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Cleaning Appliances

Martha Stewart Living, January 2004


If you wipe appliances regularly with a damp cloth or sponge, most will require little additional maintenance. A buildup of grime, however, calls for a bit more elbow grease and sometimes even a particular cleaning solution. Before you get to work, be sure to consult the owner's manual or call the company's customer-service line, since manufacturers use a variety of materials to make their appliances.

Toaster Oven
Basic maintenance consists of periodically cleaning out crumbs and wiping down the interior and exterior.

Interior: Remove racks; wash them in warm, soapy water. If the inside of the toaster has a nonstick coating, wipe it with a cleaning pad that's labeled safe for this purpose. On a bare metal interior, you can use soap-filled steel wool. To avoid scratching a porcelain surface (or making it more difficult to clean the next time food cooks on), use nothing stronger than a nylon pad. Some toaster-oven interiors may look rough and feel gritty, indicating a continuous-clean surface that automatically burns off food residue. Do nothing more to this type of surface than wipe it with a damp cloth.

Exterior: Since most toaster ovens are plastic or painted steel, use only a nonabrasive liquid cleaner. If burned food discolors the paint on a toaster oven, a degreasing cleaner may minimize the discoloration, but nothing will remove it entirely.

To clean mineral deposits from steam irons, homemakers used to run vinegar and water through them. Today, some manufacturers warn against that procedure because it may result in a brown substance oozing from the holes. Instead, they recommend cleaning an iron with its own steam. Use the steam-clean setting if there is one. Or place the iron on a metal cake rack over a surface that won't be harmed by heat or water; turn the setting to steam and maximum heat, and let steam and water jet through the holes. Always empty the reservoir before storing the iron.

Soleplate: If an iron drags, the soleplate needs cleaning. Buy a hot-iron cleaner, which comes in a tube (like toothpaste) and is sold in most hardware stores. Put a dab on a scrap of an old terry-cloth towel, and run the hot iron over it. Remove residue by ironing a clean terry-cloth rag. If residue lingers in steam holes, repeat process, or wad up the cloth so you can rub the buildup out of the holes without burning your fingers.


Wash beaters by hand unless you know they are stainless steel. Many stand mixers have beaters made of brushed aluminum, which dishwasher detergent discolors. Beaters that look plastic may actually be aluminum with a nonstick coating and should not be washed in a dishwasher either.

The base: Wipe with a damp cloth or sponge. If the vent is clogged, loosen the dirt with a toothpick or toothbrush, then vacuum it out.

Place coffeemaker carafes in the top rack of a dishwasher (so plastic handles and lids won't melt.)

Mineral deposits: About once a month, clean the buildup inside the machine with a commercial coffeemaker cleaner (to prevent pipe blockage). Or pour equal parts white vinegar and water (two cups of each) into the tank. With the carafe in position, run the machine for half a cycle, then switch it off. After an hour, turn it back on, and let the rest of the solution filter through. Run two or three cycles with fresh water before brewing coffee.


A frost-free refrigerator dehydrates its interior, turning liquid spills into caked-on lumps. Soak removable parts in warm, slightly soapy water or a solution of one or two tablespoons baking soda for every quart warm water. Loosen a hardened spill on fixed parts by covering it with a damp sponge or cloth; use a toothbrush in crevices. Don't use bleach or ammonia, which can damage some surfaces.

Odors: Plastic linings absorb odors. Before tackling them, move food to a cooler or into paper bags wrapped in an old quilt or blanket for insulation. Unplug the refrigerator, wash the interior with the baking-soda solution, and wipe it dry. When the refrigerator is on again, slide a shallow pan of activated charcoal (available at plant nurseries and pet stores) onto a shelf. If odors return, recharge the charcoal in a 300-degree oven for an hour. If the bad smell isn't gone in two weeks, place a small dish of vanilla extract in the refrigerator to mask it. Don't use odor-control products with a lemon scent because the fragrance sinks into plastic and stays there. To avoid unpleasant odors in the future, store leftovers in covered containers or resealable plastic bags, and wipe up spills promptly. An open box of baking soda inside the refrigerator will trap smells; when you notice the odor, replace the box with a fresh one.

