If you've ever wondered how to clean a blender, or can a blender be used as a food processor, you're in the right place. We've got the answer to those questions and more in our blender FAQs guide, including tips on how to deep-clean your blender if it's not dishwasher-safe, and what foods you can and cannot place in a blender.
The best blenders are increasingly made to be dishwasher-safe and stain-resistant, but if yours is giving you some grief, we've included two ways to clean your blender, including after gentle use, and when there are tough stains which need dislodging.
Another blender FAQ asks if you can use a blender instead of a food processor. The best food processors are typically designed for different tasks to blenders, but there's significant crossover. Keep reading to find out more.
How to clean a blender
You should clean your blender after each and every use because grime and leftovers can build up quickly and even go moldy in a blender pitcher or on the blades. One of the best ways to dislodge anything difficult to reach from your blender is to let the machine do the hard work. Here's how:
1. Add hot water to your blender: Not boiling, but hot enough to tackle any nasties. Add enough to fill roughly a quarter of your blender.
2. Mix in some dish soap: Just a squirt of dish soap will do - any more than that and you could end up with a bubble explosion. Yes, this does sound like a terrible smoothie recipe so far.
3. Turn the blender on: Turn on your blender and blitz up your dish soap and hot water. The powerful blades will circulate your cleaning solution through the blender.
4. Scrub for good luck: Check if anything's still clinging to the side of your blender or to the blades. Turn off the blender, and then give a generous scrub with a bristled brush.
5. Rinse and dry: Your soapy solution has done its work, so now it's time to rinse out the interior of your blender. This will remove any bubbles, which can add a pretty nasty taste to your next smoothie. Dry thoroughly and if any stains or buildup remains, check out our instructions below on how to deep clean a blender.
How to remove blender stains
After several smoothies, your blender might be in serious need of deep cleaning. Many blenders come with the advantage of dishwasher-safe pitchers, but it's more rare to find one with a dishwasher-safe blade. Keep in mind that abrasive chemicals and cleaners, such as bleach, can harm materials like ceramics and glazes. As with cleaning a refrigerator, you can't use anything harmful to ingest when cleaning a blender as it could damage your machine and make its way into the food you blend. We've put together some instructions to help you safely remove stubborn stains:
1. Unplug the device: The last thing you want is to get a nasty shock.
2. Quick clean: Remove all food residue and wash the blade, jar, and lid in soapy water. If any element is dishwasher-safe and you've got a dishwasher on hand, chuck it in.
3. Dry all components: Take a microfiber cloth and give everything a thorough clean.
4. Tackle the stains: Now you’re ready to tackle the deep stains. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar per cup of warm water to make a paste. Apply topically, or dilute for a general clean. You need enough liquid to submerge the items you’re cleaning.
5. Now we wait... Submerge or cover any parts that have stubborn stains for one to two hours. Never submerge the component that holds the motor, as this can render it useless and may be dangerous.
6. Get scrubbing: Use a sponge to remove any residue. Check to see if the stains are gone. You might need to get your handy spare toothbrush out and give some things a scrub before the stains go away.
7. If that's not enough... If the baking soda and vinegar mixture doesn’t work, it’s time to pull out the big guns. Consider using a razor or knife to carefully shave off harder stains and buildup from any superficial elements. Don't do this on anything essential such as the base of your blender, or a part of the lid which could break.
8. Base time: If the base of your blender needs cleaning, use a damp soapy rag to wipe away grime and smudges. Be careful not to allow water to drip into the motor area, as this will damage your blender.
Can a blender be used as a food processor?
There are no quick answers to this question because it honestly depends on what you’re intending to do. You’ve seen your blender easily puree soft fruits and vegetables, and you might want to try blending some heartier foods. Keep in mind that most blenders are not equipped with the power or technology necessary to tackle all food types. Blenders are designed to create fibrous liquids. Food processors, on the other hand, come with multiple attachments to help you shred, chop, blend and slice.
