The stove is the workhorse of the kitchen, burners dutifully heating up on command to prepare meals at all times of day, season after season. It toils for you and your family, and that hard work shows: in a splotch of tomato sauce from Monday, charred spinach from Tuesday, burnt bits of rice from Wednesday. After days of cooking, the stove can come to be a visual map for what and how you eat. After a month of cooking, it can take on a golden-brown patina of grease and grime that looks anything but appetizing.
A stove should be kept clean for your physical health—bacteria builds up in those chunks of minced garlic that never made it into the pan or the bean broth that spilled over the side of the pot—but also as inspiration. A clean stove for a cook is the artist’s equivalent of a blank canvas—the possibilities are endless. A clean stove is also a matter of pride—as a pointer to habits of People With Homes That Are Perpetually Clean. And it's contagious (in a good way!), a motivation for washing up those last few spoons in the sink or finally tackling the dusty gap behind your fridge.
The key to cleaning your stove depends on the type of stove you’ve got, whether it’s gas, electric, or induction. The good news is, there are ways to clean every kind.
Not going to sugarcoat this—the best way to have a sparkling stove top is to clean it after every use. If you’re starting with an already-clean stove, this can mean as little as wiping down surfaces with a damp microfiber cloth or a soapy sponge. The more often you do the “small clean” on your stovetop, the less often you’ll have to do the “big clean.” But if it’s been a while and the big clean is what’s needed...
A gas stove usually has four main components that require cleaning: 1. the grate (the part that pots and pans sit on when cooking), 2. the burner caps (the removable disks that distribute flames from the burners), 3. the burner heads (which are attached to the stovetop and are where the fire comes from), and 4. the stovetop surface itself.
The stove grates and burner caps are where we recommend you begin your big clean-up. Remove the grates from the stovetop and the burner caps from the burner heads by lifting them off, and pile them into your sink. Depending on the size of your grates and the size of your sink, this step may have to be done in batches.
If your grates and burners are fairly clean already: Soap up a non-abrasive sponge (you don’t want to strip off any enamel or coating) and give the grates and burners a thorough washing; you may have to rinse and repeat as necessary. You’ll know they’re clean by the way they look (they should have no grimy or filmy stains) and feel (they shouldn’t be greasy or tacky to the touch).
If your grates and burners are solidly dirty: Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. To remove seriously caked grease, give the grates and burners an initial wash with a soapy sponge, then mix up your miracle paste. Combine 1 part vinegar with 2 parts baking soda, add a few drops of dish soap, and cake the mixture on. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, then wash it off with a soapy sponge and a little elbow grease.
Or try the ammonia method: Jill Nystul of the blog One Good Thing recommends a totally hands-off method for cleaning stove grates and burner caps—though this method only works for smaller grates that cover individual burners. “Pour a splash of ammonia into a ziplock bag,” she says. A gallon freezer bag works well for this. “Then place one of your stove parts into the bag and seal it, and repeat until all the parts you want to clean are sealed up in bags... Leave the bags on your countertop overnight. In the morning, pull the parts out of the bag and use a soapy sponge to wipe away the grease and grime.” Just remember, however, to check the label before use—household ammonia is usually diluted with water, but you can also further dilute it with water before you use it. Also, ammonia is a gas, so make sure the area you're working in is well-ventilated to be extra cautious.
Once the grates and burner heads are clean, dry them off really well. Unpaper Kitchen Cloths are an ideal tool for the job: They’re super absorbent, lint-free, and won’t leave any scratches.
Worst case scenario: It’s been so long since you’ve cleaned your gas stove that you can't even see the burner caps under all that built-up grease. Making sure that the stove is firmly off (basic, but worth double-checking), wipe the burner heads with a damp (not wet) cloth to remove any crumbs. Then use the pointy end of a paper clip or safety pin to scrape any narrow notches and gently poke into the clogged ignition port or burner holes, which is where the gas comes out. Wipe the burner heads again with the damp cloth, then gently scrub with vinegar, which should remove any grease and stains.
This is where all of the previous techniques come together. To clean the surface of your stove, first wipe it down with a damp cloth to collect any bits of food. Then wash with a non-abrasive soapy sponge to get rid of any greasy spots. If the grease has really solidified, whip out that 1:2 vinegar:baking soda mixture once againand spread it on, then let the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes before gently scrubbing it off with a soapy sponge. Dry the stovetop with a clean cloth, replace the burner heads and the grates, and pat yourself on the back for your efforts.
Electric stoves come in two varieties—metal coil burners and glass-topped—and both are easy to clean if you know what to do. Induction stoves have a glass-ceramic top, and can be cleaned using the same method as a glass-topped electric stove.
