How to Properly Clean an Oven
Since the inside of your oven is usually out-of-sight, it may also be out-of-mind until you're ready to use it and discover that it is pretty messy. Even then, you may just shrug and place that pan of luscious chocolate cake batter into a dirty oven. Later you wonder why the cake flavor is a bit off and tastes smokey or a bit charred: It's because your oven is dirty and odors and flavors transfer to the food.
It's time to clean the oven—and we've got the best method.
How Often to Clean the Oven
Your cleaning routine depends upon your cooking routine. Spills and overflows should be cleaned as soon as possible. If you use your oven daily, it will need to be cleaned at least seasonally or when you see one or more of these signs:
- The door is splattered with grease or grime.
- The bottom of the oven has crusty food or residue that looks burned.
- A burning or greasy odor arises when the oven is turned on.
- Smoke appears when the oven is turned on.
Before You Begin
If you have a self-cleaning oven, it is perfectly acceptable to use it if the oven is only slightly dirty. The self-cleaning feature locks your oven and takes it to a temperature of 550 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The excessive heat helps melt and burn away grease and grime. After around two hours, you are left with white ash in the bottom of the oven that you must clean away once the oven unlocks and is cool.
If your oven is very dirty with baked-on food, the self-cleaning feature will not work well. Too much grease and food residue can smoke and even catch fire. You should never leave home with the self-cleaning function engaged.
The best way to clean an oven for you will depend on that kind of ingredients you'd like to use, and how dirty your oven is to start. If your oven is heavily soiled, a commercial cleaner is the most powerful option, as these cleaners are formulated to cut through grease and baked-on food quickly and with minimal scrubbing. If you're wary of the ingredients used in a commercial cleaner or if your oven isn't very dirty, you maybe be able to use natural ingredients, such as baking soda and vinegar, to clean it. This method may require more scrubbing and may not be able to remove old grease marks or residue, but some may pick baking soda and vinegar over commercial cleaners as the best way to clean an oven.
Be sure to read the manual for your self-cleaning oven before embarking on any cleaning project, as some manufacturers will void their warranty if commercial oven cleaner is used.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Protective gloves and safety glasses
- Sponge or microfiber cloths
- Melamine sponge (Mr. Clean Eraser)
- Bucket or large tub
- Small bowl
- Paintbrush (optional)
- Commercial oven cleaner
- Baking soda
- Distilled white vinegar
- Paper towels or newspapers
- Large heavy-duty garbage bag
How to Clean an Oven With a Commercial Oven Cleaner
When using commercial oven cleaner, you'll need to be careful. Misuse could lead to burning the surfaces of your kitchen. Oven cleaner can damage wood cabinets, wood floors, and etch stainless steel, so be careful of drips and overspray getting on any of these surfaces.
If your kitchen has wood flooring, we recommend adding a layer of a trash bags down before the layer of newspaper on the floor, just to make sure no drips absorb through the paper and get on the floor.
Empty the Oven
Remove all the racks, thermometers, and any pizza stones or broiler pans you may store in the oven.
Put on Protective Gear
Many commercial cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can irritate skin and cause eye damage. Wear gloves and protect your eyes with safety glasses.
Place paper towels or newspapers on the floor around the oven to catch any drips that could damage the flooring. Make sure the kitchen is well-ventilated by turning on the fan in the stove hood.
Spray the Cleaner in the Oven
Following the directions on the product label, spray the interior of the oven coating every surface including the door. Do not spray the cleaner on electric heating elements or gas vents. Close the door. Most cleaners take 20 to 30 minutes to work.
Clean the Oven Racks
If possible, take the oven racks outside and spray them with the cleaner. Make sure to spray both sides of the racks. Place each rack inside a heavy-duty garbage bag and close it tightly for 20 to 30 minutes. Or, use a commercial cleaning kit like Carbona's Oven Rack & Grill Cleaner.
Wipe Down the Oven and Racks
After the appropriate amount of time has passed, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down all the surfaces in the interior of the oven and the racks. If food is still stuck to the surface, use a wet melamine eraser to scrub it away. You will need to rinse the sponge frequently in clean water as you work.
Reassemble the Oven
Once everything is clean, place the racks back in the oven and it is ready to use.
How to Clean the Oven With Baking Soda and Vinegar
Empty the Oven and Protect Surfaces
Remove the oven racks and any items stored in the oven. Place paper towels or newspapers on the floor to catch any drips.
Mix a Baking Soda Paste
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of baking soda with two tablespoons of water (use a more or less) to create a spreadable paste. You may need to mix a second batch if your oven is quite large.
Spread on the Paste
Wearing gloves, use your hands or an old paintbrush to spread the paste on every surface in the oven, including the door, except for electrical heating elements and gas vents. Close the door and allow the paste to sit for eight to 10 hours.
Treat the Racks
Place the racks in your sink or bathtub and spray with distilled white vinegar. Sprinkle on dry baking soda and watch the foaming action! When the foaming stops, fill the tub with hot water until the racks are fully submerged. Allow them to soak for eight to 10 hours.
Clean the Oven and Racks
Open the oven and wipe down all of the surfaces with a damp sponge or cloth. Scrub away stuck-on food with a melamine sponge or spray with a bit of vinegar and add some dry baking soda. The foaming action will help loosen the mess making it easier to wipe away.
Remove the racks from the soaking water and wipe with a sponge to remove grime on each side. Dry the racks and put them back in the oven.
Use a Pumice Stone for Burnt BIts
For badly soiled ovens, use a pumice stone to scrape away burnt-on bits without scratching. As long as the oven surface is lubricated with water, the pumice will scrape away carbon deposits usually only removed with harsh chemicals.