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Photo: Akintevs (Shutterstock)

When it comes to toaster cleaning, are you a flip-and-dumper who aggressively tosses the crumbs and calls it a day? Do you make the outside sparkle, and leave the inside a hot mess? Or are you just sitting here thinking, “toaster cleaning who?”

Whether you’re new to toaster ownership or a veteran who has no idea how to properly clean this oft-used appliance (my own personal situation), please join us on this journey to toaster cleaning enlightenment.

Why it’s important to clean your toaster

First, let’s start with a valid reason to go the extra mile in toaster tidying, beyond aesthetics and that noxious burnt smell. As you’ve no doubt noticed, toasters don’t have a door! (Not toaster ovens, more on that later.) Because they have no barrier to the outside world, they collect not only crumbs, but dust, lint, even bugs, and quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria.

They’re also a fire hazard: According to Consumer Reports, toasters and toaster ovens are the fifth-leading cause of household fires after refrigerators. So cleaning them regularly not only looks good, it’s safer.

How to clean your toaster

Hopefully this is common knowledge, but just in case: To avoid potential accidents, first unplug the appliance (anything inserted into a toaster when it’s on can cause electrical shock or a fire). And if it’s recently been used, give it plenty of time to cool down before you begin cleaning.

Next, if there’s a crumb tray at the bottom, remove it and use an old toothbrush, pastry brush, or bottle cleaning brush to loosen the debris, and dump the contents. (It’s exciting to see we weren’t totally off base with the dumping.)

In the absence of a tray, poise your toaster over the trash can or your sink’s garbage disposal and give it a vigorous shake to dislodge the crumbs. Move the toaster into different upside-down positions while shaking to give all the crusted contents an equal chance to break free.

Next, if you’ve got a crumb tray, soak it in warm soapy water to loosen any stubborn crumbs (dish soap with a de-greasing agent will work best and most quickly). If all that’s left is to spruce up the toaster slots, use a spatula or small pastry brush to further clean the interior. (You can also wipe it down with a water and vinegar dampened cloth). Where possible, clean from both the top and the bottom of the toaster for better access to hard-to-reach spots.

After wiping the outside with a damp cloth or antibacterial wipe to make it shine, sweep or vacuum up any remaining crumbs, dry off the tray with a microfiber cloth that won’t snag any lint or fabric, and re-insert it into the toaster.

How to clean a toaster oven

Again, it all starts with the unplugging. Remove the cooking tray and rack, which will most likely be caked in cruddy gunk, plus the requisite toast debris. Soak both the tray and rack in warm, soapy water while you do the crumb “dump and shake” as above.

Most toaster oven interiors are made of aluminum, so instead of using a harsh commercial oven cleaner that can damage it, make your own solution with two cups of warm water, a few drops of dishwashing liquid and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Use a sponge dampened with this liquid (not soaking) to wipe down the interior—and don’t forget the ceiling. To lift especially tough crud, scrub on a homemade paste of baking soda and water with a toothbrush or melamine sponge.

Use the same cleaning solution you used on the inside to wipe down the exterior, then spray white vinegar to cut through grease and streaks on the glass door. Gently check whether you can remove any of the knobs and dials to clean underneath those, as well. When all elements are clean and dry, reassemble your toaster oven—and enjoy its sparkling cleanliness for a few brief moments until you use it again.