Coils: Refrigerators cool by stripping heat from the air inside the compartment and releasing it through condenser coils. Dust acts like insulation on the coils and keeps them from releasing heat efficiently. Clean the coils with a vacuum wand or a long-handled brush. Older refrigerators may have coils located in the back. To avoid damaging your floor, try to clean them without moving the appliance. In newer ones, the coils are usually at the bottom, accessible by removing the front grill. Although some models have coils that their manufacturers say never need cleaning, pet dander can disprove that claim. Check coils periodically if you have cats or dogs.

See the refrigerator entry above for cleaning and odor control.

Drain hole: In side-by-side refrigerator-freezers, ice can build up on the bottom and block the defrost drain tube. If you can see the drain hole, mix one teaspoon baking soda in two cups hot water, put it in a turkey baster, and squirt it into the hole. If this doesn't work or if you can't find the drain hole (in some models, it's inaccessible), arrange for a service visit.

Manual defrost: With chest freezers and old refrigerator-freezers, never try to pry off ice with a spatula or other tool; it might puncture the lining. Instead, turn off or unplug the appliance, and store food as suggested above for cleaning a refrigerator. Melt ice with a fan or a hair dryer set on low.


When an oven starts smoking, it's time for a heavy-duty cleaning. Wash racks by hand unless the owner's manual says they're dishwasher-safe. Then try this homemade cleanser from "Clean House, Clean Planet," by Karen Logan (Pocket Books; 1997). Use aluminum foil to plug holes leading to the broiler. (Be sure to remove the foil after cleaning.) Mix one-quarter cup salt, three-quarters cup baking soda, and one-quarter cup water into a paste. Brush on, avoiding bare parts -- salt corrodes metal. Let it sit overnight; remove mixture using a slotless spatula or a putty knife. Wipe with paper towels. Use a plastic scrubber or sponge to remove remaining spots.

Microwave Oven
Stains and odors are the biggest problems with microwaves.

Plastic interiors: Wipe stains with warm, soapy water, then plain water. If that isn't enough, clean with one or two tablespoons baking soda mixed into a quart of water. For caked-on residue, heat water in the microwave on high for three minutes; let stand five minutes (keep the door closed), and then wipe interior. In the future, cover food with a paper towel before cooking or reheating. To remove odors, clean with the baking-soda solution, wipe surfaces dry, and leave the door open for a few hours. If the smell persists, stir six tablespoons baking soda or one-half cup lemon juice into a cup of water. In a microwave-safe dish, heat mixture on high for two to three minutes. Then leave the door open for a few hours.

Stainless-steel interiors: Use a plastic scrubber and a gentle abrasive. If that does not work (and you don't mind scratching the surface), try soap-filled steel wool.
Other parts: Clean doors with only warm, soapy water or a mild, nonabrasive cleaner, and a sponge or soft cloth. Wipe control panels with a barely damp (not wet) cloth; moisture behind the panel could ruin the oven.

Electric burners: Wipe food off burners when they are cold. If residue remains, open windows or switch on an exhaust fan, turn burners to high, and let the food smoke off. If plastic melts onto a burner, scrape it off with a wooden spoon while coils are warm.

Gas burners: You can wash porcelain-coated stove-top pans and grates by hand unless their manufacturer recommends putting them in a dishwasher. Dishwasher detergent is more alkaline than hand-dishwashing liquid, and the machines keep their contents damp longer. Both factors may cause rust at gaps in chrome or porcelain coatings. You may not see the gaps, but the dishwasher will find them. Uncoated metal parts are best soaked and then rubbed with a scouring pad.

Glass cooktops: These must be protected from scratching. Clean with a pad safe for nonstick coatings, and dedicate it to only this use. Wipe up sugary spills while they are still warm. For burned-on food, use a razor blade fitted into a plastic handle: Hold it at an angle of about 30 degrees, and carefully scrape with the full width of the blade, not just a corner. Follow up with a dab of commercial cooktop cleaner on a dry paper towel, and then wipe off the cleaner with another dry towel. If pans with copper or aluminum bottoms discolor your cooktop (and they might), switch to pans made of another material and use a cooktop cleaner recommended by the manufacturer; with daily application of the cleaner, stains should gradually disappear.

