Cleaning

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cleaning the Oven

Not sure how to begin? We’re here to help.

April  6, 2020
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.


Your oven is the place where gooey cheese, bubbling sauce, and steak drippings go to die. So, it's absolutely no surprise that you never ever want to clean it. Until you have to. Which, by the way, experts recommend doing at least twice a year. Not sure how to even begin? No worries, I wasn't either, so let's look at our options together.

Let's start with the good news: Most modern appliances actually now come with self-cleaning options, which we’ll discuss in detail below, but even if you're dealing with a dinosaur (if you live in a New York City rental you'll know exactly what we're talking about), there are plenty of oven-cleaning products available to help you along, as well as some DIY solutions for a more eco-friendly spin on things.

So, which option is the best one for you? Roll up your sleeves because we are about to break down the pros and cons of each method to help you find the most efficient, convenient, and stress-free strategy for keeping your oven looking spotless. Let's do this. Together.

All About Self-Cleaning Ovens

After years of living with an extra-small, white-gone-cream, low-fi oven for years, last week I became the proud owner of a gleaming 30-inch with, yes, a self-cleaning function. This is one technological innovation that doesn't get its due, but is basically a modern-day miracle. It essentially works by using extremely high temperatures to burn off bits of food debris.

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Top Comment:
“How often do I clean my oven? Easy ....... right after I make a major mess like dumping an entire roasted chicken in it. Okay , maybe a week after, but no more. One thing I would add is that most manufacturers recommend removing the racks before cleaning, as the high heat can damage the racks. I can tell you from experience, they are correct.”
— Frank
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How do you make it work? Turn on your oven to the self-cleaning cycle, and it will heat up to an otherwise unusable temperature, somewhere around 900°F or more. What happens next? The extreme heat basically incinerates any food remnants inside your oven without you having to lift a finger! I told you, it's a miracle!

This process can take a couple of hours, and if you're worried about safety, it's really not an issue because your oven will be locked for the duration of the cleaning process. Once it's all-clear and back to room temperature, all you have to do is clean out the ash that remains of what was once meat spatters, lasagna overflows, and sauce drips.

Sadly, there is a but. While this time-saving option might seem like a no-brainer, there are actually a few things to watch out for with self-cleaning ovens.

  • Remove all pans and foil from inside the oven before you clean. You will also likely need to remove the racks and wash them separately. Check your appliance manual to be sure.
  • If you plan to use the self-cleaning feature, it is best to avoid using any type of commercial oven cleaner inside the appliance.
  • The self-cleaning feature often results in a strong odor as food burns off. Open out a window or two.
  • The appliance will naturally get very hot during the process, so you'll need to keep kids and pets away from it.
  • Because the oven reaches such a high temperature when self cleaning, the appliance can’t always dissipate the heat, and some people have complained about burnt fuses and burnt-out control panels.

If you been self-cleaning your oven for years and have never had any problems, don't let me stop you! But it's important to be mindful of these problem areas before using the self-cleaning feature.

Let the oven cool after the cleaning cycle. The oven should automatically turn off when the cleaning cycle is over and you'll be able to open it when it cools down to regular temperatures.

Steam-Cleaning Ovens

There's more where that miracle came from. Some appliances come with a second self-cleaning option: steam-cleaning. If the prospect of heating your oven to almost 1,000 degrees frightens the daylights out of you, this cleaning method might be more your speed (and temperature).

According to Appliances Connection, while both the steam-clean and self-clean options use heat, the main difference is that "a steam clean adds water to create steam and soften the residue in the oven cavity." But it warns that while a steam clean is faster, "it can't really handle a lot of grease and food remains. The best time to use the steam clean is after minor food spills."

If your oven has a steam cleaning feature, it will usually take less than an hour to complete (some take as little 20 minutes) and only heat up to a temperature of around 250°F. This means there will be no smoke or smell, and it will also use less energy than a traditional self-cleaning cycle. At the end of it, wipe away the heated grime with a cold sponge. Make sure to also wipe down the sides, as some suggest steam-cleaning isn't as effective with the sides of the oven (hello, splatters) as it is with the base.

