Need to Clean Your Rice Cooker? Grab Some Sandpaper

This surprising hardware-store tool will return your rice cooker to new.

Published June 7, 2023.

Ever since I tested rice cookers a few years ago, I’ve been hooked. I’ve also turned my friends and colleagues onto our winner too. In my house, we use our rice cooker several times a week—what can I say, we love rice!

Since we use this machine frequently, we clean it regularly. Plus, the starchy water that gets released during cooking needs to be cleaned up quickly. If not, the mixture can harden and be more challenging to remove later.

Here's how to keep your trusty rice cooker in tip-top shape. These cleaning tips and tricks will work for our winning rice cooker, but they translate to other rice cookers too. And be sure to unplug the rice cooker and let it cool completely before cleaning.

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Step 1: Clean the Inner Pan

After every use: Remove the inner pan and and clean it with warm water, soap, and a sponge. Don’t soak the inner pan in water for too long as it can rust.

If your rice-cooker pan has a nonstick coating, don’t use the abrasive side of a sponge as it can lead to damaging the nonstick coating. The same thing goes for using solutions with vinegar or other abrasive ingredients.

Step 2: Clean the Heating Plate and Sensor

After every use: Immediately remove any grains of rice that might be left behind and wipe up any starchy water that might have overflown and fallen onto the heating plate. Removing them right away prevents the food from burning and sticking to the plate which makes it harder to remove later. These bits of burned food can impede the heating plate from working correctly.

As needed: If you’ve forgotten to clean the heating plate and sensor a few times in a row and notice some burned splotchy bits, there’s still hope. Zojirushi, the manufacturer of our winning rice cooker, recommends an unexpected tool: sandpaper.

To remove stubborn burned-on food, use ultrafine sand paper (#320) dipped in water and squeezed out. You're looking for damp, not dripping wet sandpaper. Lightly rub the heating plate. Then wipe the heating plate and sensor with a damp cloth.

You can use sandpaper on any rice cooker with a metal heating place and sensor (not just ones made by Zojirushi!). If your rice has a ceramic heating plate or sensor, skip this step to avoid scratching.

One of my colleagues used damp ultrafine sandpaper to clean the heating plate and sensor of his dirty rice cooker. We were astonished at the results!

Step 3: Clean the Inner Lid, Outer Body of the Rice Cooker, and Accessories

After every use: If your rice cooker has a removable inner lid located in the top of the rice cooker, remove it by releasing the tabs on either side and wash with warm water and a sponge.

If your rice cooker comes with a dew collector or removable steam vent, remove these and clean them with warm water, soap, and a sponge too.

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