For the difference between these two machines, you can check our guide on food processors vs blenders: What is the difference? In some cases though, you can use a food processor and a blender interchangeably. One such example is when making soup or sauces, because they're wet enough to react well to the design of a blender but can still be blitzed in a food processor.
Using a blender on certain foods will likely just break your motor or damage your blades. This is different for high-power blenders, like the Cuisinart Hurricane, which can handle a wider variety of foods. However, these blenders can be way more expensive than the average blender. If you’re looking for a machine that can help you chop vegetables, potatoes, cheese, and leafy greens, among other foods, you should definitely consider the Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup DFP-14BCNY, which was the best overall food processor we tested.
Foods you shouldn't put in a blender
As a general rule, keep your foods soft when using a blender. You should resist the urge to grind coffee beans or cocoa beans in your blender. The same goes for hard nuts. Your blender's motor is likely not strong enough to work with these hard foods and may overheat if you try to blend them.
Similarly, you should never make dough in your blender. When the blades spin too quickly combining water and flour, it creates a very strong gluten bond that could permanently damage your device, and it won't make great bread either. It’s better to use a mixer or bread maker when making dough.
As Southern Living states, you also shouldn't blend potatoes. Since they’re made of starch, potatoes whipped in a blender have a gross, sticky texture that's far from fluffy like mashed potatoes should be.
Also, keep in mind that strong-tasting foods, such as garlic, can leave a lingering flavor in your blender that might take several washes to get rid of. Nothing's more disappointing than taking a sip of your fruit smoothie and tasting onion.
You also want to avoid blending super hot liquids. Steam rising inside the blending cup can cause the lid to blow open, raining hot liquid down on your kitchen. That being said, some blenders are designed to blend soup, and we tested their ability to make great soup in our reviews. Just make sure the contents aren't too hot while in the blender.
Foods you might not know you can make with a blender
A blender can make so much more than just smoothies, but you may not always have that in mind when you buy one. Here are some ideas for getting a little more use out of your blender:
Condiments: Homemade mayonnaise might be quite nice for a special dish, or even daily use, and it’s pretty easy to make if you have a good blender.Salad Dressings: You can whip up some pretty amazing salad dressings with the right ingredients and five minutes.
Nut butter: This is borderline, but if you soak nuts to make them easier to blend and add plenty of oils, you can make some pretty great nut butter with a blender.
Milk alternatives: Soak oats and water before blending, and then strain to get great homemade oat milk. You can also follow the same process to make almond milk and cashew-based sauces for vegan mac and cheese. Yum.
Dips: If you want a chunky guacamole or complex salsa, a blender isn't going to work out. However, for smooth homemade dips like hummus, a decent blender will get the job done.
Sauces: Pestos can be made in your blender or food processor, so whichever one is easier to use will work for different recipes.
Glass or plastic blender pitchers: Which is better?
On a day-to-day basis, the material your blender's jar is made of might not matter too much. Over time, though, the jar material might make a difference. There are three types of jars:
Glass blender pitchers
Pros: Glass is incredibly durable and continues to look good after years of use. It is extremely resistant to scratches and does not absorb food smells like some plastic jars.
Cons: Glass blender jars are pretty heavy and cumbersome. As such, some people may find them difficult to use. Also, they can shatter if you drop them at a bad angle. The latest jars are designed to resist breaking – but they are glass, and glass can break.
Plastic blender pitchers
Pros: Plastic pitchers are lighter than glass ones, which makes them easier to clean and carry. Also, you don’t run the risk of them shattering if you drop them.
Cons: They tend to discolor over time. In addition, they get scratched up, especially if you crush a lot of ice, and the cheaper ones absorb odor.
Stainless steel blender pitchers
Pros: Though still rare outside of restaurants, stainless steel jars are starting to appear with household blenders, and they look very sleek. They are also very durable and stain-resistant.
Cons: You can’t see what is going on inside the jar, so it might be harder to track blending progress. Also, they tend to be expensive.