hotwire Icon
hotwire Articles 


Cleaning Toasters

Toaster tools By Dan La Belle © 1999

I can't claim to be an expert on cleaning toasters, but having cleaned a lot toasters in the last 10 years, have gained some experience in making the task easier and safer.

It helps if you enjoy the cleaning process and seeing that dirty, encrusted, barely working bargain reach its full potential. If cleaning equals drudgery, you're better off with a quick Windex buff, but doing a thorough job has its own rewards, including a great excuse to put off other demanding tasks around the house.

If it really need cleaning, the more parts you can remove, the easier it is to clean. Two cautions before breaking down each piece. Putting it back together is more difficult that taking it apart especially timing and shutoff mechanisms, and be careful about tabs that may break with just one back-and-forth bending.

I've found a mixture of liquid chrome cleaner and Softscrub a good overall cleaner. Softscrub can scratch some finishes if rubbed very hard. Bon Ami can be substituted for Softscrub to be on the safe side. For plain dust & grime, Fantastik or 409 are good starters. Glass cleaners are good for removing the leftover film and finger marks.

The black, carbonized coatings in the seams, stampings and door edges usually require some extra abrasion and scraping. On inside surfaces a scouring pad or knife edge can be used. Steel wool should be avoided even for hidden corroded parts. The steel wool particles have a way of ending up on a rag used on polished surfaces, leaving scratches where you don't want them.

A piece of hardwood dowel sharpened to a chisel point makes a good scraper, with or without a rag wrapped around. I've also had good results with copper wire (the type used to ground plumbing pipes). One end is filed to chisel point, the other end is hammered flat until it forms a thin spade-like end that can be shaped easily with a file. Copper can scratch polished chrome or nickel under too much pressure, but if used lightly, can scrape hard- to remove spots including paint spatters that a lot of toasters seem to have acquired over the years. Obviously, copper should not be used on aluminum.

cleaning supports
Support delicate basket doors with wood slat
Anything that will hold a piece in place while you clean will make the job easier I keep a variety of small wooden blocks and sticks for support and to protect the surface. A wet rag over the wood adds extra cushioning. To support the entire toaster, I drilled holes at a slight angle in a base of wood so that short dowels can be inserted to form a V support at various widths (see photo above). The toaster can then be nestled upside down for cleaning or repair. A rag or carpet pad piece will help keep things from moving around. Reassembling a pop-up is much easier when the shell is held firmly in place.

Soaking parts helps, but don't soak Bakelite with painted lettering. The lettering should also be cleaned carefully to avoid removing the paint. Wooden handles need the same treatment. Keep wire insulation and mica parts as dry as possible.

Rust is the crabgrass of the toaster lawn. Scrub off what you can and live with it until you find that rust-free upgrade. Scratches and buff marks also have to be lived with. Except for aluminum, I've found buffing on a grinder doesn't help much even with fine grades of buffing compound.

Save your hands for the easy parts. Use toothbrushes and rags wrapped around sticks or small pliers for the corners and between parts. Oil and WD-40 are good for timers and mechanical parts. Pastewax will help the Bakelite and painted wood parts. I don't put anything on polished metal surfaces since I usually test the toaster with a few mornings-worth of toast. Testing also insures a thorough drying of the toaster's inside.

Enjoy your handiwork. The toaster will look great and work better. It's depressing to equate cleaning time with some hourly cost, so don't do it. And it could be worse - you could be cleaning waffle irons.

This article appeared in Volume 3, Number 1 of hotwire, the newsletter of the Toaster Museum Foundation.

Toaster tools

Additional Advice from
By far our favorite commercial polish - after trying just about everything out there - is Liberty Polish. It's non-flammable, harmless to the hands and won't make you dizzy with its fumes. If you can't find it where you live, it can be ordered online from Rejuvenation House Parts.





Copyright © 2003, All Rights Reserved.
Please do not download or display any content
from this site without prior consent.