A metal coil electric stove usually has four main components that require cleaning: 1. the coils (which transmit the heat), 2. the drip pans (those metal bowls that hold the coils), 3. the underside of the stovetop, and 4. the stovetop surface itself.
If your coils and drip pans are fairly clean already: Electric coil burners can get very dirty, but they’re also (more or less) self-cleaning. Give the coils a quick wipe with a damp cloth, then turn the burners to high for about 3 minutes. Any accumulated grime will burn right off... though depending how dirty they are, you might want to open a window. Turn the burners off and let them fully cool, then wipe them down again.
If your coils and drip pans are solidly dirty: Heat the coils on high for a few minutes to burn off any residue, let them cool completely, then roll up your sleeves and pull the coils out of the stove with a gentle lift; they should pop out easily. Lift out the drip pans as well. Wash the drip pans with warm soapy water, then soak them in, yes, you guessed it—that magic mixture. Let the drip pans sit with their frosting for 10 to 15 minutes.
While the drip pans are resting, clean the coils. Lay out a few sheets of newspaper and grab a dry toothbrush. Gently scrub the coils to scrape off anything that’s crusted-on; it should flake off onto the newspaper. Then wipe the coils off with a damp cloth, dry them well with a dry cloth, and head back to the sink.
Wash the baking soda mixture off the drip pans and give them a final wash in warm soapy water, dry them well with a lint-free cloth, and look at your funhouse mirror reflection for a while.
Sometimes an electric stove can give off a smell of burning when you turn it on. This is usually a sign that you need to clean under your stovetop. Lift the front of your stove like a car hood; it should prop open in the same way. Use a damp sponge to wipe out the underside to remove any stray bits of food that might have gotten caught and a soapy sponge for any necessary scrubbing—or do like Jen Jones of IHeart Cleaning does and use a vacuum to suck everything up!
To clean an electric stovetop, start by wiping it down with a damp cloth to collect any bits of food, then wash off any grease with a soapy sponge. For tough stains and built-up spills, spread the 1:2 vinegar:baking soda mixture on the stovetop surface, then let the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes before gently scrubbing it off. Dry the stovetop with a clean cloth, place the metal coils back in the drip pans, and the drip pans back in the stove, and rejoice.
For tougher spills and stuck-on food, liberally dust the underside of the stove with baking soda, then spray (or carefully drip) vinegar on top. The mixture should bubble up—capture that in slo-mo as you wait, just for fun. Let the baking soda and vinegar sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrub the surface with a non-abrasive scrubber to get all the nasty bits. Dry well with a lint-free cloth—and don’t forget to to give the top of the “hood” a wipe-down, too!
If you own one of these, you have permission to gloat. This baby could not be easier to clean—including those patches where food has burnt onto the surface.
Step 1: Wipe down the surface with a dry cloth to collect any food bits or crumbs.
Step 2: Liberally sprinkle the entire stovetop with baking soda.
Step 3: Spray (or carefully sprinkle) white vinegar all over. Enjoy the magic fizz.
Step 4: Fill a small bucket or pot or whatever you’ve got with hot water and soap so it’s foamy. Dunk a thick towel or two lighter kitchen towels in the hot soapy water, then wring the towel out so that it’s damp but not dripping wet.
Step 5: Lay the towel on top of the stove, set a timer for 15 minutes, and watch some videos while the soapy heat from the towels activates the baking soda and basically cleans your stovetop for you.
Step 6: When the timer dings, pick up the towel and use it to scrub away at the stovetop. When all of the dirty spots have been cleaned, wipe off the baking soda.
Step 7: Do one more wipe with vinegar, dry the stove with a clean towel, and you’re done!
If there are stuck-on bits that really won’t come off, you need to pull out the big guns...and by guns, we mean knives...and by knives, we mean razor blades. Holding a sharp razor blade at a 45-degree angle, carefully slide the blade under the gunk with even pressure. It’s best to do this while the stove is still damp, but make sure your hands are dry so there’s so slipping. Then vinegar again and voila. Beware that there is a risk of scratching your stovetop surface here, so use this method as an absolute last resort—and do so at your own risk.
Now that your stove is sparkling, you can go ahead and eat off it. Or cook on it. Just remember that a quick wipe-down each time you're done will save you a ton of time in the long run. Plus, you get the added benefit of a stove (and a kitchen) you can be proud of. As a person with a perpetually clean home, of course.
Do you have any special tricks for cleaning your stovetop? Let us know in the comments!