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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.
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.
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
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.