Toaster ovens do far more than make toast. Most models on the market today can cook smaller amounts of almost anything you'd make in a regular oven—pizza, chicken, cookies. And just like cleaning your oven regularly, you should clean your toaster oven routinely to avoid any food buildup.

“People use their toaster ovens for everything from roasting meats to baking casseroles and other items,” says Laurie M. Klein, a home economist for Hamilton Beach. “So the inside of a toaster oven could have a buildup of grease and various food splatters, which could ignite with high temperatures.”

Here’s how to get the job done in five simple steps and without using harsh chemicals.

Step 1: Unplug It

First things first, advises Cindy Fisher, Consumer Reports' lead test engineer for countertop appliances: “Always unplug your toaster oven.” Disconnect the appliance from the power source before you begin cleaning. And, of course, never immerse a toaster oven in water.

Step 2: Remove and Clean Elements

Put the toaster oven on a piece of newspaper to catch the crumbs, then take out the metal tray, rack, and lower crumb tray and place them in the sink. Use dish soap and water to wash these parts. To combat any stubborn stains on these removable pieces, Fisher recommends leaving them in the sink to soak overnight. Let them dry completely while you clean the rest of the appliance.

Step 3: Use a Homemade Cleaner

Create your own cleaning solution to clean the interior of the toaster oven by combining vinegar, warm water, and a little dish soap. “Apply that to the interior with a damp sponge,” instructs Fisher, “but try not to get any of the liquid on the heating elements.”  

Step 4: Apply Elbow Grease

Some toaster ovens have a porcelain enamel or a nonstick interior that makes them slightly easier to clean. But it can be damaged by metal scouring pads and abrasive cleaners. Instead, use a sponge, cloth, or old rag when wiping down your toaster oven. “For stubborn stains, use a plastic scouring pad,” Klein suggests.

Step 5: Repeat if Necessary

For food debris that is hard to remove, our engineer recommends tackling the chore after using your toaster oven. “Try cleaning the oven while it’s still a little warm,” says Fisher. “But again—be sure to unplug it first.”

Fisher advises wiping down the exterior of your toaster oven and cleaning the interior after every use. If you've neglected yours for too long and find that the coating is damaged or the oven isn't performing as well as it used to, it may be time to consider a newer model.

In Consumer Reports toaster oven tests, we rate models on ease of cleaning in addition to how they bake, broil, and make toast. All of our recommended models earned Very Good scores on our cleaning tests, including our top toaster oven, the Breville Smart Oven Pro BOV845BSS, $270.