How to Clean a Toaster Quickly and Easily

Once you know how to clean a toaster, you can cast out the crumbs to fend off any fire hazards

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Cleaning your air fryer might make a regular appearance on your kitchen cleaning schedule, what with the grease and oil that can build up on this must-have gadget. On the other hand, learning how to clean a toaster isn’t always a top task. You already give it the occasional (and vigorous) shake over the sink when the smell of burning crumbs engulfs the kitchen—surely that’s enough?

Not quite. But you’re not alone in assuming the humble toaster doesn’t deserve much attention when prioritizing how to clean your kitchen. “Toasters are often considered an unnecessary chore when it comes to cleaning,” says Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid. “However, the reason we encourage you to clean your toaster is because the buildup of crumbs can potentially be a burn risk and cause a fire.”

Beyond that, the burnt crumbs can expose your lungs to hazardous particles, dirty toasters are havens for bacteria and bugs, and your bread might have an icky aftertaste or not toast evenly. Yikes! It’s time to learn how to clean these workhorse appliances meticulously and safely. The simple steps below shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

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How often should you clean a toaster?

If you’re slotting slices of bread into your toaster daily, consider cleaning this appliance at least weekly. Get a jump on your weekly toaster cleaning if you spot a buildup of crumbs. Don’t wait until you smell the leftover fragments burning.

Those crumbs aren’t just an invitation for bad odors and bacteria. According to the Fire Safety Management Program at New Jersey City University, crumb accumulation on or near the heating elements means toasters are a fire hazard if you don’t clean them enough. And regularly emptying them can also extend the lifespan of your appliance, helping you to continue making the perfect piece of toast.

How to clean a toaster

Toaster construction varies, so it’s worth checking for specific cleaning suggestions in the model’s instruction manual before following the general tips for how to clean a toaster below. And here’s a smart cleaning tip: Do this job at the end of the day so your toaster will be fully dry and ready to make a batch of breakfast bagels the following morning.


1. Unplug the toaster

If you’re checking off chores and short on time, you may be tempted to clean your toaster immediately after use. But this common kitchen cleaning mistake is a no-go. “Only perform cleaning tasks when your toaster is unplugged,” Peterson says.

You don’t want to risk starting a fire or getting a shock, so allow the toaster to fully cool after use. And never soak it in water—this damages electrical elements and can also be a fire risk.

2. Clear crumbs from inside the toaster

“Although it’s impossible to deep-clean the inside of the toaster, flipping it upside down over the compost bin or garbage is highly effective,” Peterson says.

To loosen those stubborn, wedged-in toast particles, gently run a soft-bristle pastry brush or long-handled paintbrush along the rim and into the slots. While some people use long tweezers, scissors or knives as a hack to reach caught crumbs, these can damage the electrical elements. And for safety reasons, Peterson reminds us never to use metal equipment when the toaster is plugged in.

3. Empty and wash the crumb tray

Most toasters have a removable tray on their base designed to catch loose crumbs. Don’t forget to empty it and remove any grimy, greasy buildup with a sponge, warm water and mild dish soap. Dry it off with a microfiber cloth before returning it to the toaster.

4. Clean the outside of the toaster

“There is no particular cleaning solution to use for toasters,” Petersen says. To remove stubborn grease marks, clean with a microfiber cloth or nonabrasive sponge, rubbing the exterior down with warm water and mild dish soap.

If you’re wondering how to clean a stainless steel toaster, know that both store-bought stainless steel cleaners and DIY solutions will get the job done. Try using Bar Keepers Friend or a paste of baking soda and water to polish it without scratching. Avoid smooshing the solution into the cavities around the levers or buttons.

If there are crumbs or a greasy buildup set into the crevices around the buttons, it’s a clever use of a toothpick to ease them out gently. Or, if your toaster model allows it, you could remove the buttons and wash them separately.

5. Let the toaster fully dry before use

Don’t dunk your toaster in water or use a sopping-wet sponge when cleaning. Always squeeze out your sponge before using it on the exterior. Then wipe everything with a dry microfiber cloth to catch any stray drips. Tackling toaster cleaning before going to bed means it will have time to dry fully before you use it again the next day.