DIY Steam Cleaning

Bummed that your oven doesn’t have a steam-clean option? Don’t be! It couldn’t be easier to DIY a steam-clean:

  • Remove the grates and wipe out any loose debris.
  • Place a large oven-proof pot or pan filled with water (you can also add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the mix).
  • Turn your oven on to 300°F and let the water bubble, steam, and do its thing for about 30 minutes.
  • Turn off the oven, and let it cool. Finally, you can wipe it down with a water/vinegar solution.

DIY Oven-Cleaning Solutions

Are you one of those that just enjoys doing it all yourself? It’s quick and easy to whip up a “green” DIY oven-cleaning solution, according to Leslie Reichert, the Green Cleaning Coach.

All you need for a DIY oven cleaner is 1 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of vinegar in a spray bottle.

“Sprinkle the base of the oven with the baking soda,” Reichert explains. “Spray the vinegar over the baking soda to make a light foam. Let the foam sit for as long as you can. Keep spraying the baking soda to keep it moist.”

“For the side of the oven, mix some baking soda with water to make a thick paste and spread it on the sides of the oven,” she says. “Spray the paste with vinegar and leave it to sit for as long as you can. Wipe off the excess paste and then rinse with hot water.”

Grime will be much easier to wipe away after this treatment. However, Reichert notes that you don’t want to use this method of cleaning if you plan to also use your oven’s self-cleaning feature, as it can potentially damage the oven’s special coating.

There are several other combinations of pantry staples, or ingredients lying around your home, for DIY-ing your oven grime away. Try and test your own combinations.

Top-Rated Commercial Oven-Cleaners

If you prefer to simply buy a commercial oven cleaner from the store, there are a few top-rated products homeowners swear by, including brands like Easy-Off and Green Gobbler Orange Oil.

Just remember, though, that whether you're using a commercial product or making a DIY solution to clean your oven, you'll need to do it more frequently than if you're using the self-cleaning option. And in general, try to wipe down the oven at least once a month to prevent tough food buildup and keep scrubbing to a minimum! The more you do, the less painful it becomes.


This post has been updated by the Food52 editors to include even more tips & tricks for cleaning out your oven.

Do you have any oven-cleaning hacks to share? Tell us in the comments below

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • LT10014
    LT10014
  • cosmiccook
    cosmiccook
  • oregon cassie
    oregon cassie
  • Kathy Dunlap
    Kathy Dunlap
  • Serena
    Serena
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Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.

31 Comments

LT10014 June 6, 2020
I have a Miele oven. I read about the dangers of the self cleaning high temp - possible damage to the enamel, possible damage to the computer board. I tried cleaning with baking soda. This week I saw a product called “no fume EASY-OFF for self cleaning ovens”. I sprayed it on last night and this morning 2.5 years of grease and grime wiped right off. I don’t know what if any damage I have done to the oven but it’s gleaming , no elbow grease and it looks brand new. I really hope I didn’t ruin my beautiful 2.5 year old oven. It was way past baking soda and vinegar solutions I fear. From now on I plan to clean regularly and after any spill. But the ease in which years of grease wiped away with a doing and paper towels was thrilling.
 
cosmiccook June 6, 2020
Did you clean in a cold oven or turned it on? If a cold oven you're fine. My repair tech said no harm at IF you don't turn the oven on w the spray on it. Someone mentioned on this post that GOO GONE has an oven cleaner even better than Easy Off--be interesting to have a comparison. I'm doing the same for my 15 year old oven. Keeping clean after every major use.
 
