How to Clean a Toaster


Whether or not you tend to burn your toast or Pop Tarts, your toaster can be subject to carbon and crumb buildup over time. You can either let it sit until it starts smoking or catches on fire or you can give your toaster a good cleaning once a month.

Turn off the toaster and unplug it

Since burning yourself on the toaster would be even more unpleasant than starting a fire, make sure that it is cooled off before you attempt to clean it. If you’ve used it in the last ten minutes, give it at least an hour just to be safe. Don’t worry. Those crumbs aren’t going anywhere.

Assemble your supplies

While you wait for your appliance to get nice and cool, start getting your supplies ready. You’ll need the following:

  • Trash bag or can
  • Rag or sponge
  • Warm water
  • Vinegar or ammonia
  • Old toothbrush

Clean the crumb tray

*Some older toasters do not have removable crumb trays. If yours is one of this type, obviously, skip this step.

The crumb tray is the, well, tray that sits in the bottom of the toaster to catch any drips or pieces of food. It will either come off all the way or at least open up with a gentle pull. With your trash bag or can nearby dump all of the crumbs out. Then wipe the tray clean by dipping your rag or sponge in vinegar or ammonia. Wring it out so it’s not dripping and scrub away. If you don’t have any vinegar or ammonia, you can use warm (not scalding) water mixed with a couple drops of dish soap for hand washing. Use the toothbrush to get any hard to reach areas.

Make sure to rinse and dry the tray thoroughly and do not get any liquid inside the heating mechanism of the toaster.

While you’ve got your cleaning solution out, remove any racks or shelves from the toaster and clean them too. You can use the exact same methods.

Shake it up

Now comes the most fun or most annoying part, depending on how you think of it. It’s time to hold the toaster upside down over the trash can or bag and shake it or tap it on the bottom so any lingering crumbs fall out. (It can be tricky holding your toaster with one hand. Make sure you have a good grip on it.) It’s important to shake or tap gently. You don’t want to dislodge anything. There are a lot of important electronics in there.

Don’t want to hold your toaster upside down or have one of those heavy five-slice ones? You can get a similar result by using compressed air to blow out the crumbs. Be careful not to spill any chemicals from the compressed air can into the toaster. (Yes, despite its name, there is a lot more than just air in there.) Always hold it in an upright position and at least an inch or two away from your toaster. Also be aware that crumbs may go flying and you won’t have gravity to help you collect them in the trash. You may want to wear something to protect your eyes from flying toast debris.

If you have any gunk that just won’t break free of the heating coils, use the bristles of your old toothbrush to gently nudge it off. Be careful not to move anything out of place. If there’s a tiny bit of carbon left, it’s not a huge deal. It’s not worth breaking your toaster over.

*Never soak the toaster in water to clean the heating implements. Best case it will make them stop working; worst case, you will electrocute yourself when you plug the toaster back in.

Clean the outside of the toaster

Now that you’ve got the inside of the toaster taken care of, it’s time to make the outside look pretty. You can use the same cleaning solution you did before and your trusty rag or toothbrush. Be sure to wipe the sides, top and even bottom of the toaster clean. If your toaster is made of stainless steel, you may want to use vinegar or ammonia as opposed to soap to prevent streaks and get rid of any fingerprints. Just pour a little bit on a clean cloth and buff away. This will also work to keep the window of your toaster oven from clouding up.

Keeping your toaster clean

It being a small appliance, the toaster does not take a lot of time to clean. Since this is the case, there is really no reason not to give it a good onceover on a regular basis. But do not attempt to clean up spills as they happen. It is too risky with all the heat involved. Always wait until the toaster cools down first.

There’s basically no way to prevent the crumbs from coming, well except for not using your toaster altogether. Just add it to your cleaning schedule and keep up the good work!


  1. Thank you sooo much for the great info. I would have cleaned it with a tub of water if I hadn’t seen this text. Thank you so much again! :)

  2. I never thought of compressed air – thanks!

  3. Hi. Thanks for all this, but why do all this hassle…

    If you have blower, then turn it on, pointing inside of the toaster, and all the crumb goes in one shot. Wifey gave an idea and I tried, and great result.

  4. I have a Black & Decker (black) two-slot toaster. I had read where you could turn the toaster on its side and brown a sandwich. When I tried this, it began to smoke and that resulted in the outside looking terrible and I don’t know what to clean it with safely, if at all!

  5. Our toaster is a slick red unit, works perfect, but there is one cleaning problem not addressed in this or any other article among the 44 I have read in the last hour.

    The problem in this article is where it says, “The crumb tray is the, well, tray that sits in the bottom of the toaster to catch any drips or pieces of food. It will either come off all the way or at least open up with a gentle pull.”

    That is false. Ours has a crumb tray, but does not catch “any drips or pieces of food.” It catches about 25% of the drips and pieces of food. The other 75% are stuck on a surface that the bottom of the toaster well, between the toast and the crumb tray, that has slots in it. Crumbs and drips have to fall through the slots to reach the crumb tray. The flat horizontal surfaces are inaccessable and that is where most of our crumbs are.

    The bottom of the toaster can be taken apart, provided you have one of those 3-prong screwdrivers used by manufacturers for the specific purpose of preventing people from disassembling things.

    In other words, this toaster is designed to catch more crumbs than the crumb tray in an inaccessble part of the unit.

    Ah the compressed air. I am calling my compressed air supplier and having him install a unit in my home so I can clean my toaster. Correction, I am going to need a sand blaster with that compressed air, because the crumbs get pretty stuck to the inaccessable bottom.

    I know my mistake. I should be cleaning the toaster after every use.

    TRUE STORY: A guy who went to MIT told me this. There was a broken toaster in the kitchen of his faternity house, with 15 MIT students surrounding it, “each of them certain they could fix the toaster if only they coud get their hands on it.” In due course, every one of those MIT guys had all the time they wanted with the toaster, and when it was all over, the toaster was still broken.

    I think we need a better toaster. One that is cleanable and with spare parts available.

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