The Complete Guide to DIY Oven Cleaning

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A dirty oven isn’t just yucky. A whole host of dangers lurk beyond those unpleasant odors, layers of grease, and UFOs (“Unidentified, Fatally-Charred Objects — formerly known as pizza, perhaps?).

You know your oven needs cleaning. Is the only barrier between you and a factory-fresh oven a lack of knowledge? Are you perfectly prepared to put in the elbow grease it takes to clean your most important kitchen appliance?

This guide dives into several ways to clean your oven. You’ll find a step-by-step guide as well as a look at the pros and cons of each DIY oven-cleaning method.

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Why (and How Often) Your Oven Needs Cleaning

Most experts — including chefs, professional cleaners, and firefighters — agree that keeping your oven clean is absolutely crucial. While the frequency with which you clean your oven depends on how and how often you use it, here are some general guidelines:

  • Give your oven a quick wipe-down after each use, especially if there are visible splatters or food debris. This habit keeps your oven cleaner for longer, making deep cleaning much easier.
  • A deep clean — the subject of this guide —is required once every three to six months. Deep cleaning your oven twice a year should suffice if you only use the appliance occasionally. However, if you heavily rely on your oven, grease and debris build up more quickly. Deep cleaning your oven every three months is a good idea in this case.
  • If you use your oven every day and it gets dirty quickly, you may also opt to add “semi-deep-clean” sessions to your schedule. These aren’t quite as thorough as a deep clean, but much more involved than a quick wipe-down.

Why should you deep clean your oven at least once every six months?

Let’s start by looking at the least unpleasant consequences of a dirty oven. As grease and food debris build up, including in hard-to-reach places you can’t see, you’ll notice a distinctly unappetizing odor. Like that sprig of rosemary you added to your roasted chicken, your oven dirt can infuse itself in the flavors of your meals.

As nasty as this thought is, a dirty oven can have far more extensive consequences.

Kitchen fires are, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) warns, the leading cause of house fires and home fire injuries. Failure to clean the oven can cause food debris to ignite, potentially with disastrous consequences.

Even if it doesn’t come to that, dirty ovens work far less efficiently than clean ones, because baked-in dirt forces your oven to work harder to reach the right temperature. Establishing a regular oven-cleaning schedule can help you cut your utility bills.

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How to Clean Your Oven with a Commercial Oven Cleaner

Cleaning your oven with a store-bought oven cleaner is an effective, easy way to get the job done — even if you are dealing with stubborn grease and grime.

If you’re going this route, you’ll need:

  • A commercial oven cleaner, like Easy-Off, Zep, or Break-Up. (They rely on sodium hydroxide to break up fats and oils.)
  • A sponge.
  • A scrub brush (optional and intended for extremely dirty ovens).
  • A microfiber cloth or kitchen towel.
  • Old newspaper or cardboard to place in front of the oven and protect your floor.
  • Optional: Gloves. If you have extremely sensitive skin, protect your hands.

Now, let’s examine how to deep clean your oven with a store-bought oven cleaner, step-by-step.

Step 1: The Preparatory Phase

Remove your oven racks and broiler pan to clean separately.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn it off, and place sheets of old newspaper in front of the oven. Read the instructions your product comes with as you wait for the oven to cool down slightly, as each oven cleaner is slightly different.

Open your windows to allow for ventilation, and wipe off any large debris before you start cleaning.

Step 2: Apply the Oven Cleaner

Starting at the top, apply your product to the oven ceiling, walls, floor, and door. Make sure to spray the outside of your oven door as well.

Spray your oven racks and broiler pan in the sink. Alternatively, immerse them in a solution of oven cleaner and warm water.

Wait at least 10 minutes for the oven cleaner to soak in, and keep your oven door closed during this time.

Step 3: Scrub Your Oven

If your oven was not very dirty, you should be able to gently wipe away the oven cleaner, grime, and grease with a normal kitchen sponge. If it was overdue for a deep cleaning, use a scrub brush to dislodge any residue.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Use clean water to rinse your oven’s interior. This ensures no residue remains when you next use your oven. With clean, warm water, wipe your oven’s entire interior several times — changing the water whenever it gets dirty. Thoroughly dry your oven with a microfiber cloth or towel, and make sure no oven cleaner residue is left behind.

