How often do you clean your dehydrator? If you’re like me, not often enough. I do wipe out my 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator every time I use it, but after a summer and fall of making food, it needed a deep cleaning. As I wrestled with the dried-on food hiding in the nooks and crannies, I decided that more regular upkeep would be the best idea. For my readers, I came up with a list of ideas for regular upkeep, as well as handy tools to use for an occasional deep clean.
Thankfully, one of the dogs I live with is very… helpful, so the carpet around the unit stays clean. I’m waiting to get a photo of him with his head in the dehydrator.
Recommendations for ongoing upkeep
If you follow these steps, you’ll rarely have to do a deep clean on your unit. My unit is square with removable trays, but most of these items also apply to a circular stacking dehydrator.
Line the floor with paper
For each drying project, line the floor of the unit with a layer of parchment paper. I cut the paper a bit long, fold the paper over a couple inches at one end, and tuck it in under the screen in the back that protects the fan from the drying trays. If it’s not tucked under there, it tends to blow out toward the door. Sometimes it gets sucked up toward the fan, which will make a horrific noise. You’ll have to adjust as needed until you find the sweet spot.
Lining the bottom with parchment paper is especially important when drying foods with liquid or fat that may drip.
Clean those dirty rails
After each drying session, wipe off every single rail where the trays sit. This is worth the effort; skip it and things get petrified on there and resist removal later. Or you may end up with some unexpected biology experiments or mold.
Keep the crumbs out
If you get crumbs stuck behind the screen that protects the fan, try gently tilting the unit forward and shaking them out. My favorite method is to use a long spatula and canned air to dislodge them.
Wipe out the dehydrator
Wipe out the floor and walls of the unit with warm soapy water after every drying session, especially if not lining it with parchment paper. Get into those corners! Give it a rinsing wipe as well.
Wash the parts immediately
Make sure to wash your trays and screens as soon as you are done with the drying process; leaving them to sit may make the screens retain stains and flavors.
Keep tray edges clear
Make a habit of keeping the food on the trays away from the edges; any food overlapping the tray edges is guaranteed to smear in the rails, making more work for you when you clean the unit. This is especially true for semi-liquid items such as soup mixes.
Tools for a dehydrator deep cleaning
If you wipe out the rails and bottom of your unit every time you use it, you won’t have to deep clean it very often. Here are tools I use to deep clean my dehydrator:
- qtips: great for cleaning troublesome residue from the small rails where the trays sit. If you don’t want to use disposables, get in there with a wet rag wrapped around the end of a spoon handle.
- clean toothbrush: good for removing food that’s too stubborn for the qtips. I keep a dedicated toothbrush for this, and run it through the dishwasher when I’m done. I don’t recommend using an old toothbrush you have used in your mouth; a lot of bacteria going on there.
- spatula with long blade: if you have stubborn stuff stuck in the back behind the screen that protects the fan (see photo above), slide the blade underneath and lift the crumbs out. Then use:
- canned air: use this to blow out the crumbs from behind the divider that protects the fan in the back. I was stoked when I though of this! Whoosh, all gone!
- sponge and warm soapy water: the inside of your dehydrator isn’t the place for chemicals. Make sure to do a rinsing wipe afterward.
Doing basic upkeep every time you use the dehydrator will save you some headaches later, and create more sanitary environment for drying your food.
If you have any favorite tricks for keeping your dehydrator clean, feel free to share them in the comments!