A small kitchen appliance such as a toaster or toaster oven needs to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to perform at its best. Besides bread crumbs, a modern toaster may also accumulate flaky pieces of crust and burnt fillings from other pastry items commonly prepared in it. If this build-up is allowed to collect on the heating elements, the results could be an electrical shortage or even a fire. This is why cleaning the device properly at least every two to three months is important.
In order to clean a toaster, the user should first unplug the unit from the wall and allow it to cool completely. An electrically live appliance can be hazardous to handle. The next step is to move it to an open area near a trash receptacle, such as the area next to a sink or over a kitchen garbage can. Placing a sheet of newspaper over the area first should help contain the crumbs that fall from it.
There are several different cleaning methods to try at this point. The most common method is to remove the crumb tray, generally located on the bottom of the unit, and pour out the contents. The crumb tray can then be wiped out with a paper towel or cloth and placed back on the toaster. Holding the entire appliance upside down over the trash receptacle or newspaper and shaking vigorously can also release trapped crumbs.
For a more thorough cleaning, some sources suggest pouring a small amount of coarse kitchen salt into the slots and then temporarily taping a length of paper over the slots. As the user vigorously shakes the toaster, the salt crystals should remove any burnt crumbs remaining on the heating elements. The user can then remove the crumb tray and shake out any remaining salt and crumbs.
A small pastry brush, old toothbrush or plastic knife are also items suggested for thorough toaster cleaning, but in general these methods should be reserved for those devices which have not been cleaned for long periods of time or have visible areas of burned-on food on or near the heating elements. A gentle brushing with a dry pastry brush may help loosen stubborn crumbs, but water or liquid cleaners should never be placed inside a toaster. For the worst cases of burned food on the heating elements, a toothbrush treated with a small amount of oven cleaner might help loosen and remove the damage.
Once the interior has been cleared out, the outside can be wiped clean with a mild water and detergent mix, or a commercial cleaning fluid safe for plastic or metal surfaces. A glass window cleaning solution may help restore the brightness of a stainless steel or aluminum toaster's outer shell, but it should never be sprayed directly into the slots.
A clean toaster is said to perform better and last longer, so owners should plan on checking and cleaning out the crumb tray regularly. Using a cover between toastings can also help keep the appliance in good shape.