According to Kitchen Infinity, no matter how much you shelled out for your toaster, it will survive an average of six to eight years. You can extend the life of your toaster by cleaning it regularly to remove excess breadcrumbs and additional food particles.
The factors that affect the lifespan of a toaster include:
- Frequency of use: How often you use your toaster affects how long it lasts. Frequent use of a toaster can wear out the lever or door hinges over time.
- Maintenance and upkeep: If you maintain your toaster, it will last longer. This includes cleaning the toaster out between uses.
- Initial quality: The initial quality of the toaster affects how long it lasts. Stainless steel toasters tend to last longer than plastic toasters.
- Type of use: The type of foods you cook in your toaster can also affect its longevity. If you frequently use your toaster to defrost foods or make cookies, it may wear out faster.
Whether you’re using it to warm up a quick breakfast pastry or perfect a slice of wheat toast, you count on your toaster to deliver the goods. The cost of a toaster ranges from $20-$400. Smaller, two-slice toasters are on the lower end of the range, whereas larger toasters with more cooking functions may cost even more.
How do you know when it’s time to clean your toaster? Well, if you peer into the slots and see enough crumbs to bread a chicken cutlet, it’s long overdue. We recommend cleaning the crumb tray once a week or whenever you see a buildup of crumbs. Otherwise, you’re looking at a potential fire hazard, so it’s important to take a moment every now and then to clean them out.
Wirecutter’s Michael Sullivan has been testing toasters since 2016 (think of all the delicious buttery toast!). In 2021, he partnered with Elvin Beach, associate professor of practice, and his students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ohio State University to figure out why newer toasters seem to fail so quickly. Through their research and testing, he learned even more about how to clean toasters and help prolong their lifespan.
If you follow this blog and try our cleaning tips, chances are good that you already have everything you need on hand to get the job done (YAY!) and here’s how to do it.
- A clean pastry brush: A soft-bristle pastry brush is best for gently removing the crumbs that cling to the sides of a toaster’s heating elements (don’t use a silicone pastry brush).
- A long-handled, clean, paintbrush: Any thin brush with a long handle (like those used for watercolors) will help you sweep away crumbs in hard-to-reach crevices.
- Paper towels or a clean cloth: For wiping down and polishing your toaster.
- Dish soap: A drop is all you need to remove grease buildup or grime on the sides of your toaster and crumb tray. Try Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid or Dawn Liquid Dish Soap.
- A sponge: Any sponge, such as our faves Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge or a Scotch-Brite Dobie pad (which is gentler and doesn’t scratch stainless steel), can be used to wipe down the sides of your toaster and crumb tray.
- Bar Keepers Friend (for stainless steel toasters): A mixture of Bar Keepers Friend and a bit of water will polish the exterior and keep it looking like new.
- Micro-fiber cloth: for a perfect polish and shiny finish.
You’ve got the time. Promise. It will only take a couple of minutes to clean your toaster. Brushing away crumbs inside the slots or wiping down the exterior of your toaster will take a few minutes more.
Before you attempt to clean the toaster, always unplug it first. Inserting anything except food into a toaster while it is plugged in can cause an electrical shock or a fire. Once the toaster is unplugged, allow it to cool completely before beginning to clean.
Move the toaster to a trash can or hold over a sink with a garbage disposal. If the appliance has a removable tray in the bottom or a bottom that opens, open it and use a pastry brush to remove crumbs from the toaster and into the trash can. Don’t be tempted to flip your toaster upside down and bang on the sides to get crumbs out. According to research done by The Ohio State University, such treatment can easily break the delicate solder joints and cause an electronic component to give out.
In a sink or dishpan, mix a solution of warm water and dishwashing liquid. If the toaster has a removable crumb tray, submerge only the tray in the soapy water and wash it well with a sponge or dishcloth. Rinse the tray with clear water and dry with an absorbent cloth.
Choose a dishwashing liquid that contains a degreaser for the best cleaning results. See our picks in the Supply List. The degreaser will cut through any build-up more quickly and with less elbow grease than regular dishwashing liquid.
With the crumb tray removed, use the pastry brush to reach any crumbs still clinging to the interior of the toaster. Do not put your fingers inside the slots or you risk damaging your fingers and the interior components. If possible, work from both the top and bottom of the appliance.
Dip a sponge or dishcloth in the soapy water to wipe down the exterior of the toaster. Wring out most of the water so the sponge is just damp. Pay extra attention to dials or levers on the controls, as well as handles. Wash removable dials in the soapy solution.
When the exterior is clean, wipe down with a sponge dipped in clear water to remove any soapy residue. Dry the appliance well with a soft, microfiber cloth.
To make the exterior of a stainless steel toaster shine, use a commercial stainless steel cleaner or dampen a clean cloth with a bit of distilled white vinegar. Wipe down the exterior to remove smudges and leave a streak-free shine.
To finish the cleaning process, replace the crumb tray, reset the dials to your favorite setting, and plug-in the toaster.
If you use your pop-up toaster daily, weekly cleaning is best to remove crumbs and any food residue that could cause a burnt taste or a fire. Since toaster ovens are used for much more than making toast, they need cleaning more often. If you only use the oven to make toast, weekly cleaning is sufficient. However, if you heat foods or broil other foods, the oven—especially the food tray— should be cleaned after every use.
Trim a reusable oven liner to fit a toaster oven’s crumb tray. This will make cleaning easier when spills happen.
- Eliminate crumbs that can prevent bread from popping up. Clean toasters and toaster ovens regularly to prevent residue from interfering with internal mechanisms.
- Do not place plastic bags of bread or bagels near the appliances. The heat from a toaster can quickly melt the plastic. If you forget and a plastic bag has accidentally melted onto the finish of a toaster, remove as much plastic as possible using a wooden or plastic scraper. Unplug the appliance and allow it to cool before removing the remaining plastic. Then sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub the area. Wipe away with a clean damp sponge and repeat until no more plastic is coming off. To remove the final discoloration, dip a cotton ball in acetone-based nail polish remover. Rub the area with the cotton ball and use a fresh ball as the plastic is transferred. Lastly, wipe down the area with a water-dampened soft cloth to rinse the area.
Toasters can be used for so many things from making breakfast toast or waffles, to lunchtime BLTs and a plethora of other toasty sammies, to toasted crostini for your happy hour smacks. Slightly stale bread gets new life when toasted. So be good to your toaster and it will be good to you. A clean appliance will produce tastier (and safer) toast. Now let’s get toasty! Or toasted.
RESOURCES: Wirecutter, ahs.com, The Spruce, KitchenInfinity