LT10014 June 6, 2020
Thank you so much for this reply. I did it with a cold oven and sprayed the oven last night and cleaned it this morning. I hope I got all the residue off (I think I did) before my kids baked a German pancake . I’ve been researching and it seems you’re not supposed to use oven cleaner in a self cleaning oven if you plan to use the self cleaning option as the fumes will be toxic. This spray truly had no fumes and it did say it was safe for self cleaning ovens. My worry is that I may have damaged the enamel or protective covering on the enamel but I don’t plan to use the self cleaning option ever. 1000 degrees for three hours does give me pause. Thank you again!
 
cosmiccook June 6, 2020
As long as you got the residue off, you're good (my tech assured me the self cleaning stuff w cold oven will NOT harm enamel)
 
Serena June 7, 2020
1000 degrees for 3 hours? Yikes, that would give me pause too!
 
cosmiccook May 9, 2020
@ oregonC--your ovens didn't "trip" something--the heating elements can't handle the high temps self-cleaning ovens use. I have a 15 year old Wolf-cost me $1800 for repairs and it STILL isn't working. Service tech said NEVER use the self-cleaning modes--OR put oven cleaner on them and turn on the oven. Apparently that's a common repair. Using oven cleaner on a cloth or sponge in a COLD oven is what he recommended.
 
oregon C. May 9, 2020
This article has convinced me to finally clean my ovens — they get lots of use but are the biggest pain. All racks including the side pieces that hold the racks need to be removed. Two Electrolux ovens (blue inside) with self-clean; however, the last two times I cleaned them (probably 4-5 years ago), I had to have the serviceman in as cleaning tripped something in their circuits so they seemed to die. He has to pull-out both ovens to fix. Bottom line, it costs me over $200 every time i want to clean the darn things. Who designed this stuff? Sounds like I can try the diy steam clean, vinegar or commercial cleaner on this oven?
 
Kathy D. April 17, 2020
One more recent discovery while sheltering in place...I found out that the door to my CSO comes off for cleaning the inside - much easier to reach in. No screwdriver or anything, just flip a couple levers, partially close, and lift up. Maybe other ovens have something similar? I think I will spend some time reading my appliance manuals...
 
cosmiccook May 9, 2020
Lucky you! My oven door weighs 30 lbs and repair tech said don't even try to take it off. I learned my lessons when I have to replace oven. What is your brand--I sure like that you are able to take off the door!
 
Serena April 14, 2020
I prefer using steam to clean my oven. I try not to let things build up too much before I clean it, the operative word here being "try". ;) Anyway, when I bake things like a fruit pie, I place a tray of water on the rack underneath it to catch all the drips. The juices end up in the hot water instead of on a dry tray pan that you need to scrub afterwards, making for a much easier cleanup.
 
cosmiccook April 12, 2020
To Kathy Dunlap --I can't find your comment--but what kind and how old/new is your wolf? I have some pitting on the bottom of my oven I'd love to replace it but I can't find a seam anywhere indicating just the bottom can be replaced on my 15 year old one.
 
Kathy D. April 12, 2020
My 30” M Series Transitional oven was installed in 2018. There is a seam just up the side a bit off the bottom. The repairman did not have to pull the oven out. It was a very fast repair.
 
cosmiccook May 9, 2020
Mine is an E series--I'll have to check w Wolf. Don't use the self clean unless you want a huge repair bill!
 
Kathy D. April 12, 2020
Avoiding build up is key, but please don’t put aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven. I should have consulted the manual. The foil welded permanently to the bottom of my new oven. Wolf was able to replace just the bottom of the oven, no questions asked.
 
Meg O. April 12, 2020
Goo Gone for Grills and Ovens works wonders! Much better and very little odor, as Easy Off or other harsh commercial cleaners. I use this method and then do the shortest method of the self clean cycle to get everything off.
 
cosmiccook June 6, 2020
My repair/service tech said worse thing you can do is put oven cleaner on self-cleaning ovens and then turn them on.
 
Susan I. April 10, 2020
Having recently shopped for a new oven, self cleaning ovens were still available, but because of the high heat required for this feature, it does a number on the unit. One great hint if you do have an oven with such a feature, put your old sheet pan in- it will come out looking like new
 
cosmiccook April 8, 2020
I found out the HARD WAY to NEVER USE THE SELF CLEANING OPTION having just spent nearly $2 GRAND repairing my 15 year old WOLF oven on HEATER element, RELAY BOARD & CONTROL PANEL. My repair tech said the heating elements CAN'T withstand the high heat of the self cleaning options--regardless of the brand. He said he wished these oven manufacturers would just stop putting this option in or at least WARN customers of the problems. Of course had I known it would have cost that much at the time (it was a one-by one diagnosis and replacement) I would have replaced w a less expensive oven. In the 15 years of owning it, I used the self-clean mode about 2 a year, followed all instructions to the hilt. I also used my hand steamer in lieu of the self cleaning as I got a better clean that way. I'd love to see another column or article on this issue.
 
