How to clean an air fryer – five steps to get it looking (and cooking) like new

If you're the proud new owner of one of these energy-saving kitchen appliances, learning know how to clean an air fryer is key

black air fryer in kitchen with food on kitchen island
(Image credit: Ninja)

We all know someone who's obsessed with their air fryer, and while these handy kitchen appliances have been around since the noughties they're soaring in popularity right now. Even the best air fryers on the market need to be cleaned regularly in order to perform at their best, and luckily, they're really easy to clean (yay!). 

Whether you've just picked one up to keep your oven usage down and therefore save energy at home, or you want to give your trusty air fryer a deep clean, we've got you covered. Keeping your air fryer free of grime will help you get the most out of it, and it'll ensure the best, tastiest results (after all, dried-on grease and crumbs aren't going to do much for the flavour of your sweet potato chips).

How to clean an air fryer

If it's not cleaned often enough, your air fryer could produce nasty smells. There are also a few dos and don'ts to bear in mind. Soaring energy bills and the relatively low cost of running an air fryer have sparked an air fryer boom. If you're new to the air fryer fan club, keep reading for our *heavily* tried and tested methods to clean your air fryer in the easiest way possible.

air fryer in grey and white kitchen

(Image credit: Instant Brands)

1. Unplug your air fryer

Before you get started, make sure you unplug your air fryer to cut off the electricity supply. Most air fryers have a removable tray that simply pulls out of the machine, but some (such as the Tefal ActiFry range) have a different design that allows you to lift out the pan inserts from the top of the machine. Regardless of what your specific air fryer may be, switching it off before starting the cleaning process is a safe and smart move.

2. Get rid of residue

air fryer with bacon

(Image credit: TBC)

Cooking meats like bacon can often leave a layer of fat coating your air fryer basket. Many air fryers collect fat at the bottom of the tray, whether it’s dripped away from bacon or fallen off fries. This can solidify when cooled, which can be hard to wash away with water. 

Remove fat and crumbs using a dry paper towel, which will help the cleaning process before you start washing. It's best to do this before your air fryer basket cools, but if any liquids have already solidified, rinsing some hot water in the air fryer basket or even letting the machine run for a minute or so to warm it up again is an easy way of wiping excess oils away from the basket.

3. Start washing

'When you’ve finished cooking, simply take out the removable crisper drawer, press the button to remove the non-stick basket and hand wash both parts in hot soapy water,' says Wendy Miranda from Lakeland. Many air fryers have non-stick coatings, so don’t use anything too abrasive or you may risk damaging the basket. 

Be sure to clean both the inside and outside of the basket, as well as any holes in the insert. Either dry with a clean cloth or leave to drain.

Of course, if your air fryer basket is dishwasher-safe, you could always put it on the top shelf of the dishwasher for a quick rinse. This is great after heavy use, but it might not be necessary after cooking a few chicken goujons or some asparagus. Hand-washing will be quicker, less harsh on the basket, and will also have your air fryer up and running again in time for dinner.

4. Clean the fryer unit

While knowing how to clean an air fryer basket will come in useful day to day, it’s also important to know how to clean the exterior of your machine. Wipe it clean with a damp microfibre cloth, taking extra care around any buttons and controls. Some air fryers can mark easily if you operate with greasy fingers. Using a light cleaning spray will help you to buff away any lingering marks.

5. Tackle the inside

air fryer with wooden table

(Image credit: TBC)

Every now and again it’s important to clean the interior heater in your air fryer. This can be tricky, especially because you should avoid getting the heating element wet.
One of the best ways to clean the inside of an air fryer is to lay it on its back and apply a paste made out of a very small amount of water and some baking soda. Leave this to dry out and then scrub away the paste with a toothbrush.

Baking soda is a great natural cleaner that you'll see in many of our care and cleaning guides, and scrubbing it away will help to rub any residue and absorbed oil away from the air fryer uni. Just make sure it’s all gone before you next use your air fryer!

Molly Cleary
Molly Cleary

Molly is the Ecommerce Writer at Ideal Home and is always on the lookout for the next must-buy purchase for your home. Covering all things appliance related, with an emphasis on floorcare and air fryers, she regularly joins Millie at Future's Reading Test Facility to thoroughly put products through their paces. She's the proud owner of the Tower T17072 Vortx Vizion Digital Air Fryer, and uses it every single day while cooking at home.

'My air fryer is my most used kitchen appliance, so it's pretty important that it's kept clean,' says Ideal Home Ecommerce Writer Molly Cleary. 'I know there are hacks to get around it, but washing my air fryer after each use is an absolute non-negotiable for me. As I don't have a dishwasher, I always clean it by hand.

'To do this, I use my Dishmatic to lift any oily residue from the grill element, and then the soft side of this Elbow Grease pad to get rid of any stains within the basket,' Molly explains. 

'I never use anything abrasive on the grill or the basket in order to preserve the non-stick, and I'd recommend staying away from hard scrubbers and scourers if you want to protect your air fryer long-term. Another tip is to remember to give the exterior a wipe-down with a damp cloth from time to time too when unplugged, as your air fryer can collect a greasy film that you'll want to get rid of.'

black air fryer in kitchen with burgers and fries

(Image credit: Breville)

How to clean an air fryer before first use

It's a good idea to give your air fryer a quick clean before using it for the first time, removing any factory smells and making sure it's totally germ-free before coming into contact with your food. It might sound obvious, but make sure there's no extra packaging lurking in the machine, such as cardboard inserts. 

Clean the basket in warm soapy water and use a slightly damp cloth to wipe down the interior and exterior of the appliance. 'We just recommend soap and water for air fryers,' say the experts at Tower. 'However, our community have many hacks that make cleaning the air fryer easier. The main one is adding water and lemon to the basket, and turning the air fryer on and this helps loosen the grease.'

How often should I clean my air fryer?

'We recommend to always wash the basket and trays after every use, even if it doesn’t appear dirty,' says Zoe McClean, Breville Senior Home Economist. 'Fat splashes and food residue can get easily baked on and will be difficult to remove if you leave it for a long time.' 

Zoe also recommends wiping the outside with a damp cloth and buffing with a microfibre cloth, at Amazon to keep the air fryer looking beautiful and shiny. If you don't clean the basket after every use, you’ll end up with burnt residue or dangerous hot oils that can emit smoke and damage your air fryer.

Luckily, if you follow our tips on how to clean an air fryer basket you should be able to do this in minutes. As for the exterior and inner heating element, this can be done less frequently.

Millie Fender
Head of Reviews

Millie Fender is Head of Reviews at Ideal Home. She joined Ideal Home as an Ecommerce Editor in 2021, covering all of the site's small appliance and cookware shopping content. Millie formerly worked at Top Ten Reviews, another Future site, where she produced review and buying guides across a range of home products, from fridges to blenders. As Head of Reviews, her job is to test all the wackiest product launches, whether they're air fryers, bread makers, or juicers, and give you her honest experience.