I’ve been cleaning my air fryer all wrong — don’t make this mistake

An air fryer basket emptying out potato wedges
An air fryer basket emptying out potato wedges (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best air fryers have grown in popularity, and are now a staple in many kitchens  — it's easy to see why. This handy, countertop convection oven can rapidly cook fried treats in no time, with the same crispy and delicious results you’ll often find with traditional frying. 

Considered to be a healthier alternative, air fryers cook crispy foods using little or no oil, and they're even slightly cheaper to run than a standard oven, saving you money on energy bills. 

After owning my air fryer for a number of years, I’ve certainly been impressed by its crunchy and tasty results — often using it for reheating cold leftovers to bring back that crisp. But besides knowing how to rustle up the best air fryer recipes to impress guests, knowing how to use an air fryer correctly is just as important to its overall performance. 

This includes maintaining and cleaning it. And while it can be a tedious task, it turns out that I’d been cleaning my air fryer all wrong. In fact, this common cleaning mistake will not only damage your air fryer, but could cause serious health concerns. So what exactly is it?

An air fryer basket being rinsed with water

An air fryer basket being rinsed with water (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If your basket is dishwasher-safe according to the manual, you can do this instead, but I’ve always found giving my basket a quick hand wash after use to be more convenient.

One of my biggest gripes though, is getting rid of the greasy residue that builds up around the sides of the basket. Despite my best efforts of soaking it in hot soapy water, and scrubbing thoroughly with a sponge, it still hadn’t lifted the stubborn grease. 

So, the only thing I would find effective to remove it was when washing with a scouring pad. This quickly lifted all traces of baked-on grease, and kept it spotless. 

However, experts have warned against cleaning with this as it is way too abrasive, and can scratch or damage your air fryer. Worse case, the harsh material could chip away the non-stick, surface coating on the basket over time, which could potentially go into your food. Non-stick coatings contain PFAS/PFOS which is highly carcinogenic — and if ingested could cause serious harm to your health. 

Once this happens, your air fryer is no longer safe to cook with, and you’ll need to consider either buying a replacement basket if available for your model, or a brand new air fryer.  

Ninja DZ201 Foodi 8 Quart 6-in-1 DualZone 2-Basket Air Fryer: $199 @ Amazon

Ninja DZ201 Foodi 8 Quart 6-in-1 DualZone 2-Basket Air Fryer: <a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=45724&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2FNinja-DZ201-2-Basket-Technology-Stainless%2Fdp%2FB089TQWJKK%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-20%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-20" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">$199 @ Amazon
If you fancy cooking multiple foods at once, the Ninja Foodi dual basket air fryer is a great choice. Whether that's making two parts of the same meal, or cooking separate dishes, you can set the fryer to finish at the same time with the handy Smart Finish feature. Its 6-in-1 programs include Air Fry, Air Broil, Roast, Bake, Reheat, and Dehydrate Plus, its XL, 8-quart capacity makes it ideal for large quantities or a busy household. 

If you want to know more, check out our <a href="https://www.tomsguide.com/reviews/ninja-foodi-dualzone-air-fryer-dz701" data-link-merchant="tomsguide.com"" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"">Ninja Foodi DualZone Air Fryer review here

While my air fryer basket showed no signs of damage (yet), I’d found a clever solution in protecting the basket from stubborn, greasy residue. You can buy disposable, foodgrade, air fryer parchment liners to make clean-up a breeze. Simply line the basket before placing your food on it, and it will soak up excess grease — leaving the basket mess-free. 

These disposable liners like these Disposable Air Fryer Paper Liners ($9, Amazon), come in either circular or square shapes to suit your air fryer basket. I found these to be a lifesaver, and seriously cut my cleaning time between uses.  

The best way to clean an air fryer is to use a sponge or soft-bristled brush to scrub away any residue. If there’s any burnt-on residue, you can leave the basket or racks to soak in the soapy water prior to cleaning for 20 minutes, or more if needed. Then, rinse thoroughly, and leave the basket/racks out to fully dry. 

Cleaning the inside of an air fryer

Cleaning the inside of an air fryer (Image credit: Future)

So, if you don’t want to risk your health, or the expense of buying a replacement air fryer, be sure to use non-abrasive cleaners, and always follow the cleaning guidelines  that come with your air fryer. This will end up being more cost-effective in the long run!

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Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!


  • Moozlebee
    One of the main benefits of an airfryer is the way it can circulate the hot air all around the food, from the top, sides and below, so much more effectively than a conventional oven can. If you put your food in to one of these paper baskets, then you negate one of the key benefits of an airfryer...

    Seems counterproductive, to me...
    Reply
  • Fox Tread3
    February 29, 2024 - I very much agree with Moozlebee. I've had several air fryers and like with many things that I didn't want to use abrasives on. I used Baking Soda with a sponge to clean the baskets. However, and I think this important. How many people look up into the top of the fryer unit where the fan is? That area is loaded with all kinds of grease and gunk. It is very hard and next to impossible to clean. I believe this is even more of a problem if things like aluminum foil or other materials are used to cut down on grease residue. Because there is less air circulation and the air blasts back up into the top of the fryer. I don't use air fryers with baskets anymore, but use fryers based on the toaster oven configuration because they are easier to clean and often come with approximately six cooking selections.
    Reply
  • Fox Tread3
    admin said:
    If you enjoy rustling up fried feasts, be sure not to make this common mistake I did when cleaning your air fryer.

    I’ve been cleaning my air fryer all wrong — don’t make this mistake : Read more
    How many people look up into the top of the fryer unit where the fan is? That area is loaded with all kinds of grease and gunk. It is very hard and next to impossible to clean. I believe this is even more of a problem if things like aluminum foil or other materials are used to cut down on grease residue. Because there is less air circulation and the air blasts back up into the top of the fryer. I don't use air fryers with baskets anymore, but use fryers based on the toaster oven configuration because they are easier to clean and often come with approximately six cooking selections.
    Reply
  • Dirac42
    Try adding some cooking oil to a paper towel and rub that on the sticky oil residue. It will take the gunk right off; a quick dunk in soapy water will take care of the rest.
    Reply