How to Clean an Air Fryer (Because It’s Looking Pretty Greasy in There)

how to clean an air fryer universal
Grandbrothers/Getty Images

You might have thought air fryers would be a passing fad, but their popularity among French fry-loving home cooks persists. In case you’ve never used one before, an air fryer is a countertop convection oven that can cook just about anything to a crisp with the help of high-powered fans that circulate even heat. The one thing the appliance can’t do? Clean itself.

Like every other gadget in your kitchen, these puppies will get quite gross unless you give ’em some TLC from time to time. (FYI, the longer you wait, the bigger the chore.) If yours has seen better days, read on to learn how to clean an air fryer, even if you’ve never done it before. (We won’t judge.)

16 of the Best Air Fryers According to Me, a French Fry Enthusiast

How to Clean an Air Fryer

No matter how scary your fryer basket is looking, follow these simple steps to give your air fryer a deep clean. It will be good as new in no time.

What You’ll Need:

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda

How to Clean an Air Fryer:

  1. Unplug the appliance. This one is pretty straightforward.
  2. Wash the grease tray (aka baking pan). Just pull out the drawer (ideally while it's still warm, but not too hot to touch), remove the grease tray and use a paper towel to wipe away excess oil before washing the tray in warm, soapy water. (Note: Some air fryers have dishwasher-safe components, so you can always consult the user guide to see if you can cut a corner here; otherwise, err on the side of caution and hand-wash.
  3. Wash the basket. Clean the frying basket in hot, soapy water (a brief soak might be helpful for stuck-on gunk) and use the soft-bristled (i.e., non-abrasive) brush to gently scrub. If you have a basket with grates or lots of tiny holes, use a toothpick or skewer to clean out the gunk.
  4. Dry the removable parts. It’s important to promptly and thoroughly dry both the grease tray and frying basket with a microfiber towel (Swedish dishcloths and Scrub Daddy sponges are popular, too) before putting them back inside the appliance.
  5. Wipe down the interior. With that (now damp) microfiber cloth and a spot of dish soap, quickly wipe down the interior of the air fryer to remove any grease that’s been left behind after cooking. Next, grab a fresh microfiber cloth, get it damp and wipe the interior again to remove any soapy residue.
  6. Clean the heating element. The heating element itself can be cleaned with the exact same wipe-down procedure described in step five. However, if there’s actual food stuck to it, you should remove that first by scrubbing it with a soft-bristled brush and a slurry of baking soda and water. When the scrub and wipe-down is finished, dry the heating element with a clean cloth.
how to clean an air fryer tips
SGAPhoto/Getty Images

Tips for Cleaning an Air Fryer

The following tips will help ensure that cleaning your air fryer isn’t more arduous than it needs to be.

  • Line or grease the baking tray before you use it. Most air fryers boast nonstick baking trays, but when you’re routinely cooking with sauces and marinades, the material of said trays won’t always live up to that description. A pro tip, courtesy of the air fryer purveyors at Hanabishi, is to lightly grease the baking tray with a high smoke point cooking oil. Or better yet, line the tray with aluminum foil before cooking marinated foods on it to make clean-up a breeze. Just make sure it doesn’t cover the entire basket, or else you’ll prevent air from circulating.
  • Don’t overdo the breading. It doesn’t matter what model you own, all air fryers have one thing in common: a powerful fan. It’s the efficient circulation of hot air that makes your food come out so delightfully crisp. Alas, this same feature can send things flying. The air fryer experts at Hanabishi recommend that you dip your food in a good, edible glue (think: egg wash, mayonnaise or heavy cream) before breading so the crumbly bits adhere. Be sure to tap off any excess breading before placing the food into the air fryer.
  • Get rid of grease. As we know, air fryers greatly reduce the need for added oil, but if you’re cooking something that contains a lot of fat (like bacon), it can smoke. As such, it’s a good idea to give your air fryer a paper towel pat-down after cooking something fatty to remove excess grease from your appliance—you know, like you used to do to your pizza in 1995.

How Often Should You Clean Your Air Fryer?

Our best advice is to buck up and give your air fryer a quick clean after every use so you can spare yourself a bigger job down the road, especially if you are using it for crumby foods, meat or anything coated in a sauce or marinade. You’ll thank us later, promise.

The 55 Best Air Fryer Recipes, from Chicken Wings to Brussels Sprouts

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.

purewow author

Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...