Home Project Tip #2: Cleaning The Stove

Another Javabird.com Home Project Tip

I’d Sooner…

If you’re anything like me, then cleaning the stove is rated with other tasks like scrubbing the toilets or having a tooth pulled.  In fact, unless I’m cooking dinner, it’s a rare day when I really want to think about the stove at all.  Thus, as I wandered around the house the other day to make a list of my overdue household projects I happened on one very dirty and sad little cooking appliance: My stove top.

It’s All About Time

It’s worth considering how much time you have available to work on a particular home project.  That way you can divide it up into tasks that fit your schedule.  Depending on the condition of a stove, it can take me 5 to 45 minutes to clean it.  The same holds true for the oven.  Thus, if all I have is a half hour in my day, it may be best to complete both tasks over a couple of days.  That’s what we’ll do here as our next Home Project Tip will be on cleaning the oven.

 

They’re Not All The Same

 

Before we begin, it’s important to understand that different types of stoves have different requirements for cleaning.  To be sure you’re doing the right thing for your stove I strongly recommend you read the manual first.  Meanwhile, here are some of the basics on cleaning to get you started.

 

Electric Ranges

 

Foil will catch drips.

This foil caught many drips, but I don't like how it looks.

I have an older style electric range with “drip pans”.  When we moved into the house last year, the previous owners had taken some aluminum foil pie dishes and carefully cut them out and shaped them to fit over the top of the pans—in other words, they sit just below the stove elements.  I’ve seen other people use regular foil and wrap their pans with it to achieve a similar result.  In either case, the point is to catch food and grease on something that can be easily replaced.  We originally left the foil pie dishes under our elements, but I’ve never really liked the look of it.  Plus, the drip pans we inherited are black and I’ve never liked the color.  I think it makes it too hard to see whether or not the stove is really clean next to the ring.

 

Replacing Pans

 

I replaced black enamel pans for chrome pans.

Four new chrome pans cost me less than $20

As I went to clean my stove top today, I decided to replace the drip pans with new chrome ones.  I was able to find replacements at Home Depot for a total cost of just under $20.  I’ve tried this before with other stoves and had a much harder time trying to find the right pans to fit them.  In a couple cases, I even had to special order them from a local appliance store that sold parts.  In that case the cost was closer to $40.

 

If this had been my usual clean job, I wouldn’t be buying new pans.  I will do that, when they get particularly stained or if I can no longer scrub them clean.  Generally, I expect a new set of pans to last for at least one to three years.

 

First Things First

 

To clean my stove top, I first make absolutely certain the elements are cool.  In fact, no matter what kind of stove you have, make sure it’s cool before you start cleaning it.  If you just finished cooking, be sure to turn off the stove and give it at least 20 to 30 minutes to cool down.

 

Elementary

 

When I’m sure my stove is cool, I remove the elements and drip pans.  My elements are fairly easy to remove—I gently lift the edge opposite the plug and pull the whole thing straight out.  To replace an element I simply reverse the process.  Once I’ve got the elements out I can just pick up my drip pans—I have no clips or springs holding mine down.  If you do, check the manual for the proper method to remove them.  I soak my pans in some warm, soapy water while I’m cleaning the rest of the stove top.  That can help when it comes to scrubbing them clean.

 

Wipe It Down

 

Wiping down my stove top.

I used 409 first and then I wiped it all down again with water.

Though my drip pans come as one part, many stoves come equipped with an outer ring and an inner pan that sits within it.  After removing the pans (and rings if they’re separate), I use a good degreaser like 409 Kitchen Cleaner to wipe the stove down.  However, my stove has an enamel finish.  If yours is stainless, you’ll want to find a cleaner specifically made for stainless steel appliances.

 

Knobs

 

While I’m wiping my stove, I pay extra attention to all the knobs and any areas that normally, don’t get that much cleaning on a regular dish night.  If the knobs are really bad, I can pull them off by lifting them straight up and then clean them with soap and water.  The important thing to remember is putting them back on correctly so you don’t accidentally leave the stove on or set the temperature higher than intended.

 

The Baked On Stuff

 

In some cases, wiping a stove down won’t cut a stubborn, baked on spot that lies right under the drip pan ring.  In that case, I use a wet SOS (i.e. steel wool) scrubbing pad and spend a few minutes carefully working the area over.  Please note that using steel wool or other scouring pads on a stainless steel stove may cause scratching.  Use your stainless steel cleaner instead or look for additional recommendations in your owner’s manual.  Also, if you do use a steel wool pad on an enamel surface, don’t use a lot of pressure—scrub lightly with a gentle back and forth motion.  When I’ve got all the “gook” off the stove top, I’ll wipe it all down with a sponge and water to clean up any leftover particles.

 

The Hidden Mess

 

Side "bars" keep the top from falling while I clean it.

The top of my stove is hinged and lifts to making cleaning easier.

