How to Clean an Air Fryer in 5 Simple Steps

Our tests find that some models are much easier to clean than others. Here's the quickest way to get the job done.

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You might assume that cleaning an air fryer would be easy. After all, these machines cook food with hot air and not much oil. That has to be an improvement over cleaning up after deep-frying, with oil splatters that can wind up all over your range and used fat that has to be discarded—right?

True—but the food cooked in an air fryer may still produce fat or oil that winds up in the bottom of the pull-out basket drawer. And putting off cleanup means it’ll be a tougher chore whenever you get to it.

If you’re smelling odors from the air fryer or seeing smoke as your food cooks, those are signs that grease likely has accumulated in the drawer or on the heating element, or that leftover pieces of food are caught in the basket holes. And every time you use the fryer, those bits of food will keep cooking and eventually burn.

MORE ON AIR FRYERS

That’s why you should clean your air fryer after every use.

Our testers found that the nooks and crannies on some air fryer components are quite difficult to clean, and the crevices on the exterior take effort, too.

Only three of the 40 models currently in our ratings snag an Excellent rating in our cleaning test, but a couple dozen scored Very Good in this category, as reflected in our air fryer ratings. Nonetheless, it’s helpful to know how to properly clean whatever model you own.

How to Clean an Air Fryer

Most of the air fryers we’ve tested, 31 out of 40 to be exact, claim to have dishwasher-safe components, and we note this in our ratings. The owner’s manual will offer cleaning tips specific to your air fryer, but in general, here’s what Larry Ciufo, who tests air fryers for CR, suggests you do:

1. Don’t delay cleaning, or you’ll come to regret it. “Do not allow the crumbs and bits of food to sit overnight, or the basket and drawer will be a nightmare to clean,” Ciufo says. “When you’re done cooking, unplug the air fryer, let it cool, and then empty out the oil from the pullout drawer and dispose of it.”

If you’re air-frying food with a sticky sauce, such as marinated ribs, clean the grate or basket and drawer while they’re still warm—the mess will come off easier.

2. Clean the removable components with warm, soapy water. Use a soft sponge or cloth—no abrasives. If food is stuck on any of the parts, soak them in hot water and dish detergent to loosen the food, then clean.

3. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick to poke out food that may be stuck in the basket or grate. Dry the components separately.

4. Clean the inside of the air fryer using a damp cloth dipped in warm soapy water. The basket and drawer should still be removed. Check the heating element for grease and food debris and wipe clean. (Some manufacturers say you can use a soft brush—but not steel wire—to remove stuck-on food.) Dry, then reassemble.

5. Wipe the exterior with a damp cloth or sponge, then dry the appliance.

How to Deal With Lingering Odors

When a food gives off a strong smell while cooking, the odor may linger in your air fryer, even after cleaning. NewAir, maker of Magic Chef air fryers, recommends soaking the food basket and drawer in soapy water for 30 to 60 minutes before cleaning again. If the smell persists, cut a lemon in half and rub it over the basket and drawer, let it sit 30 minutes, then rewash.

Be Careful With Nonstick

Consumers have complained on our website and elsewhere that the nonstick coating on some air fryer components flakes off over time. We haven’t seen this (our tests evaluate performance right out of the box), but our advice regarding other nonstick cookware holds true here, too: Do not use metal utensils, steel wool, or any other abrasives, because they can scratch or chip the nonstick coating.

And if the nonstick coating is flaking, don’t use the air fryer. Instead, call the manufacturer’s customer service and ask for a new basket, or try to return the air fryer to the retailer.

3 Impressive Air Fryers That Are Pretty Easy to Clean

These top-performing air fryers make clearing crumbs and food debris a fairly simple job.


Headshot of CRO Home Editor Tanya Christian

Tanya A. Christian

I've spent more than a decade covering lifestyle, news, and policy. At Consumer Reports, I'm happy to sit at the intersection of these specialties, writing about appliances, product safety and advocacy, consumer fairness, and the best tools and products to help you spruce up your home. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I'm exploring new cultures through travel and taking on home makeover projects, one room at a time.