Keep your toaster oven in tip-top shape with these expert-approved cleaning tips.
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toaster oven
Getty / Saowaluck Voraprukpisut
| Credit: Getty / Saowaluck Voraprukpisut

Toaster ovens are great for cooking smaller meals or multitasking when your larger oven is already in use. But how often do you actually clean your toaster oven? If you can't remember the last time you gave it a good scrub-down, it may be time to break out the soap and water. Cleaning it regularly isn't just necessary to keep your appliance working at its best, but experts say a dirty toaster oven can actually be hazardous to your health and home.

"Did you know, if you don't regularly clean out your toaster oven it can catch fire?" says Rick Hoskins, founder of Filter King. "All those crumbs at the bottom build up and burn off heating elements." Plus, CEO of Pest Strategies Ed Spicer says, "Unattended crumbs in your toaster ovens can easily attract ants and cockroaches."

Here's the best way to clean your toaster oven, according to experts.

How to Clean Your Toaster Oven

Start by unplugging the toaster oven and letting it cool down, advises Hoskins. Place a cloth or paper towel under the toaster oven while you dissemble any removable parts, including the tray. Then, wipe down each individual piece using a soft sponge or rag and a homemade cleaning solution made of water, vinegar and just a bit of dish soap. Be sure not to scour any enamel or nonstick materials that might line the toaster oven's interior.

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If the pan and the rack are already layered with grime, you should soak them in hot water mixed with dishwashing liquid, says David Cusick, chief strategy officer at home maintenance site House Method. And if residue is really burnt on, you could try applying a simple baking soda paste, adding some vinegar and letting it bubble before scrubbing it off.

"Clean the inside, but be careful with the heating element," says Cusick. "You need to be careful not to scrub the heating element with dish soap. Remove any food debris inside, then scrub it clean and just use a damp dishcloth to clean the heating element gently."

Heloise Blause, former professional chef and current blogger at HomeKitchenLand, has a trick for cleaning out those hard-to-reach areas inside your toaster oven. First, find the biggest bowl that can fit into your toaster oven while leaving an inch of space between the bowl and the top of the oven.

"It doesn't have to be toaster oven safe, because we're not turning the toaster oven on, but it should be safe to hold boiling water," says Blause.

Fill the bowl with one part water and one part white vinegar, then transfer that mixture to a pot and boil it on the stove. When it comes to a rolling boil, immediately transfer the mixture back to the bowl. Put it back in the toaster oven, close the door and let it sit for 10 minutes. The steam will stick to the inside of the appliance and start to break down the grease, so all you have to do is wipe the surfaces down with a wet cloth.

"If you can't stand the smell of vinegar like me, add a few drops of lemon juice to the boiling mixture," adds Blause. "It smells a lot better!"