On my stove, the top lifts up from the front so that I can access the area beneath the drip pans.  It’s a good idea to clean this area as it inevitably catches grease and other foods that fall through any holes in the drip pans.  On my stove, the top is hinged on back, which means it works a lot like the hood on my car.  In fact, there are a couple of rods to hold it up in place to allow better access for cleaning.  Again, I’ll use a good kitchen degreaser and a steel wool pad for my first go around and then wipe the whole thing down with water.

 

Cleaning The Pans

 

With my stove clean, it’s time to finish up with those drip pans.  If they’ve been covered in foil, this may be as easy as removing it.  However, sometimes the foil will leak or get a hole in it and there will still be a mess to clean up.  In any case, I use an SOS pad, lots of water, and some elbow grease to clean my drip pans.  I spend a few minutes on each pan until I’m satisfied with the result.  The steel wool will usually take care of any baked on food, but if the food has burned onto the pan, the pan itself is likely to be permanently discolored.  Since I cook all the time, I’m much less concerned with a perfect looking drip pan and much more interested in getting it clean.

 

More Tips

 

The new drips pans made a huge difference.

After cleaning it, my stove is as good as new.

Here’s a few more stove cleaning tips:  (1) Make a habit of running your drip pans through a dish cycle in the dishwasher every week or so.  The dishwasher won’t remove all the burned on stuff, but it’s bound to help and you’ll remove more food particles that way.  Plus, the simple act of removing a pan to clean it will probably prompt you to clean the rest of the stove more thoroughly.  (2) Since you’re already running your dishwasher to clean pans, you can also pull the “metal” filter out of your exhaust hood every couple of months and run it through the washer with the rest.  Most of these filters are meant to be cleaned periodically as they constantly collect some of the grease that rises with hot air or steam as you use the exhaust fan.  (3) Finally, never put your drip pans in the oven if you’re running a “self-clean” cycle as the pans will severely discolor.

 

Ceramic Stove Tops

 

If you’ve got a ceramic stove top, your stove cleaning chores are going to be different.  Ceramic tops are one solid mass, so there won’t be any drip pans to worry about.

Hold the blade at the proper angle.

If using a razor on a ceramic cook top, hold the blade at a 45 degree angle and go in one direction.

The main thing for a ceramic top stove is to avoid using any cleansers or harsh scouring pads.  Even a supposedly mild cleanser can potentially damage a ceramic surface so it’s just not worth using one.  The ceramic will scratch if you do.  For a ceramic stove surface,  use a stove top cleaner specifically made for the purpose like Cerama Bryte.  You can find it and a variety of other products like it at stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and your local grocery store.  One other product that some users recommend is common baking soda.  Sprinkle a small amount on the stove top and then use a wet rag and lightly scrub until the surface is clean.

You can also use a razor blade for stubborn particles, but do it with care to prevent scratching or injury.  If using a blade follow these tips: Use only one-sided blades, hold the blade at a 45 degree angle to the stove surface, move the blade in one direction and wipe loosened particles as you go so they don’t get dragged under the blade.   Another tip: Take off any jewelry like rings while cleaning—diamonds are hard and can scratch your stove top.  Finally, to stay ahead of the game, wipe up all spills on your ceramic stove as soon as the stove has cooled.  That keeps old food particles from burning onto the surface.

 

Gas Stove Tops

 

The best plan for a gas stove is to frequently remove the grate and wipe up the bowl underneath it—as in daily.    Warning: Take care not to remove the heads and caps while wiping your stove down to avoid any damage to the burner ignition.  While wiping your stove down, soak grates in warm, soapy water.  When you’re ready to clean them use a steel wool pad to remove any stubborn particles.

 

A commerical gas range.

Imagine needing to clean this monster.

On the stove itself, you’ll want to avoid harsh abrasives or cleansers.  Instead, wipe the metal down with a damp cloth—you can fill a bowl with soapy water and then wring the cloth out.  Be sure to avoid using too much water on the surface to keep it from dripping down onto the spark igniters.  Here’s another important tip: DO NOT use steel wool on stainless steel to prevent scratching.  Instead, get a stainless steel cleaner recommended specifically for your stove.  Finally, to clean the heads and caps on your stove, first remove them—you’ll want to wash them by hand and then run them through a dish cycle.  Be sure to replace them before restarting the stove.

 

Manuals

 

Stoves are different.  Do you know what to do?

If you don't have a manual, you can find one online.

No matter what kind of stove you own, it’s always best to consult your manual to see the suggestions for cleaning it.  If you’ve lost your manual, a replacement is often available for free if you do an online search.  Go to your favorite search engine and type in your stove manufacture, stove type and the word manual.  For example, I typed in “GE electric range manual” (without quotes) and was given an option that took me to this GE webpage where you type in your model number to get an online manual.

 

Got any more tips for cleaning your stove?  If so, let’s hear ‘em.  You can comment below.

 

In the meantime, come back tomorrow for a tip on cleaning your oven.

 

By Bob Anderson

© 2011 Javabird LLC.  All rights reserved.

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For a great tip on cleaning windows click here.

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