Wondering how to clean an air fryer? Understanding how to get rid of oil, crumbs, batter, and bits of food debris is essential if you want your appliance to last for a long time. Even if you only have a small air fryer, it still needs regular cleaning in the same way that you maintain your other small kitchen appliances. Cleaning your air fryer ensures it stays hygienic, maintains the ability to heat up quickly, and this makes sure isn't a fire hazard on your kitchen countertop!
We trekked to our test kitchen to review a bunch of different air fryers, which obviously involved cleaning the basket inserts, heating elements, glass screens, and racks after we were done cooking. Rather than asking someone else to do it, we got our hands dirty, creating a step-by-step guide in the process. We've also recommended some cleaning supplies to help you do this (let's be honest: boring and gross) job, so you can keep calm and carry on cooking.
How to clean an air fryer?
Good to know
Not all air fryers are made equal. Some have baskets, others have trays, many have separate drawers, and a few even have rotisserie functionality to air fryer turkey or chicken! But, so we can be thorough in our explanation, we've decided to show you how to clean the most popular types: (a basket-style machine), and the Cusinart Air Fryer Toaster (which is akin to a mini countertop convection oven).
Here's what you'll need
- A soft bristle brush (or old toothbrush) like these on Amazon
- Dish soap, we love Method's lime and sea salt dish soap on Amazon
- Baking soda, Arm and Hammer is the one for me
- A small oven-safe bowl that fits inside your air fryer
- A multi-surface anti-bac spray, I like Mrs. Meyers which you can buy on Amazon
- Some paper towels
- A dry cloth like these Amazon microfiber ones
- A handheld vac, or your current vacuum and its crevice tool
- A small torch (or the setting on your phone will do)
1. Let the air fryer cool completely
Air fryers can get very, very hot when cooking, so unplug it and wait until it’s completely cooled before you get stuck in with cleaning. Don’t leave it too long though, or you’ll have to deal with solidified fat, which is trickier to remove.
2. Take the air fryer apart
Most air fryers come with a removable basket and a tray that either slots inside or is attached to your air fryer by its handle. Either way, this should lift away from the basket itself. Both need to be cleaned for sparkling results.
There’s also the interior of the air fryer itself, which does not have to be cleaned after every use — but it is still good to clean every once in a while.
When we reviewed air fryers in our test kitchen, Millie our head of reviews used a dish wand, which is super effective at making sure you've got enough washing-up liquid on your sponge without being wasteful. We like the Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Advanced Soap Control Dishwand, personally.
Wondering how to clean an air fryer basket? Just like a good non-stick pan, most air fryer baskets have a coating, which makes cooking in an air fryer easier but can be more sensitive to harsh and abrasive cleaning methods. Treat it with care to prolong the life of your machine. Do not — we repeat — do not use a metal scourer! This will scratch off the protective layer of your air fryer leaving it exposed to air and water. And you know what happens when metal, air, and water get together? Rust.
3. Get scrubbing
You know how this bit works: Submerge your basket and/or tray into warm water and start scrubbing away with a soft-bristled brush/sponge and some dish soap to bust the grease. For food that's practically glued on, you can create a thick baking soda paste (mixing the bicarb with a little water). Smooth this over (it's messy!) the tougher stains and leave it to do its thing before attempting to go in with warm water and soap again.
Do not, under any circumstances, submerge your air fryer in water. This presents an electrical shock risk, will probably break your appliance, and you'll probably invalidate your warranty too.
If your air fryer has shelves — you'll need to clean these too. Depending on how dirty they are, you can either give these a quick wipe-down or clean them properly in the kitchen sink with some warm water and eco-friendly cleaning product (I like Method's lime and sea salt dish soap on Amazon. Or you've got a little more time on your hands you can also clean them like you would an oven rack — my personal (and natural) favorite is using vinegar to clean them.
4. Wipe with a dry cloth
Take a soft (ideally microfiber) cloth to remove any remaining grease as well as the leftover water. Then just leave the air fryer to air dry either on your counter or drying rack.
Don't put it back inside the machine itself until the air fryer is fully dry, as this could result in steam the next time you cook, which is not helpful when aiming for that air-fried crisp result.
5. Wipe down the exterior
It’s worth giving the outside of your air fryer a wipe down with a slightly damp cloth (or sponge) too, as this can get greasy from daily use. Think about how many times you've touched the handle to impatiently sneak a peek of your food, or smudged the glass display window with fingerprints.
If you want that chef's kiss standard of clean, wipe it down with an antibacterial spray, or if you're feeling extra AF, treat your air fryer to a cleanse with an anti-bac wipe.
6. Clean the heating element
You don’t have to clean the heating element after every use, but it’s a good idea to do this every few uses to make sure your air fryer is working properly and safely. You'll be surprised how gunky things can get!
Carefully flip the air fryer upside-down to access the heating element — you should have the basket removed in order to do this, FYI. And you obvs want it unplugged. Try not to use anything that could leave fumes when cleaning this element, as it could prove dangerous when you have your next air-fried meal.
Use a microfiber cloth or paper towel to remove any grease that’s on the heating element. If it’s difficult to remove, you can use a very gentle scrubbing brush (or even better, an old toothbrush) to really get stuck in.
I used a little Mrs. Meyer's multi-surface cleaner to get into all the nooks and crannies. My top tip is to use your smartphone's torch to help you get into all the dark crevices.
