Growing up, the toaster was one of the most favored kitchen appliances in my family’s kitchen. We’d toast our before-school English muffins, crisp up the Sunday morning everything bagels, even the occasional midnight-snack waffle graced those shiny slats. Whenever the kitchen air started to smell a little like a campfire mid-toast, we’d hoist the machine upside down, bang out the crumbs into the sink, and say, “Ta da, it is clean.” Turns out, we were doing it wrong. Rather, we weren’t doing quite enough. There’s a bit more to cleaning a toaster than meets the naked eye. So before you accidentally set off the smoke detector next time you’re trying to make avocado toast, learn to clean your toaster like an adult.
First things first: Unplug the toaster. If it’s recently been in use, walk away and let the toaster cool down completely. I’m serious—go check every single one of your social media accounts and maybe brush your teeth. By then, the toaster will be cool. You’d think I wouldn’t need to tell you to wait, but safety first, y’all.
Place the toaster on a big sheet of newspaper or a kitchen towel; there are about to be a lot of crummies in your area. If your toaster has a removable crumb tray, pop it out now, and empty it into the trash. Set that bad boy aside, you’ll deal with him later. Grab a pastry or basting brush—preferably one with natural, tightly woven bristles—and brush any stubborn crumbs from the top and sides of the toaster. If your toaster doesn’t have a crumb tray, flip the machine over and gently tap the bottom to release any crumbs.
Back to the crumb tray: If it appears to be covered in five years’ worth of charred sesame seeds and seven-grain refuse, wash the tray in warm soapy water. Do not—please do not—replace the tray until it’s completely dry. Electricity + water = bad. Set the tray in a drying rack and move along to the next step.
Imagine how many grubby, butter-and-jam-slicked fingers have touched your toaster’s knobs, smudging the sides of the machine in the process. Clean the full exterior of the toaster with a damp cloth spritzed with a bit of a mild soap or kitchen cleanser, paying extra-close attention to the knobs, which tend to collect more grime. If your toaster has a stainless steel finish, dampen a fresh cloth with white vinegar and buff the sides to make them shine like new.
Slide the crumb tray back into the toaster if applicable and place it back on the counter, dumping any crumbs into the trash. Admire how squeaky-clean it is, and pat yourself on the back for being such an adult. I know it’ll be hard, but try to suppress the urge to keep the toaster looking fresh by forbidding your loved ones from making toast ever again.