Pro tip: Jiggle gently to dislodge crumbs

Research conducted in conjunction with The Ohio State University suggests that vigorous shaking can damage heating elements and electrical connections. Go easy and stick with a very gentle jiggle.

How to clean a toaster oven

Electric Oven With Clipping Pathcarlosalvarez/getty images

These countertop oven-toaster hybrids don’t have slots that crumbs build up in like a traditional toaster. But they can still pose a fire risk if you don’t regularly clean the crumbs from the base.

Keep in mind, the appliance will get grimier if you frequently reheat a rotisserie chicken or other greasy food. So regular cleaning (similar to how you clean your oven) is just as important. Learn how to clean a toaster oven with these simple steps.


1. Unplug the toaster oven

Like you would with a toaster, pull the plug before scrubbing your appliance to reduce the fire and shock risk. Don’t go straight in there after cooking, either. Ensure the toaster oven is cool to the touch, inside and out, before picking up the cleaning products.

2. Remove and clean the washable parts

Take out any removable metal racks or trays to wash them in the sink. Let them soak in a mix of hot water and dish soap before scrubbing them with a sponge.

For baked-on grease, rub the racks with a baking-soda-and-water paste. Letting the paste sit for 30 minutes to overnight can help it work its magic. If the grime is still not lifting, try pouring vinegar over the baking-soda paste. This homemade cleaner creates an effective fizzy chemical reaction.

3. Clean the toaster oven’s interior and door

Brush out any crumbs with a soft-bristle pastry brush. Wipe the interior with a damp cloth, taking care not to soak the heating elements.

Stymied by stubborn grease and stains? Baking soda has many uses, and it can work wonders (when mixed with water to create a paste) to lift any buildup of grease in the toaster oven interior and on the glass door. Alternatively, you can use an oven-cleaning spray, but carefully follow instructions and ventilate your room well. Thoroughly wipe the solution off with a clean, damp microfiber cloth.

4. Clean the toaster oven’s exterior

Wiping the appliance down with a damp microfiber cloth daily can keep it grime-free. You can use warm, soapy water, but take care not to soak the toaster oven. If the levers and buttons are removable, take them off and wash them in the sink. (When you’re done, give your kitchen sink a good cleaning.)

5. Dry and reassemble your toaster oven

Go over the interior and exterior of your toaster oven with a dry microfiber cloth, then refit any racks, trays, buttons or levers. Leave the door open overnight, and ensure the toaster oven (especially the heating elements) is fully dry before using it again.

Pro tip: Steer clear of harsh abrasives

Toaster oven interiors are one of the things you shouldn’t clean with SOS pads or other harsh tools like steel wool or scrub sponges. They can scratch and compromise the appliance’s interior. Stick with a gentle sponge and mildly abrasive cleaning products like baking soda.

The best toaster cleaners

How to keep toasters clean?

It’s one thing to know how to clean a toaster. It’s another to keep the appliance clean after use. Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to do.

Between your weekly toaster cleanings, why not give the exterior a daily rubdown and the crumb tray a tip out? “Whether your toaster’s exterior is plastic or stainless steel, you can easily remove fingerprints, oily smudges and crumbs with a damp microfiber cloth,” Petersen says. “Buff it dry with a dry microfiber cloth, and leave it unplugged until it’s time to use again.”

With that task handled, tackle a few more cleaning projects: Clean your coffee maker or Keurig machine. Give your microwave a wipe-down. And take your garbage disposal from clogged and stinky to fresh and clean. Before you know it, your kitchen will be sparkling.


Gemma Johnstone
Gemma Johnstone is a pet and lifestyle writer covering dogs, cats, gardening, design, cleaning and more for Reader's Digest, The Spruce, Hunker, the American Kennel Club, Angi and others. When she's not interviewing experts, you can find her rummaging for vintage homewares or hiking with her rescue dog, Annie, in the Italian Alps, where she is based.