The results below are a little gross, but not bad going for the amount I use my appliance. N.B: You might need to quickly blast your air fryer on high for a few minutes to get rid of any excess cleaner. In hindsight, I'd have used an unfragranced cleaner.
How to get rid of the smell in my air fryer
It really depends on what the smell is. New air fryers that are being used for the first time can smell like burned plastic. This is pretty normal and nothing to worry about. It should subside over a few uses.
On the other hand, if you've got a stinky air fryer from regular use, try mixing equal parts of lemon juice and distilled vinegar in the aforementioned oven-safe bowl, placing it in the air fryer, and setting it on high for two minutes. Be super careful when taking the crockery out!
Keep your appliance clean with these air fryer liners
If you don't want to clean your air fryer frequently, or just don't like chores full stop, invest in some air fryer liners. They're super cheap on Amazon, and there are different types available, including single-use parchment paper options or silicone/rubber sheets. Rather than cleaning the air fryer parts, you literally lay one of these down and then lift it out after cooking.
Whatever you do, don't try this TikTok air fryer cleaning "hack" that's doing the rounds. It will invalidate any guarantee and make your food taste soapy!
These brown paper air fryer liners are game-changers when it comes to keeping your air fryer clean. The liner holds oil from the food, glaze, and sauce that would normally drip off and burn onto the basket. And, rather than trying to cut some baking paper to size, these conveniently come pre-cut in 6.3, 7.9, or 8.9-inch dimensions. It can also be used in your oven or microwave.
Silicone air fryer liners are a more environmentally-friendly option if you don't want to throw away baking paper each time you cook. We're a fan of these ones in particular, as they have handles to help you lift out food and also come in a number of colors to add a pop of color to your kitchen.
How often should I clean my air fryer?
You need to clean your air fryer after every use. While air frying is the ultimate low-fat way of cooking air fryer recipe ideas, it can leave a lot of residual grease when cooking something that’s naturally fatty, like streaky bacon or lamb chops. Not paying your due diligence will result in smelly appliances that harbor potentially-harmful germs, bacteria, and mold.
There’s also a high chance that anything coated in breadcrumbs or seasoning will leave some residue at the bottom of your air fryer, so removing this before your next use is a must.
With that said, when you compare an air fryer to a deep-fat fryer, it's far less messy to cook fries in!
What happens if I don’t clean my air fryer?
We’ve been there. Sure, it can be annoying to clean your air fryer after every use, but if you don’t, then you could end up with nasty smells circulating your kitchen and even smoke coming off all the leftover crumbs and burnt oils. Granted, when you compare an air fryer to a deep-fat fryer you're using a lot less cooking fat (if any), but the principle still stands: clean your air fryer.
Generally speaking, air fryers are a healthy way to cook food — granted you are cleaning your appliance regularly to get rid of anything that could cause you ill health — and not eating scorched scraps from the previous meal.
Also, failing to clean your air fryer doesn't make financial sense — let me explain. When a small kitchen appliance (like an air fryer) is clean and fully operational, it can cost as little as 20 cents per hour. But if your machine is clogged up with all sorts of nastiness, the heating element has to work a lot harder to reach the optimal temperature, which means it'll take longer to cook your air fryer recipes.
Can I put my air fryer in the dishwasher?
Yes — most air fryer parts are dishwasher safe, so if yours fits in your dishwasher, you can put it on a hot pan cycle. For this reason alone, air fryers are worth the investment, because you can't exactly put your oven on a dishwashing cycle now, can you?!
However, you will need to do a bit of pre-cleaning. Pay attention to the air fryer basket and the inner chamber — any food that's stuck will need to be removed with a brush before you put the air fryer in the dishwasher. Otherwise, the bits of food will stay stuck to the parts or they could clog your dishwasher filter. If you find yours does get clogged, learn how to clean a dishwasher filter correctly.
Our air fryer cleaning experts
Millie has reviewed dozens of air fryers for Real Homes from her own kitchen in South London. She's lucky enough to have a (half-size) dishwasher, but in her testing, she also cleans air fryers by hand to check how well they scrub up manually. Her top tip is to always pop the used basket straight into the sink once you're done with it, otherwise, it's easy to forget about it once the time comes for doing the dishes!
Christina balances her time sitting behind a desk and getting hands-on with some of the best air fryers on the market — including her Cosori Lite air fryer. Though reviewing these appliances is fun, she appreciates that removing bits of food, grease, and debris can be a chore. Hence the need for this guide on how to clean an air fryer. You'll even notice her green-polished nails in our step-by-step solutions.
Her top tip? "When turning the machine over to clean the heating element, you might notice some crumbs appear on your countertop — use your handheld vac to quickly clean these up."
Louise lives with her girlfriends in an East London apartment and has the Dreo air fryer. Though she has confessed to not being diligent as she could be in the cleaning department, she does pop the basket in the dishwasher after each use. The outside simply gets a spritz of anti-bac spray and the excess product is wiped down with some paper towel.
Beth is a staff writer at Real Homes and owns the Ninja Foodi Max air fryer (that also doubles as a multi-cooker). Thanks to its non-stick pot and crisper tray, cleaning it is a total cinch. After use, she fills the pot with hot water, leaving the crisper tray in the pot to soak. Then a few minutes later, she pours the water away and uses a non-scratch sponge to remove any remaining grease. It’s that easy.