Air fryers are an easy, quick way to prepare food, but cleaning them can be a chore due to their many parts. 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.
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.
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 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.
Always empty and wash the tray where fats could accumulate. The basket will also need a wash after every use.
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 sufficiently, 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.
Not all air fryers have an exposed element or fan, but you should also clean around these as best you can. They may be protected by a grill which will need to be wiped down with a warm, damp cloth. If the element is exposed, try a very soft brush to gently prise away food residue.
Mesh grills or rotisseries as well as fat reducers 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 such as 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.
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."
Don't overfill your air fryer, either, as this can also cause the heating element to become dirty. It also reduces its effectiveness and you won't get the results you're after.
Giving your air fryer a wipe down 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.
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. If you still get smells over time, check that the heating element is clean and doesn't have any food residue burnt onto it.
You can also place vinegar and lemon juice into the basket and let the air fryer run for a few minutes to eliminate smells.
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 weaken non-stick coatings over time. 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.
How easy are air fryers 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 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 clean.