How to Clean Your Oven Using a Homemade Cleaner

A mixture of baking soda and vinegar is the most popular DIY oven-cleaning solution. These ingredients are cheap, widely available, and surprisingly effective if you have a regular oven cleaning schedule. This can be explained by the fact that baking soda is mildly alkaline, giving it the power to dissolve fatty leftovers.

If you’re going this route, you’ll need:

  • ½ cup of baking soda (soda bicarbonate — not baking powder!)
  • A spray bottle with white vinegar.
  • A sponge or a scrub brush.
  • A tea towel or microfiber cloth.

Cleaning your oven with a DIY cleaning product is a little more involved. Here’s how you do it.

Step 1: The Preparatory Phase

Pour ½ cup of baking soda into a clean bowl. Add water and keep mixing until you get a thick, spreadable paste with the consistency of toothpaste. Remove your oven racks so you can clean them separately.

Step 2: Apply the Baking Soda Paste and Soak

Using a kitchen sponge, apply the baking soda paste to the entire interior of your oven, with the exception of the heating elements. Don’t forget to apply baking soda to your oven door, either. Be generous; the paste should be clearly visible.

Let the mixture sit for at least 12 hours so that the baking soda can break old grime and debris down; you can do this overnight.

Step 3: Add Vinegar and Scrub

Spray white vinegar into your oven to cause a chemical reaction. You’ll hear a fizzing sound and see bubbles. Scrub your oven’s interior and door. Because this DIY oven cleaner is less effective than a commercial oven cleaner, a scrub brush will come in handy.

Step 4: Rinse Your Oven

Using a sponge, rinse your oven multiple times to ensure no residue is left behind. It is not dangerous to leave baking soda in the oven, as it is actually an extremely effective way to extinguish small fires, but you’ll want to make sure your oven is spic and span.

How to Use Your Oven’s Self-Clean Function

If your oven has a self-cleaning feature, you have access to an effortless way to clean your oven. However, it is still crucial to pay attention. Each self-cleaning oven works slightly differently, and you’ll want to read the manual before you test this handy function.

Self-cleaning ovens work by heating grease and debris to extreme temperatures to incinerate them, after which ash that you can easily wipe away remains. A self-cleaning cycle typically takes between two and six hours to complete. You won’t be able to use your oven door during this time, and will also have to allow your oven time to cool off after the process is complete.

As convenient as self-cleaning ovens are, the process is also rather intense. You may shorten your oven’s lifespan if you exclusively rely on this feature, making DIY cleaning with baking soda and vinegar an attractive alternative.

Which DIY Oven Cleaning Method Is Superior?

You don’t have to rely on professional oven-cleaning services as long as you wipe down your oven after every use and deep clean it every three to six months, depending on your frequency of use. Once you discover the best DIY oven cleaning method for you, you won’t even dread the prospect of tackling this chore.

So, which DIY oven cleaning method is best, and why?

Let’s take a quick look:

  • Commercial oven cleaners are extremely effective. They’ll bust even stubborn grime and debris with very little effort. However, if you prefer to avoid harsh chemicals or someone in your household is sensitive to volatile organic compounds, it is best to avoid store-bought oven cleaners.
  • Homemade baking soda and vinegar cleaners are significantly less effective than store-bought cleaners. You’ll have to scrub much harder to achieve the same result, and you are also best off cleaning your oven more often to keep stubborn grease at bay. However, this DIY cleaner is environmentally friendly and supremely inexpensive. You’ll learn to love it in time if you stick with it.
  • Self-cleaning ovens are convenient. The process is, however, energy-intensive, and the other concern is that self-cleaning cycles can shorten your oven’s lifespan.

No matter which option you decide on, you can get your oven clean. Let your priorities guide your choice, and happy cleaning!