We Tested 5 Methods to Clean a Greasy Air Fryer Basket — And the Winner Is Ridiculously Fast and Effective

published Sep 20, 2022
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A graphic featuring five different methods for cleaning an air fryer.
Credit: Photo: Sarah Crowley; Design: Kitchn
The Best Way to Clean an Air Fryer

Air fryers may be the biggest game-changers to a kitchen since sliced bread. These quick, efficient, and easy-to-use kitchen appliances are a must for heating up leftovers and even cooking entire meals. But when it comes to properly cleaning an air fryer basket — the dirtiest and grimiest part — it’s important to choose a method that not only works well, but also protects the coating to keep your fryer working for years to come.

Whether it’s a simple hand-wash with dish soap or a TikTok hack using a dishwasher pod, I’ve tested several methods to get my air fryer basket as clean as I can. I decided to test out five more methods to see if any could impress me enough to use on a regular basis. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

How I Tested the Methods to Clean a Dirty Air Fryer Basket

Of the number of ways to clean an air fryer basket, I narrowed it down to five methods using most of the same ingredients: Dawn dish soap, Dawn Powerwash, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and hydrogen peroxide. For the methods that required steam, I used an oven-safe ceramic ramekin.

To properly test each method’s effectiveness, I decided to try the various cleaning methods over the course of a week-and-a-half, using my air fryer to heat up all kinds of yummy dishes, such as a very garlicky slice of pizza, my favorite pastries, greasy bacon, and an everything bagel. 

The ratings: I rated each method on a scale of 1 (worst) to 5 (best). I considered factors such as simplicity (how easy it was to use the method), time (how long it took), and ability to get rid of stuck-on food, grease, and grime with and without actually scrubbing the air fryer basket.

Note: Be sure to always check your manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning your air fryer. Spot test if you are unsure.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Air Fryer Cleaning Method: Baking Soda + Lemon Paste

  • Cleaning time: 3 minutes
  • Rating: 3 / 5

The method: Baking soda paste is always reliable and effective so I expected this version made with baking soda and lemon to be a winner. Baking soda is a magical cleaner that has a fine, abrasive grit that’s good for cleaning — but without the scratching. And lemon is known for its natural antibacterial properties.

In a small bowl, I mixed two tablespoons of baking soda with the juice of half a lemon, then added a teaspoon of hot water. I poured the paste directly into the air fryer basket and lightly scrubbed with a soft toothbrush I dedicate specifically for cleaning (a sponge works, too).

How it went: While this paste definitely scraped off most of the stuck-on food and top layer of grease, I wasn’t able to get rid of the old, dark grime. I was a little disappointed that this DIY paste did not work as well as I had expected, but I did enjoy the light lemon scent that neutralized the heavy garlic odor lingering in my air fryer basket.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Air Fryer Cleaning Method: Vinegar + Lemon Juice Steam

  • Cleaning time: 42 minutes
  • Rating: 3 / 5

The method: After recently (and successfully!) cleaning my microwave using a vinegar and lemon steam, I figured I could effectively use this similar method to clean my air fryer basket. I added 1/4 cup of white vinegar to a ceramic ramekin along with the juice of the other half of the lemon I used earlier.

I then placed the ramekin in the air fryer and set it to 400 degrees for five minutes. After heating up the machine, I let it sit in the closed basket for half an hour to let the steam do its job.

How it went: This method was great at loosening the grease and oil from the air fryer basket, but was not so effective at removing stuck-on food. Although this method took the longest (which can be a plus if you are busy cleaning something else in the meantime), the most redeeming part of using it was the lingering fresh lemon scent.

This pleasantness was even stronger than the lemon scent from the previous method I tested. I definitely recommend the lemon and vinegar steam for home cooks who use their air fryer frequently to cook fish or any other pungent foods.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Air Fryer Cleaning Method: Dawn Steam

  • Cleaning time: 5 minutes
  • Rating: 4 / 5

The method: Fill the basket with water and add a few drops of Dawn dish soap and turn on for two minutes followed with a rinse.

How it went: I was a little apprehensive to try this simple method because I wasn’t sure how effective dish soap would be without some form of scrubbing. But I should have realized Dawn’s grease-cutting power has been known to take care of several tough cleaning jobs around the house, including cleaning cabinets and removing grease stains from clothes. I was pleasantly surprised with the results, although the remaining methods had just a bit more cleaning power.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Air Fryer Cleaning Method: Dawn + Baking Soda + Vinegar

  • Cleaning time: 12 minutes
  • Rating: 4 / 5

The method: Because I had used a variation of this method before to clean my air fryer basket, I knew it would be effective. I squirted dish soap all around the air fryer basket, then added about two tablespoons’ worth of baking soda, and poured hot water until it was close to the brim.

After letting it sit for about a minute, I added two tablespoons of white vinegar. Lastly, I let this solution sit for another 10 minutes. This powerful combination of my favorite apple and blossom Dawn dish soap scent, baking soda, and vinegar created a bubbling solution that was effective at breaking down both stuck-on food and grease.

How it went: As expected, this method worked well and was able to get rid of most of the grease and grime. I poured out the solution and rinsed the air fryer basket, but still had to use a bit more dish soap and the soft side of a sponge (I opted for my Sponge Daddy) to get it as clean as possible. To avoid damaging the coating, always use the non-scrubbing side of your sponge.

This method takes a little longer and requires a bit more elbow grease, but this DIY trick was definitely worthwhile, leaving my air fryer nice and tidy.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Air Fryer Cleaning Method: Dawn Powerwash + Baking Soda + Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Cleaning time: 3 minutes
  • Rating: 5 / 5

The method: I wanted to save this speedy-but-efficient method for last because I had an inkling it might be the most powerful. I added two tablespoons of baking soda, two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, and two sprays of Dawn Powerwash directly into the air fryer basket to create a paste. But you can also mix it in a bowl and dab it on, if you prefer.

Soon after, I gently cleaned the entire basket with a soft toothbrush for about two minutes. I then used the non-abrasive side of a sponge as I rinsed off the paste with water.

How it went: I was seriously impressed with the results. All of the stuck-on food, grease, smells, and most of the dark grime were completely gone once I had fully rinsed the air fryer basket. Dawn Powerwash paired with gently abrasive baking soda, plus the boosting abilities of hydrogen peroxide, made this DIY mix the hands-down winning combo!

I also liked that it only took a few minutes, which means I can consistently and regularly use this method to keep my air fryer basket totally clean and ready to go!

Now that your machine is clean, you need inspiration. We’ve got lots of it!

How do you clean your air fryer? Tell us your clever tips and foolproof methods in the comments below.