The TikTok air fryer cleaning "hack" debunked — plus 5 mistakes that will ruin your appliance

We've spotted this TikTok air fryer cleaning hack going viral, and here's why the experts don't approve

A black air fryer in kitchen with retro brown and white patterned wall tile decor
(Image credit: Getty / MarioGuti)

On the lookout for an air fryer cleaning hack? As much as this gourmet gadget has changed the way we eat forever, making sure the basket is ready to use each time isn't the most exciting thing on our to-do list.

Even if you own the best air fryer, manufacturers haven't quite come up with a pyrolytic model just yet. (By the way, that's totally my idea if any entrepreneurs are reading!)

In the meantime, while we're waiting for a self-cleaning appliance to land on the market, air fryer cleaning hacks are super popular on TikTok and there are tons of videos to feast your eyes on.

However, not all methods are approved by brands — in fact, some may do more harm than good. So we've done the handiwork and trawled through videos to vet which methods are a go, and which ones are a damn right no.

The air fryer cleaning hacks you should avoid


♬ original sound - Mercy

Wondering what you can cook in an air fryer? A soapy solution isn't one of them. We've seen plenty of TikTok videos that advocate pouring your favorite dish soap and water into the basket, selecting a temperature or program, and letting it do its thing. While this method sounds great if you're grossed out by touching food, everything you make from there on will taste like your dishwashing liquid. Our advice? If slimy debris gives you the ick, invest in some rubber gloves.

It goes without saying that the video we've used is an extreme example. You should clean your air fryer after use as it can affect your health. But more on that below...

Real Homes verdict: Instead of trying out the popular dishwasher tablet hack, you could invest in an air fryer liner from Amazon. Paper or silicone, these sheets literally lift out of your appliance for fuss-free cleaning. Alternatively, using a sponge and eco-friendly washing-up liquid will also do the trick.

Otherwise, most air fryers have removable, dishwasher-safe parts, so use your tabs for the greater good and clean a full load of crockery and cutlery! Calling it a hack implies that this how-to can save time, however, dishwasher vs. handwashing vs. TikTok trick — the social media method comes last.

What not to do when cleaning an air fryer

1. Using a scourer to clean your air fryer

Remember that episode of The Office where Michael Scott screams "No, God! No, God, Please No! No! No!" Well, that's our reaction when someone mentions metal scourer and air fryer in the same sentence.

Reason being is that nine times out of 10 it will take off the non-stick coating on your appliance. Because air fryers rely on hot air (and no oil), this will mean that food will inevitably stick to the basket.

Another reason not to reach for a metal sponge is that removing the non-stick coating might make your air fryer prone to rust. Not only does it look ugly, but letting water and metal mix could impact your air fryer's performance.

2. Using metal utensils to retrieve food

Yeah, no, pass. We know that pair of super shiny stainless steel tongs or fish slice looks fancy, but personally, we wouldn't risk scraping the non-stick coating for the same reasons as above. Instead, invest in some silicone utensils. These Hotec premium stainless locking tongs have a five-star rating on Amazon.

3. Putting a wet basket back into the air fryer

If you're a guy or gal who likes to let dishes and cutlery drip dry on the drying rack — listen up. Using a tea towel to ensure your baskets are bone dry is a small step that will help your air fryer live its best life; yours too with all the tasty air fryer recipes you'll be making.

Put a damp basket back into the appliance and you might be asking for trouble. At the very least, it can affect how quickly your air fryer heats up. At worst, you risk damaging the internal components. Try explaining that to anyone with a craving for nuggets and fries!

4. Submerging the whole air fryer in water

RIP air fryer. No, really. Electricity and water don't mix, but it doesn't take a genius to figure that one out. When cleaning an air fryer, don't be tempted to hand wash it without disassembling the basket and/or tray. 1.) It's lazy 2.) It's dangerous, and 3.) You could invalidate your warranty and most instruction manuals advise against this.

Given that the cost to run an air fryer is cheaper than using your oven, you'll indirectly increase your energy bills by reverting back to your fixed cooker. Plus, if you plan to replace a broken air fryer, you'll be forking out even more — assuming you can get your hands on another, that is.

5. Thinking you can get away with not cleaning it

Yup, we've learned the hard way. When reviewing air fryers in our test kitchen, we made the rookie mistake of trying to cook foods consecutively. What's the worst that can happen you might ask?

Smoke, setting off fire alarms, not to mention a foul odor that left our hair smelling a bit gross too. But, the experts have also warned that not cleaning your air fryer could be a fire hazard too. This totally makes sense considering that one in five dirty ovens can cause house fires.

Though your air fryer might not burst into flames, let's be honest: eating burnt, acrid scraps isn't pleasant. Plus leaving grease and crumbs leave your components to harbor bacteria, which in turn can cause food poisoning. Gross.

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.