Cleaning your oven is one of those chores you know you have to do, but probably dread the thought of. Still, every once in a while, you just gotta buckle down and get it done. A clean oven will cook more efficiently, make your food taste better, and use less energy. Best of all, cleaning an oven isn’t as hard as you think.
Follow these simple cleaning tips to get a lean, mean, squeaky clean cooking machine.
Though you could come up with some wacky ways to clean your oven (swab the inside with Q-tips, perhaps?), there are generally just a handful of ways to go about the job. We recommend using any of the following to clean your oven:
- the self-clean function
- store-bought cleaners
- natural cleaners
Most ovens have a self-clean button. If only your whole house had the same thing, no? This handy function is only meant to clean moderately dirty ovens.
Here’s how it works: Once you hit “self-clean,” this function locks your oven door and increases the oven’s temperature up to 550°F (288°C) or more, depending on your oven. The high heat burns off any stuck-on residue.
That said, if you have grimy buildup in your oven, it can backfire and cause excessive smoke. It may even start a fire. If it’s been a few months since you cleaned the oven or it’s caked with splattered food, skip the self-clean function.
If your oven isn’t too dirty, by all means, self-clean away. But be mindful of a few tips:
- Most self-cleaning cycles take about 2 hours, but check your owner’s manual for the exact time.
- Plan to stay home for the full cycle and let it cool completely before opening.
- Before you hit that magical self-clean button, remove the racks and clean them by hand.
- Once the cycle ends, you’ll see white ash at the bottom of the oven. Swipe away with a damp cloth, and voilà! All set.
It’s true that store-bought oven cleaners will effectively remove grease and grime. But these types of cleaners tend to be caustic. Before you use anything with chemicals, make sure there’s plenty of ventilation in the kitchen and that you wear rubber gloves and safety glasses. And be sure to take a selfie because you look awesome like that.
Ready to get scrubbin’? Follow these steps.
1. Remove everything from the oven.
2. Protect the floor beneath the oven with newspapers or paper towels.
3. Put on gloves and glasses.
4. Spray the oven cleaner all over the inside of your oven. If the oven is electric, try not to get any cleaner on the heating elements. Gently lift the element and spray underneath. For gas ovens, try not to get any cleaner where the gas comes through. Be sure to get the back, sides, and door.
5. Let the cleaning spray sit for 20 to 30 minutes, or the time indicated on its label.
6. While you wait, take the oven racks outdoors and spray them with the oven cleaner. Place them in a large trash bag and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes as well.
7. Once the time is up, wipe away the cleaner from the interior of the oven with a damp rag. Make sure you remove it all! If you run into a few stubborn spots, use a wet scouring sponge or steel wool.
8. Remove the oven racks from the bag and rinse with hot, soapy water. Use a scouring sponge to remove crusted-on grime, if needed.
9. Dry the racks and place them back in the oven.
This DIY method requires at least 12 hours and a bit of elbow grease, but it can be great for people who are sensitive to store-bought cleaners. It uses just two ingredients — baking soda and vinegar — so there’s no need for harsh, manufactured chemical products.
Here’s how to get your oven sparkling with all-natural supplies.
1. Remove the racks and everything else from the oven.
2. Protect the floor beneath the oven with newspaper or paper towels.
3. Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda with 2 to 4 tablespoons of warm water. This will form a spreadable paste.
4. Put on your rubber gloves. Spread the baking soda paste all around the inside of the oven and the oven door. If your stove is electric, steer clear of the heating element. If it’s gas, avoid getting any of the paste into the slits where the gas comes through.
5. Close the oven door and let it sit for 10 to 12 hours or overnight.
6. If you have large oven racks, plug up your sink or bathtub and place the oven racks there. Sprinkle them with baking soda and pour vinegar on top. The vinegar and baking soda will foam. Once the foaming stops, fill the sink or tub with hot water just until you cover the racks.
7. Allow the racks to sit for 10 to 12 hours, or overnight.
8. Once the oven and racks soak, put on your gloves again.
9. Open the oven and wipe off the baking soda paste with a damp cloth. If you have stubborn spots, use scouring pads to scrub them off.
10. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray the oven and oven door. Any baking soda residue left will foam.
11. Wipe away the foam with a clean damp cloth.
12. Remove the racks from the sink or tub and wipe them down with a damp cloth. Use a scouring pad or steel wool to remove caked-on grime.
13. Dry the racks and put them back in the oven.
There’s no set oven cleaning schedule that’s right for everyone. Instead, your oven-cleaning routine should be based on certain clues. If you can answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to clean your oven:
- When you look inside your oven, do you see layers of burned-on residue? Is the door covered with splattered grease?
- When you heat up the oven, does it smell?
- Does your oven smoke every time you turn it on?
As a general rule of thumb, plan on cleaning your oven every 3 months. If you are an avid baker or cook, you may need to clean it more often.
We get that, in terms of fun, cleaning your oven is a chore on par with scrubbing toilets or scouring your grout. But once you look at a smooth and spotless baking interior, you’ll probably wonder why you don’t do it more often. Choose from the cleaning options listed above for great results — and then get baking, roasting, and broiling like a pro.