, too. Never put your fingers inside the toaster or anything metal.
And we may as well mention that some (interesting) people wonder if they can clean a toaster in the dishwasher. It's a big fat no. Moving on.
Step 2: Locate and clean the crumb tray
The crumb tray at the bottom of the toaster needs emptying to avoid the left-behind bits becoming a fire risk, so make sure you’re doing this frequently (including when you deep clean your toaster). To do this, find the tray at the bottom, there is usually a curved handle to help you slide it out.
Crumbs will fly everywhere so we would recommend doing it over the kitchen sink, kitchen trash can, or in the backyard if it's not raining. Consider it a little snack for the birdies and any other wildlife. Shake the crumbs off the tray then wipe it down using a sponge with dish soap and warm water, then air dry thoroughly. Meanwhile, flip your toaster upside down to dislodge any awkward crumbs.
"I always go in with a Q-tip (opens in new tab) into the toaster slots and brush the crumbs off," TikTok cleaning expert, Melissa Metrano (opens in new tab) says. "This will bring the crumbs down to the crumb tray, which I then remove and hand wash in the sink."
Helpful hint: Have your handheld vacuum handy for any food debris that isn't caught in the basin or trash can.
Step 3: Clean the inside of your toaster
Now to clean the inside — the ever so slightly awkward part. Dampen a toothbrush or a soft cloth and use it to gently brush the toaster coils inside.
Step 4: Clean the outside of your toaster
Next, you'll want to remove greasy fingerprints and unidentifiable splashes on the outside of your toaster. Simply clean the exterior with a damp sponge and dish soap, and wipe it completely dry with a microfiber cloth.
If you're wondering how to clean stainless steel toasters — just a soft cloth will do the job. For tough stains, you can use cream of tartar and water, Bar Keepers Friend (opens in new tab), or The Pink Stuff (opens in new tab) to tackle these, using your toothbrush for a little extra elbow grease.
Step 5: Put it back together again!
When it's all clean, looking great, and completely dry inside and out, you can put your crumb tray back and you're good to go.
How do I get brown stains off my toaster?
If you can't get rid of those brown stains left over from forgotten toast slices, then you can try using baking soda. Make a paste using baking soda and a little water, then apply it to the stains with a cloth or toothbrush and let it sit for five minutes or so depending on the severity. Then use a toothbrush to gently rub it off and the crusty food should lift off easily.
As tempting as it may be to grab a scraper or knife end, don't as you don't want to scratch the outside material or disturb the color of your toaster.
Can you use vinegar to clean a toaster?
For extra power when cleaning the inside of a toaster, use a little white vinegar on your cloth or toothbrush, making sure that you aren't getting your tools too wet as this can be hazardous. Using vinegar to clean a toaster is a good way to remove stuck-on melted cheese, toast crumbs, or anything else you find in there!
Meet our expert
Whether it's a slice of sourdough from the local bakery, or a New York-style bagel (with salt beef or salmon), Christina hearts bread in all shapes and sizes. This means her toaster is quite literally poppin'. The two-slice stainless steel appliance she has isn't the most spendy out there, but it does have seven heat settings, a defrost option, and a cancel option for when she wants to warm a Greek pita or two with some hummus for a quick snack.