How to clean an air fryer: it’s easier than you probably think

Look after your air fryer and it’ll look after you. Just follow these quick and easy air fryer cleaning tips

Xiaomi Mi Smart Air Fryer
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Buying yourself the best air fryer is one thing but looking after it is another. The best thing about the humble air fryer though is it’ll be much easier to keep clean than, say, a deep fat fryer. If you’ve ever had to use one of those for making chips and other fried food, you’ll know how much of a pain they can be to maintain. Not so with an air fryer. In fact, the latest models are so well designed that there’s actually very little to do in terms of cleaning them.

There is a bit of a but, however. While you won’t have to spend time mopping up vats of oil in the same way as you would with a deep fat fryer, you’ll need to clean your machine inside and out for obvious reasons. An air fryer uses less, if any oil, which gets things off to a head start. This is a cooking appliance though, so where there’s heat and food there’s also some degree of mess to clean up. Here are my thoughts on how to keep your air fryer spick and span.

First time use

Ninja Air Fryer

(Image credit: Ninja)

Before you get to the cleaning bit there’s also that exciting moment when you first unwrap your shiny new air fryer. Lifting it out of the box and picking through the manual there’s usually a section in there about cleaning the air fryer before use. I know you’ll be keen to get the machine fired up and frying, but it’s worth spending a little time following the guidance prior to using it for the first time.

Any new appliance invariably comes with some residues left over from production. There may be traces of industrial oils, plastic mould releasing agents and, perhaps, even some grubby fingerprints from the poor soul who assembled your machine in the factory. So, it’s therefore prudent to give anything that can be cleaned a once over before you start using your purchase for the first time.

What to clean

Xiaomi Mi Smart Air Fryer

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Your manual should give clear guidance on which elements of the air fryer can be cleaned, either with hot soapy water or if they should be given a wipe over with a moist cloth. 

Anything with a plug attached or with electrical components inside will obviously be off limits to soap, water or anything else that might cause a shock or fire hazard. Again, the manual and good old common sense should provide some obvious steer here.

The main thing you’ll want to ensure is spotlessly clean prior to first use is any element that will be touching your food. So, while you can easily wipe over exterior components, pay plenty of attention to ensuring interior surfaces are grease, oil and residue free. 

In fact, you may find that some appliances such as oven-style air fryers require you to run them at a specified heat for a while in order to burn off any of these residues. That doesn’t extend to every air fryer model mind, but there are some that will advise to do this – so check that manual!

Everyday cleaning

Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2in1

(Image credit: Tefal)

It’s also good practice to ensure you clean your machine after each and every use. While it is possible to get away with not bothering, over time this will take its toll on your prized air fryer. 

These things get hot, so spatters, stains and sizzled food remains will soon turn your machine into a sorry looking thing. Before you clean anything though, eat your food and let the air fryer cool down. Also unplug it from the mains, just in case and to be on the safe side.

The good news on the cleaning front is that many air fryers have some components that can be easily removed and are dishwasher friendly. This usually includes the main cooking basket or drawer but might also extend to any additional shelving, wire baskets, mixing arms or peripherals that are used during the cooking process.

However, particularly in the case of any component with a non-stick coating, you’re better off in the long run cleaning by hand, using warm, soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge or brush. Dishwashers gradually degrade non-stick coatings over time, alas. 

Manual cleaning

Xiaomi Mi Smart Air Fryer

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Alternatively, use some hot soapy water and clean the same components by hand in a washing up bowl. The key thing to watch for is that you don’t damage any non-stick components with overzealous scrubbing. 

Many baskets and bowls are made of some sort of plastic, but there are other air fryer examples that have metal containers with non-stick finishes. So clean with care. If you’ve got ingrained dirt then a longer, leisurely soak is the way to free up any stubborn stains. Go on, spoil your new appliance with some TLC.

Prior to dunking said items in water you should also empty any crumbs, chunks of food or burnt bits into the bin. Any oil needs to be drained off by pouring it into a kitchen towel or similar. 

Likewise, wipe away any residue to avoid ending up with oily water. If you’ve been cooking things like chicken wings or, perhaps, a whole bird then oil leftovers can be more rather than less. Just go carefully with that hot oil.

Stubborn areas

Iris Air Fryer

(Image credit: Lizzy Briskin)

Prolongued use of an air fryer can gradually make areas of the machine discolour, mainly because of the heat but also because of food colourings, seasoning and other stuff that you use to make your fried food that little bit more delicious. 

If you’re fanatical on keeping your kitchen looking spotless this can become quite annoying. It’s therefore also good practice to make sure you wipe down the main air fryer unit, with a damp cloth or even wipes if you prefer.

Some locations, like the area where the heat comes out from the fan, will most likely discolour quite badly over time. There’s not too much you can do about this. However, you can reduce the staining by cleaning it every time the machine is used. 

A paste made from bicarbonate of soda and water, applied with a soft brush can be used to get into stubborn areas, but again, it’s vital to avoid any areas where moisture might seep into electrical components. Do not under any circumstances use cleaning sprays, bleach, oven cleaner or anything else abrasive on the interior of an air fryer unless the Manual for your model specifically says you can. Otherwise you may have to search through our best air fryer guide for a replacement sooner than you want.

In most cases, keeping an air fryer clean enough to use effectively and hygienically is easy, even if keeping it perfectly box-fresh and pristine is very hard. By cleaning after every use, you’ll extend the life of your air fryer, and be making delicious meals for years to come. 

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.