Waffle irons are a wonderful invention. They create great smells and turn out a really fine tasting breakfast all at the same time. The best waffles are those with bits of peaches, bananas, strawberries or tiny chocolate chips baked right in them. These also make a little bit more of a mess than the plain ones, but cleanup isn't too much of a chore with this small appliance.
Start with the things you have to avoid so you don't ruin your waffle iron. Don't clean your waffle iron while it's hot. It's okay to wipe it down to remove any bits of waffle that may have stuck to it while it's still a little warm, but never when it's hot. Never use a steel wool pad or any kind of rough tools or abrasive cleansers on the waffle iron. It will destroy the surface. Never take a fork or knife to try to clean the grid as it also will ruin the cooking surface. You cannot immerse a waffle iron into the water or it will probably never work again. It could also pose a fire hazard.
Read the owner's manual before you ever turn the waffle iron on. The owner's manual will tell you just how to take care of the particular surface that you have. Some waffle irons have a seasoned cast iron surface and some have a nonstick coating on the cooking surface. Others have removable cooking grids and others have surfaces that stay put. No matter what kind you have, handle it gently so as not to scratch it because all of them are made with some kind of special treatment so that the waffles will not stick to the surface and that surface is very easily marred.
Clean the baking surface by first using a paper towel to absorb any grease or oil that may be sitting on the surface. By the way, don't use cooking spray on a waffle iron unless the manufacturer's product manual says to do that. It will leave a gunky residue over time that will not come out.
Use an old toothbrush or a really soft bristled kitchen brush to sweep away any waffle particles that may still be on the iron. Clean off any batter that's stuck on with a soft rubber spatula. If there is debris on the waffle iron that won't come off easily then soak the batter with regular cooking oil and let it sit there for several minutes. It should soften it up so it'll wipe right off. Wipe the cooking surface gently with a paper towel to absorb all the oil.
Keep the waffle iron from becoming stained by wiping it after every cleaning with a damp of soft paper towel. This also prevents any oil buildup on the cooking surface. If your waffle iron has the kind of plates that are removable these can sometimes be immersed in warm soapy water for cleaning. Some cannot, so read the manual before you do that. Most times, you won't need to remove them to clean the waffle iron perfectly.