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How to clean an air fryer

Get better results and fewer big cleans by regularly maintaining your air fryer.

Last updated: 05 April 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Air fryers are a popular, quick way to prepare all types of food, but cleaning the basket, tray, element and exterior can be a chore. Thankfully, a quick clean after each cooking session will prevent grease and grime accumulating in the drawer (yes, fats and oils from food can still build up in an air fryer even if you're using next to no oil!). Breadcrumbs and other food particles can also make their way into cracks and crevices both inside and outside the air fryer.

"It's very important to wipe up any build-up of oil residue or food inside the unit, as it can start to smoke and even catch alight, depending on where the residue is," warns CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair.

And of course, any fats from the previous cook could contaminate the taste of your next recipe.

What parts of an air fryer need to be cleaned?


Most air fryer baskets are small enough to be easily washed in your household sink.

Air fryers have numerous removable parts that can be washed in your kitchen sink. These include:

  • the pan and the basket which sits inside it
  • the drawer or tray (if present)
  • additional mesh parts for fat drainage and air circulation.

Although not removable, the element itself may also get dirty, as can the fan. These are not always accessible for easy cleaning and may be covered by a grill.

What do you need to clean an air fryer?


A toothpick rather than an abrasive scourer can help remove food residue from grills and mesh.

Warm, soapy water and a soft cloth/microfibre cloth are generally all you need to clean your air fryer. Never use a scourer or abrasive sponge to clean the interior as this can weaken or damage the non-stick coatings.

For stubborn food stuck to mesh areas, a toothpick is handy for removing particles.

Before you remove any parts for cleaning, make sure the appliance is unplugged and has sufficiently cooled. You may need silicone or rubber-tipped tongs to remove any fat-draining parts near the tray, as these could still be hot.

What parts of an air fryer need washing every time?

Always empty and wash the tray where fats, marinades and bits of food could accumulate. The basket will typically need a wash after every use. (If you're using the air fryer for successive batches, you may be able to get away with a quick wipe using a paper towel in between uses, or a microfibre cloth that you can reuse.)

bacon fat accumulated in air fryer

Cleaning your air fryer's basket after every use is a chore but will avoid the build-up of fats.


Wipe the inside of the air fryer with a damp cloth.

"It's easy to wipe up inside the unit with a microfibre cloth soaked in warm soapy water," Fiona advises.

Before cleaning, make sure the air fryer has cooled down completely so it's safe to touch, but not quite enough for food residue to have completely dried or coagulated. "If the unit is still a little warm, it makes cleaning so much easier," she adds.

Mesh grills or rotisseries as well as fat reducers, crisper trays and other parts are not as easy to clean. They may require extra soaking in hot water and detergent to break down the grease. Some manufacturers including Philips recommend a liquid degreaser if hot water and detergent is not sufficient to remove the oil, but check the care instructions for your appliance.

Once everything has been cleaned, make sure parts are completely dry before returning them to your air fryer.

How can you avoid grease building up?


A little water in the base of the drawer can help avoid excess fat and oils from smoking.

"When you're cooking high-fat foods like chicken wings or bacon, grease can drip down into the tray causing mess and smells," Fiona says. "You can add a small amount of water to the base of the drawer (if the design allows) before cooking to stop the fat from smoking and reduce cleaning."

To minimise the problem of a dirty element, avoid overfilling the basket with food as it, or any oil splatters, can come into contact with the element and reduce its effectiveness (this is also a fire risk). Similarly, avoid any light, leafy vegetables which could blow onto the element.

Cleaning the outside of your air fryer

Giving your air fryer a wipe down on the outside now and again is advisable, although food won't build up as quickly so you won't need to do it after every use. Simply use a damp microfibre cloth for this purpose. Models that don't have many dials and cracks where food can enter are easier to clean.

For safety reasons you must never place the main appliance into water or put it under running water, even if you've removed the power cord.

air fryer heating element

You may need to turn your air fryer upside down to access the heating element and surrounds for cleaning. Make sure it is unplugged and has cooled down sufficiently.

Cleaning the air fryer heating element

Your air fryer is essentially a small, fan-forced oven. A fan works with the element to distribute heat around the food. The element may, over time, become covered in residue which could cause smoke.

Make sure you check the manufacturer's instructions about where your specific model's element is located and how to clean it. You may need to turn the air fryer upside down to access it properly.

Not all air fryers have an exposed or accessible heating element, but i
n most cases, gently brushing with a dry cleaning brush will loosen any debris. In some cases you may be able to wipe it down with a warm, damp cloth, but we've seen different recommendations in manufacturers' manuals. Some warn you not to wipe down the element at all, while others mention this is OK. As a general rule, don't use anything harsh on the element.

Some residue may also, over time, find itself under the element and around the fan area. Many air fryer designs make it very difficult to access these areas for cleaning, but you can wipe around these areas as best you can using a warm, damp cloth.

For stubborn greasy bits, a soft toothbrush or cleaning brush with a paste of baking soda and a little water may loosen this debris, so long as you take care not to damage the nearby element. There's no need to try too hard to get under the element if it's not causing any performance issues. If your element is covered by a grill, don't try to unscrew anything to access it. Wipe the grill down with a damp cloth.

Always wait until the air fryer is completely dry before cooking in it again.

Safety first: Make sure your air fryer is disconnected from the power socket and has cooled down before attempting to clean anywhere near the element.

How to get rid of smells in an air fryer

Your air fryer may give off a plasticky burning smell when you first use it, which is normal after the first few uses if it's straight out of the box. Quite often the air fryer parts are covered with a protective coating which will eventually burn off. If you still get smells over time, check that the heating element is clean and that the non-stick coating is intact and undamaged.

You can also place vinegar and lemon juice into the basket and let the air fryer run for a few minutes to eliminate smells.

Are air fryers dishwasher-safe?

While an air fryer's pan/tray and basket are usually dishwasher-safe (consult your manual first to be sure), we don't recommend regular runs in the dishwasher as this could make the non-stick coatings less effective. A gentle hand wash should be enough to clean your air fryer. If you do use a dishwasher, make sure you scrape off any food residue first.

What's the easiest air fryer to clean?

In our testing, many air fryers only score OK for ease of cleaning, particularly if they have spare parts such as a rotisserie or wire grills which can trap food particles, as they may need soaking and require more effort to clean. Air fryers that rate well have baskets that are small enough to easily wash in your sink, and non-stick coatings that are easy to wipe over and clean.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.