Comments (59)

  • mary3lizabeth 5 Jan, 2015

    Tip: The siding on my new house was ruined by my electrician who installed the electric meter in the wrong place. Any repair or patch looked like a repair so I put up a venting grate in front of the damage, and everyone just accepts visually that the grate has some function other than hiding a mistake. My grandson also spilled red paint on my unfinished knotty pine deck. I fixed it by taking dark brown stain and painting a few extra knots that weren't naturally there.

  • Kassy McMichael - Purposeful P 7 Apr, 2014

    Some great tips here! Dor the toaster oven I also use tinfoil to make future cleanings easier. Check oit my blog post about it here:

  • A1martha 11 Jun, 2013

    @Sylvia: First try a wash cycle on hot water with a half cup of bleach (no clothes, etc.). If the moldy sour smell returns, your washer is not completely draining & you need repair service or a new washer.

  • Sylvia Griffin 13 May, 2012

    The washing machine has a sour moldy mildew smell I can't figure out why, and need to clear it up suggestions?
    I use hot water to wash often

  • alcorn1871 12 Apr, 2010

    To remove burnt on plastic bag from the outside of the toaster oven try using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I was quite surprised how easy it was after trying for ages to scrub it off.

  • mrst53 21 Mar, 2009

    To Null #24- the potty smell in the oven, try calling your local Service Master, they have seen and heard of about every thing. If they don't have an answer, they should be able to tell you where to go.

  • SamHan 21 Mar, 2009

    Alcohol is extremely flammable....please be careful/

  • emmanuel 20 Mar, 2009

    I often clean with alcohol. It's cheap at a dollar and disinfects as well. Doesn't scratch and works well on appliances, countertops, Microwave ovens, mirrors, bathroom shower, sinks, etc. Doesn't leave a chemical residue as it evaporates. I use in a spray bottle and clean with a cloth rag. NEVER use on laminate furniture.

  • auntlizzie 12 Mar, 2009

    To ChrissieP: I'm puzzled by the directions - you clean a dishwasher with Tang? How much do you use? How / why does it work? Thanks.

  • DeniseR 5 Mar, 2009

    Re: comment #16 about cleaning the rubber flaps on garbage disposals. FYI, the entire rubber flap cover will easily pull out. Then you can clean both sides throughly with a bush, rinse and reinsert. (You'll hear it click in place) While it's out you can easily scrub the sides and bottom where the blades are. Hope this is helpful.

  • moj400 4 Mar, 2009

    For getting urine smell out of floors, we bought large boxes of baking soda, sprinkled them on floor, let sit overnight and swept up with a broom. Don't use a vacuum, it clogs the filter. We had to do it twice to get rid of the odor. Then we applied Kilz.

  • ChrissieP 4 Mar, 2009

    Scrape off the black grime with a paper towel or the like and dispose. This is probably mold. You should run it with Tang (orange powdered drink mix) a few times. Run the entire cycle. If you do this monthly it will keep your dishwasher in tip top shape. We did this to my grand mothers dishwasher which hadnn n n t been run in yearsn n n itn n n s amazing how clean it is. We just had to do it again b/c she kept forgetting to run itn n n good as new.

  • kmeyersvt 4 Mar, 2009

    To get the hard water, spaghetti sauce, and other stains out of my dishwasher, I use Glisten. You put a packet of it into an empty dishwasher and run it. Cleans it to like new!

  • mykele 4 Mar, 2009

    I just want to thank all of you ladies for the great cleaning ideas. I always
    get so much more help in the comment section than in the website's
    directions. Women helping women is the way to go. Again
    thank you. Has anyone used microfiber cloths? I am now trying them
    and they are working wel so far. They are machine washable
    when soiled so can be used over and over. Great on my glass stove
    top. No scratching either............

  • JillBaulieu 4 Mar, 2009

    What about dishwahers? I get this black yucky stuff around the door rim...yikes! What I do is add vinegar to an empty load every once and awhile but it doesn't get it all.

