How to Clean an Oven
No matter how careful you are, ovens get dirty. You might not see it right away, but soon the meat spatters and the bubbling overflow from casseroles have created a black goo on the bottom and sides of your oven that becomes hard to ignore.
The first thing you need to do when considering cleaning your oven is to determine if it is a self-cleaning oven. Your owner’s manual can answer that for you. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you can look it up online using your oven’s serial number. A dead giveaway is the fiberglass gasket around the oven door. This forms a seal when the self-cleaning option is turned on and can be a fire hazard if damaged. Clean self-cleaning ovens according to directions in the owner’s manual only! Do not use regular oven cleaners inside self-cleaning ovens as you may destroy their self-cleaning surfaces and void your warranty.
Depending on the age of your oven, it may take one to four hours for the self-cleaning cycle to run, so plan accordingly. Remove everything from the interior of the oven. Metal racks will have to be cleaned separately, but if you have enamel-covered racks they can be cleaned on the self-cleaning cycle (again, read your manual). Take it from me – metal racks left inside the oven during the self-cleaning cycle will turn a disappointingly dark color. First try to clean up as much of the baked-on food and petrified gunk as possible with warm water, dish soap, and a white scrub pad or plastic scraper. Follow the self-cleaning feature’s directions, which usually includes locking the oven door and setting the time limit. One to two hours should be good for cleaning light soil, but you may need to set the oven for three to four hours for heavy buildup.
Don’t leave the oven unattended while it is in self-cleaning mode. You might want to open a window and/or put on the stove top fan while the oven is in operation to avoid having your smoke detector go off. The oven will shut off automatically, but you will not be able to open the oven until it has cooled down. Once you open the oven door you will see you’ve been left with some ash, which you can wipe away with a damp cloth. If there is a lot of ash you might consider vacuuming it out with your vacuum cleaner. Don’t forget to clean the areas around the door and the exterior surfaces. Again, dish soap, warm water, and a grout brush are handy here, as is a touch of baking soda, if needed. Never scrub or put any type of cleaner on the fiberglass gasket around the oven door – this will damage the oven’s seal. I’ve never used oven cleaners made specifically for self-cleaning ovens, so I can’t vouch for how well they work, but I understand their main ingredient is baking soda.
Oven cleaners are some of the most toxic cleaners in the marketplace. They contain lye, which is a very strong base, so it is important to read and follow the directions on the label carefully. You must also be careful to be in a well-ventilated area when using them to avoid breathing the fumes. Wear an old long-sleeved shirt and rubber gloves, plus goggles if you have them. Use every opportunity to avoid getting oven cleaner on your skin as the lye will cause a painful chemical burn.
Place old towels or newspapers under the oven door to collect drips, as the cleaner may drip out cracks around the door. Spray your oven and close the oven door. Wait the time recommended on the label of the oven cleaner and then wipe off the cleaner using paper towels or old rags you don’t mind throwing away. Rinse the oven well using a clean cloth and warm, clean water to make sure the oven cleaner is totally removed. Any remaining spots of burnt-on food will probably come off with a white scrub pad or nylon scrubby.
Steam-Cleaning Your Oven
I prefer to clean my own oven with a Ladybug Dry Steam Vapor Cleaner. I don’t have to avoid working in my kitchen for several hours due to the heat from the self-cleaning oven and I don’t have to deal with toxic oven cleaners. It takes me about the same time it takes to clean a regular oven with oven cleaner for a moderately dirty oven. I prefer using old towels or shop towels to spread on the floor under the oven since we are working with moisture. Pull the racks out first and clean on the highest heat/lowest moisture setting using the nozzle attachment and steel wool. Then move on to the oven interior. You don’t have to scrub hard – just let the steam do the work while moving systematically throughout the oven. If an area doesn’t quickly come clean, let it cool and go back to it.
There’s a lot to consider when cleaning ovens, especially if you want to avoid toxic fumes. Using self-cleaning ovens correctly or trying Ladybug Dry Steam Vapor Cleaners are two good options for avoiding chemicals.
- How Stuff Works: How Self-Cleaning Ovens Work by John Kelly
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