Serena April 14, 2020
Sorry to hear about your costly ordeal! But thank you for the warning and confirming what I had been told about the high heat causing damage to the oven.
 
Pat April 7, 2020
What is the best way to clean an electric oven? Do I remove the heating elements? Other
 
Patricia W. April 7, 2020
My oven has a blue enamel finish. I used the self clean method and it just hardened everything on. Now I don't know what to do. It has me baffled. Bought some oven cleaner and thought I would test a spot. Do you have any information about this type of oven?
 
cosmiccook April 8, 2020
Is it a Wolf or other higher quality brand? You can use the oven cleaner in a COLD oven, according to my repair tech. Put the cleaner on a cloth, let it sit a few minutes and THOROUGHLY wipe clean. He said the key is to NOT have any residue. I'd also try a hand steam cleaner.
 
Minirider April 12, 2020
Is your stove an LG? Mine is and has the blue colored oven. Do not use oven cleaner-the owners manual specifically warns you not to. You will ruin the finish and I’ll bet they won’t honor your warranty! What self clean method did you use? There are two cleaning cycles on my oven-Easy Clean and Self Clean. Easy Clean is much shorter but I have heard it doesn’t work well so I only use Self Clean. The only problem I have had is getting the window clean and I just decided to live with it.
 
Patricia W. April 13, 2020
I did use the Self Clean cycle first and it just baked everything on. Really made it worse. Out of desperation I used Easy Off, cold, and it turned out great. If it damaged the finish I can't tell yet. I'm just so glad not to see all the grime gone and a nice clear window again. Thanks all for your input.
 
barbara0621 April 6, 2020
I noticed that the glass doors do not get completely clean when using the self clean feature of the Bosch oven. What do you recommend?
 
cosmiccook April 8, 2020
Hand clean when ITS cold; use a fine blade razor or glass cleaner. That's what I do w my Wolf. Sadly the other tip my repair guy gave me was to (sigh) wipe out as frequently after use to avoid build ups. I now put EVERYTHING under a wide sheet pan. Splattering is an issue but I try to wipe w a moist non-abrasive scrub cloth while slightly warm to the touch.
 
Marthanned September 7, 2019
Thank you for the information about diy steam cleaning. I clean my microwave this way. I never thought to apply it to my oven. I wonder if you can leave the racks in the oven as the temperature is so low? I am new to Food52. I just found it this morning! I think it will be a gem in my information gathering for a better home and life. Thank you!
 
Jennifer August 26, 2019
Anyone thinking of using self-cleaning feature should be aware of risk of fires starting in the oven. If you do have a fire, DON'T OPEN THE DOOR--with lack of oxygen, the fire will burn out quickly. When I had a fire while self-cleaning I called the fire department--they came by and stood by while the fire burned out, but at least from the perspective of the firefighters who came to my house, better safe than sorry.
 
Serena April 14, 2020
Yes, great point! Years ago, I experienced a fire in my oven, and in a panic, we opened the door and used a fire extinguisher to put it out. Would've saved us the trouble to have just let the fire use up all the oxygen in the closed oven!
 
Kim K. May 5, 2018
If you use the self-cleaning feature of your oven, it might be wise to consult your owner's manual first. Mine says the racks should be removed before starting the self-cleaning mode. Not sure if that's a universal tip, but it's definitely a Bosch requirement.
 
Frank May 5, 2018
How often do I clean my oven? Easy ....... right after I make a major mess like dumping an entire roasted chicken in it. Okay , maybe a week after, but no more. One thing I would add is that most manufacturers recommend removing the racks before cleaning, as the high heat can damage the racks. I can tell you from experience, they are correct.