  • ShariLyszkiewicz 4 Mar, 2009

    My son worked as a house painter one summer, and brought home a bottle of KrudKutter. I think they use it for cleaning up paint spills - it's found in the paint dept. at hardware stores - but I found it's the best thing I've ever used for stainless steel appliances, and for my range top. Shiny clean, no streaks, inexpensive compared to the shelf full of half-used stainless steel cleaners I've tried over the years.

  • lbuser 4 Mar, 2009

    When all else fails, and you can't get stuck on stuff off of an oven or the inside of your microwave or fridge, fill a bowl with 3/4 cup of ammonia and put in the oven, 1/2 cup in the microwave, and walk away for a couple hours and do something else. It will wipe clean. A really bad oven may take a couple times. This works for the fridge, too, but use 1 cup of ammonia, and you will need to remove the items to a cooler while you wait. Ammonia is potent so use it as a last resort.

  • barbarajl 2 Mar, 2009

    NMKB To clean the inside of your microwave, fill a dish with about a cup of water and a quarter cup of white vinegar. Heat on high for 2 minutes and then let it sit for a few minutes. The inside of the mocrowave should just wipe clean.

  • SheRa 1 Mar, 2009

    ladies when it comes to pet odors (of wich we have many) may I make one suggestion? I have found a wonderful product at Sam's Club I have not found it at all of them. I do have to shop at a particular one . But, the trip is well worth it. It is abut 10.00 for a gallon bottle that you can dilute for diffrent cleaning jobs. It is called Odorban and has a eucalyptus smell to it. It has even removed and sanitized cat urine from floor pillows. Love the stuff.

  • hbiedron 1 Mar, 2009

    Here's a "recipe" for cleaning your top-loading washer - fill your washer with hot water, add 1 quart of chlorine bleach and run through the longest cycle. Immediately after fill again with hot water, add 1 quart of white vinegar and run through the longest cycle. I've done this and was amazed at the gunk that came out.

  • buffalosue 28 Feb, 2009

    I also had a top loading washer that retained water around the door seal. After trying many things to fix the problem, it was just easier to get a different washing machine. Life is too short to have frequent problems with an appliance we use so often. I now have a top loader and life is good again! They may be old fashioned, but they work well.

  • nmkb 26 Feb, 2009

    Has anyone heard of cleaning your dishwasher with lemon tang. I tried it a couple of years ago and it freshened it up fine. You just run a cycle with a package of tang but no detergent.Cleaned up the hard water stains.
    Washer and clothing odors, I use vinegar for every rinse.
    My issue is the inside of the microwave/convection oven. I cannot get it clean, especially the window.

  • lacook657 24 Feb, 2009

    Regarding the musty smelling clothes washer, I always leave the lid to mine open after loads and never have a bad smell. When I got married, my husband's new washer left the clothes smelling dirty and I noticed he kept the lid closed when it was empty. This solved the problem.

  • shelfish 24 Feb, 2009

    To Isjith203..believe it or not, I have used the kitchen sink sprayer on the unpluged toaster to get rid of the accumulated, stuck-on crumbs with excellent results..use the hair dryer to dry the inside..I did not use tor 24 hours.

  • dulciec 24 Feb, 2009

    I had amazing results on my oven racks with this tip. Put your racks in the bathtub, cover with hot water (doesn't need to be deep, just over the racks) and pour a cup of granular dishwasher soap in stirring to mix. Soak for an hour or longer. Wipe of with a clean towel . This was so simple and the results were great.

  • melpin 23 Feb, 2009

    Re: disposals - I clean lots of homes, and find most of us have grime caked under the rubber flaps designed to keep things popping out when you run the disposal. Now, weekly I use my brush that I use to clean around the sink rim and faucets to also scrub the walls and underneath the flaps in the disposal. Running lemons thru doesn't get this part - No more smell, only clean!

  • mrsc805 23 Feb, 2009

    I use to work in a restuarant and to clean coffee pots we would use fressh lemon, salt and ice cubes. Combine all ingredients in coffee pot and swirl pot. The brown stains disappear!!!

