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With their curves, knobs, and moving parts, small appliances can get gritty and dirty sitting on the counter. And some are harder to clean than others, as Consumer Reports has found in its tests.
"For the majority of our small appliances, we do evaluate how easy each model is to clean," says Emilio Gonzalez, the engineer who oversees our small-appliance testing. "In some cases the time spent cleaning the appliance may be longer than the time you spent using it."
To keep your appliances looking shiny and spiffy, follow a few simple cleaning guidelines and tackle each mess as you make it. And for safety’s sake, always unplug the device before removing any parts for cleaning, and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. And of course, never immerse your small electrics in water.
Here's how to clean your small appliances, adapted from Consumer Reports’ book, “How to Clean Practically Everything.”
Drip Coffee Makers
Dried coffee oils can ruin the taste of even the best blend. After every use, wash the carafe and brew basket of an electric drip coffee maker in dish soap and water, then rinse and dry. Once the hot plate cools, wipe any coffee that may have spilled on it and remove burnt-on stains by using a little baking soda on a damp sponge. To avoid the accumulation of minerals in tanks and tubes, especially if you have hard water, occasionally run equal parts of water and white vinegar through the machine. Then run water through it a couple of times. (Check the manual first: Some coffee makers will suggest a different ratio.) Or use a special coffee-machine cleaning solution.
Below is a drip coffee maker that earns an Excellent rating in our convenience test, which includes ease of cleaning. For more choices, go to our full coffee maker ratings and recommendations.
Pod Coffee Makers
Clean your pod coffee maker regularly. Mineral buildup and coffee residue slow brewing; they can also affect taste. Instructions for some models recommend using filtered or bottled water for brewing. Owner’s manuals typically advise running a cycle of white vinegar through the machine every month or so; the process differs by model.
Pod coffee makers call for a similar method, though it might vary a bit. Keurig, for example, sells a special descaling solution ($13 for 14 ounces), which it calls “the only Keurig-approved cleaning solution for Keurig brewers.” The one-year Keurig warranty excludes damage from using non-Keurig pods and accessories, which could include using another cleaning solution.
But after the warranty is up, there’s no reason not to try white vinegar instead. As always, run at least one cycle of just water afterward.
Below is a pod coffee maker that earns a top score for ease of cleaning. To see more single-serve coffee makers, check our full coffee maker ratings and recommendations.
Blenders and Food Processors
Clean blenders and food processors after each use. Although certain parts may be dishwasher safe—usually in the top rack only—their odd shapes can make them difficult to secure; hand-washing is therefore strongly advised. Remove the cutting or shredding blade from the bowl, and wash each part separately (to minimize the chance of injury or damage) using a mild detergent in hot water, followed by a thorough rinse in warm water.
Use a toothbrush or a bottle brush to clean off any stuck-on food. Don't allow cutting blades to soak in water or to become obscured from view. Carefully wipe metal parts dry with a soft, clean towel; let plastic parts air-dry. Use a mild all-purpose cleaner or a soft cloth dampened with water or white vinegar to clean the motor base.
Below is a blender that aces our convenience test, which includes ease of cleaning. (Cleaning isn't part of our food processor tests.) For more choices, see our full blender and food processor ratings.
It doesn’t take long for a toaster or toaster oven to become filled with crumbs, but fortunately most models come with removable crumb trays that make for easy cleaning. Before cleaning, make sure the device is cool to the touch. Place a plastic garbage bag or a few sheets of newspaper underneath the tray, then carefully slide it out and shake off any crumbs or loose food. Use a damp, soapy sponge or nylon scrubber to remove any baked-on particles, rinse well, and dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. Make sure the tray is completely dry before reinserting it.
If your toaster doesn't have a crumb tray, turn it upside down over the sink or garbage can and shake out loose crumbs. Use a thin paint brush or basting brush—never a fork or metal utensil—to loosen any crumbs that may get caught.
Below is a toaster that earns top marks in our ease-of-cleaning test. For more toasters, see our full toaster ratings and recommendations.
Because they're typically used for broiling and baking as well as toasting, toaster ovens require more frequent cleaning. Regularly wipe down the exterior walls and the crumb tray with a sponge dampened with water and a drop of mild dishwashing liquid, then wipe down with a damp sponge. Carefully slide out the cooking racks and clean them in the dishwasher or let them soak for 20 to 30 minutes in hot, soapy water. Use a damp, sudsy cloth to clean the glass door; wipe off any leftover soap with a damp sponge and dry with a clean towel.
The interior walls of most toaster ovens have a “continuous clean” coating that helps ward off stains and splatters, but that can be damaged by metal scouring pads and abrasive cleaners. To remove any burnt-on food from inside a toaster oven, use a polyester or nylon scrubber dampened with water, but take care not to touch the heating elements. Make sure all parts are completely dry before using the toaster oven.
Our toaster testers found the model below a cinch to clean. For more choices, see our full toaster oven ratings and recommendations.
Use a mild cleaner and soft cloth to clean the exterior of your microwave oven. Wipe up any spills in the interior immediately. To remove cooking stains, wipe the walls and floor of the oven with a hot, damp cloth. Wash removable parts, such as the turntable, in hot water and dishwashing liquid.
To mask odors, place a bowl of water containing a quarter-cup of lemon juice in the oven and run it on high for 1 minute. Remove the bowl and wipe the oven cavity, using the condensation that will have formed to clean it. Wipe stains using plain water. Repeat if necessary. Scrape off stubborn stains with a plastic credit card. But never scrape the inner surface of the window because that might damage any microwave-blocking finish.
The countertop microwave below earns top marks in our ease-of-use test, which includes cleaning. To find more microwaves, including over-the-range models, see our full microwave ratings and recommendations.
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