The air fryer has quickly become a beloved kitchen tool that everyone from the most inexperienced cook to the dedicated baker can enjoy. It’s versatile, it’s easy to use and it allows people to indulge in healthier versions of their favorite foods.
But air fryers, like other small kitchen appliances, do need to be cleaned regularly, and they need to be cleaned the right way to prevent damage. Ahead, we rounded up everything you need to know about keeping your air fryer clean and in good working order — and, with the help of experts, we identified the best methods for addressing common problems, from sticky buildup to funky odors.
How to clean an air fryer
Cleaning an air fryer doesn’t require any special cleaning products or “hacks,” according to the experts we spoke to — regular dish soap does the job. Oliver Chan, the head of customer product experience at Dash, and Ethan Kudler, an associate product development manager at Dash, say, “We recommend hand-washing over the dishwasher while using a nonabrasive sponge and dish soap.”
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While you don’t need anything other than a sponge and dish soap for routine cleaning of an air fryer, it is important to use the right kind of sponge. Skip the use of abrasive scrub sponges, including the scrubby-backed sides of kitchen sponges, which can scour away the air fryer’s nonstick coating. If you do need to use a scrub sponge to remove stuck-on food, a non-scratch Dobie pad is the right sponge to use.
Chan and Kudler provided the following cleaning tips to ensure your air fryer lasts a long time:
- Don’t use metal objects or anything abrasive to scrape off stuck-on food — soak in warm, soapy water and scrub.
- Always allow the unit to cool before washing.
- Do not submerge after use, as the rapid temperature change may cause the nonstick coating to warp.
- While most air fryers have dishwasher-safe components, if you want to ensure the longevity of the nonstick coating, it’s strongly encouraged to hand-wash.
Do I need to clean my air fryer after every use?
The experts we spoke to recommend cleaning an air fryer after every use, although they say it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. “It really depends on what you are making,” say Regina Chaperon and Kara Shilalie, who created Air Fryer Addicts to document their favorite air fryer recipes. “If it’s not very greasy, for instance, french fries, which don’t create a huge mess, you can skip cleaning.”
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For the most part, however, Chaperon and Shilalie clean their air fryers after cooking. “We normally clean ours right away with a gentle dish soap and a soft sponge,” they say. “For super-heavy, greasy messes, we make sure we soak right away.”
How do I remove sticky oil from an air fryer?
“If you have cooked something greasy,” Chaperon and Shilalie say, “make sure you soak it right away. We’ve seen quite a few hacks on TikTok and Instagram, but we have found a sponge and dish soap with hot water works best.”
Chan and Kudler agree that soaking is the best method for cleaning more stubborn air fryer messes, and share what they call “an enhanced version of the ‘let it soak’ method”:
- Mix dish soap and about an inch of water in the basket.
- Put it back into the slot and turn to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once it’s finished, dump out the water and wipe clean.
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Chan and Kudler also offer a tip to prevent sticky oil residue buildup on an air fryer. “Sticky oil often happens when the temperature gets too high; you’ll end up with that sticky residue,” they explain. To avoid this, they recommend using cooking oils with higher smoke points like avocado oil.
How do I get rid of smells in an air fryer?
If an air fryer has not been cleaned properly, smells can develop, and those lingering odors can transfer to your food, making it taste horrible.
The problem may also be that you were so eager to use your new air fryer that you didn’t take the time to run the machine for the recommended time prior to use. “It is also common for an air fryer to have what may be interpreted as a chemical smell on first use,” Chan and Kudler say. “This is common — it’s residue from the factory that is burning off. That’s why it’s recommended that you run the air fryer for 10 to 15 minutes prior to use.”
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Fortunately, there is a very simple and inexpensive solution. “Baking soda and water,” Chan and Kudler say, is all that’s needed to eliminate lingering odors, including manufacturing residue, in an air fryer. Sprinkle baking soda on a wet sponge and clean the basket the way you would with dish soap, or use Chan and Kudler’s enhanced-let-it-soak method, substituting baking soda for dish soap.
Expert tips for reducing cleaning time
We asked the experts we spoke to what products they recommend for reducing cleaning time, and tips for using them effectively.
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“We love using foil underneath the basket to help with cleaning,” Chaperon and Shilalie say, “especially if we are making something like steak or chicken, in which a lot of grease drips.” They add that before using any kind of liner, it’s important to consult the air fryer’s user manual to ensure it will be compatible with your machine.
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Foil liners can be used to make cleaning up after cooking greasy meats a snap, and can also make transporting baked goods from air fryer to gathering super easy. Just remove from the air fryer, allow to cool and then cover — no transferring to to-go containers required.
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Chaperon and Shilalie like perforated parchment paper liners, which they say make air fryer cleanup super easy — but proper use is crucial. “When using parchment paper,” Chan and Kudler say, “it’s important to have the food placed on top before you turn the unit on — the fan used for air circulation may cause the paper to catch fire if it gets too close to the heating element.”
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If drifting parchment is a concern but you like the idea of a paper liner, more structured, basket-style paper liners are a good alternative to sheets of perforated parchment paper.