  • MaryCatherineStofan 23 Feb, 2009

    How about cleaning stove hood ventilating fans

  • DianaCatlover 23 Feb, 2009

    I don't think you are suppose to use any cleaning products inside a self cleaning oven. Even though it was gross. Call your oven manufacturer and ask for help. Do not put any more cleaning products in the oven. Good luck.

  • BussysMom 23 Feb, 2009

    MSafirstein - I just went through the pet urine issue. I hope I am not too late to help you. Clean the floor with a strong bleach/water solution. Obviously, ventilate your room. Let the wood dry COMPLETELY or the primer will not adhere. Use a fan if necessary. After the floor is dry, apply at least two coats of Kilzs Odor Killing Primer. Cover more than the immediate area as the odors tend to bleed into the surrounding wood. The more coats you can apply, the better. Good luck to you.

  • kpatnick 23 Feb, 2009

    I just cleaned my ceramic kitchen floor with my new steam cleaner. WOW! What a job it did! I can't wait to try it out on EVERYTHING.

  • JoanMilke 23 Feb, 2009

    I use inexpensive laundry detergent in hot water to regularly clean my stove, faucets and other stainless steel and on all greasy surfaces. It keeps them clean and shiny and grime free. I bought a denture brush at the dollar store and it's the handiest devise in my under-sink basket

  • yankeehandy 23 Feb, 2009

    to easily clean the inside of the microwave, place a microwave proof bowl or large cup in oven. Fill 1/3 with water and to a little of 1/3 more with lemon juice. (2/3rd total liquid) heat on high for 2-3 mins. Let set for another 2-3 mins.Remove bowl and wipe down entire interior surface while still moist. This usually cleans even the worst messes. and it's all natural! :)

  • JanetKaye 12 Feb, 2009

    I find the best way to clean an oven is with ammonia. Remove shelves and place in garbage bag with a bowl of ammonia and tie tightly. Leave overnight. Place a bowl of ammonia in the cold oven and leave overnight. The next day the oven and oven parts will wipe clean with soap and water. The fumes from the ammonia does all the work!

  • RTP 12 Feb, 2009

    Missibob - I use Ammonia free Windex on my stainless steel appliances. No streaks and no oily build-up like when you use the specialised stainless steel cleaners.

  • missibob 12 Feb, 2009

    side of the toaste

  • missibob 12 Feb, 2009

    I have a beautiful brand new 4 slice toaster. It is chrome and already it is becoming streaky. Any ideas for cleaning the out

  • MSafirstein 12 Feb, 2009

    When we moved into our home and tore up the carpeting, hardwood floor underneath was terribly stained from dog urine. When we had the hardwood floors refinished, the refinisher soaked towels in bleach and put the bleach-soaked towels on the stain and let it set for a few hours. This not only removed the smell but the dark stain was removed too.

  • Sandee 12 Feb, 2009

    Ironside, there are a few things you could try,at most pet stores you can find a soap called Natures Miracle and try cleaning the wood with that, you could clean with soap and water and paint over the plywood with Kilz primer( available at most hardware stores that carry paint), or you could try vinegar and water which would be my first step.

  • ironside99 6 Feb, 2009

    We are removing our wall to wall carpeting due to pet accidents, I want to treat/clean/remove the smell from the plywood underneath the carpeting before we put down the new laminate floor. Any suggestions?

  • quiet1 31 Jan, 2009

    Do you have one of the newer front loading washers? Some have problems with leakage, causing mold to build up behind the door, resulting in m oldy smelling clothes. There are some class action suits, I've heard--don't know about recalls. Had a friend's child have a serious allergic reaction to the mold . The ER doc told her about this----Many kids nationally have been affected.

  • akitagirl 25 Jan, 2009

    Here's what worked for us. I cleaned out the top piece of the agitator where the fabric softener goes in with a toothbrush, rinsed it thoroughly, and snapped the piece back in. Then filled the machine with water on the largest cycle and added a little automatic dish soap (Cascade Complete works well), let it set overnight. In the morning, run the cycle thru the rest of the way. Seems to have eliminated the odor but I need to do this every couple months or the smell comes back. Hope this helps!

  • littleorphanannie 11 Oct, 2008

    I use to have trouble with my jeans smelly after washing and hanging to dry. I started putting lots more softner in the rinse water. Then meke SURE they are completely dry before hanging or folding. This worked for me. Hope it will work for you.

  • angieokeefe 6 Oct, 2008

    I'm having a problem with odors in my clothes, especially denims jeans and towels. I first noticed it in a pair of jeans that I hang to dry -- a kind of sour smell, as if they'd been left in the washer for an extended period of time. Then I began to smell the same odor in my towels. They come out of the dryer smelling clean and fresh, but when they're wet the odor comes out. I've cleaned my washing machine with white vinegar, but it didn't help. Any ideas?

  • brandygrapper 4 Oct, 2008

    Cleaning garbage disposals: There are commercial products available; however, I have found that if you quarter a couple of lemons or limes and grind those up in the disposal, it takes care of the odor. Also, to sharpen the blades, put 6 ice cubes in and grind them up! Good luck!

  • Mickiep 4 Sep, 2008

    I found a solution to my crayon stained dryer. WD-40. It worked on the clothes that had crayon on them as well but it took several washing to get the oil smell out of the clothes.

  • Mickiep 30 Aug, 2008

    I washed and dried a load of clothes with a red crayon in it. I found information on the website how to remove the crayon from the clothes but nothing about how to remove it from the dryer. Can anyone give a suggestion on how to remove the red crayon streaks from my white dryer?

  • susieprovince 20 Jul, 2008

    Please...can you give me any tips on how to clean a stainless steel range top? Thank you.

  • toma 13 Jul, 2008

    i do not see any help on cleaning disposers.mine has a foul odor. please help.

  • greensahm 4 Jul, 2008

    Any ideas on cleaning a clothes dryer? I washed and dryed a kitchen rag that I used to wipe up salmon oil. It reeks! HELP!

  • makulumama 14 Apr, 2008

    To clean an iron take some wax paper - the kitchen variety, place on your ironing board and sprinkle liberally with salt (just regular) and iron away. The salt will take all the grime off the soleplate of your iron - even melted polyester fibres.

  • marvyone 12 Apr, 2008

    This may seem silly, but I use cooking spray on my chest freezer. Empty the freezer, let it come to room temperature (bail out the ice and water). Lightly spray the sides and bottoms, wipe to coat all surfaces. Now when the ice builds up it comes off with a flick of a plastic pancake turner and I don't have to defrost the whole thing, just pick up the chunks and wipe up the frost.

  • shirley-touisset 9 Apr, 2008

    someone help me with how I can get (melted polyester fibers no doubt ! ) the holes on the plate of my Rowenta iron cleaned !! I have tried the paste and it is great on the flat surface of the iron. But even rubbing with the terry towel and paste just is not getting it off the iron (the holes) completely... Any ideas???

  • heysonnie 4 Apr, 2008

    Oops! The one on top should be Part 2...

  • heysonnie 4 Apr, 2008

    Toaster, Part 1: Check inside to see if there is more stuck-on stuff and repeat if needed. Clean the outside with Bon-Ami or Bar Keeper's Friend cleanser (also lightly abrasive). Replace the crumb tray, plug it in, and you're ready to go.

  • heysonnie 4 Apr, 2008

    Toaster, Part 1: Unplug your toaster and set it on your dishrack over the sink. Remove and clean the crumb tray. Take a pencil and wrap some paper toweling over the pointed end, securing it with a rubber band. Use this to loosen the crumbs deep inside; the eraser end can also be used. Take a can of compressed air or your hairdryer set on low, and blow out all of the loosened crumbs.

  • PhyllisJ 28 Mar, 2008


  • Inezf 28 Mar, 2008

    I would like to clean and freshen up my washing machine. After laundering a puppys bed and house traing acciadents, there seemes to be a lingering scent in my washing machine. The scent is not transfering to clothes thankfully, but how do I get rid of this scent. I have tried Vinigar in an empty load, but to no avail.

  • lsmith203 22 Feb, 2008

    Any ideas for cleaning toasters? I can never seem to get all the crumbs out and I try not to think of what might be growing there.