Home Project Tip #3: Cleaning The Oven


Tips for cleaning your oven.


That’s Nasty


I like cleaning the oven less than cleaning the stove, which puts it pretty far down on my list of favorite things to do.  However, I started this series by doing some of my less-than-favorite home projects in order to get them out of the way.  It is spring, after all, and I need to take advantage of  that extra surge in energy I get this time of year.


I have an electric oven.  Thankfully, mine is a self-cleaning oven which makes this project much better than might be.  And don’t worry: I plan to talk about the manual method for cleaning ovens, too.


Let’s get right to it…I want to finish up this project, especially as I’ve limited free time in my schedule today.


Self-Cleaning Ovens


Turn the oven off.

Does your oven have a self-clean cycle?

Step 1: If you have a oven manual, check it for instructions specific to cleaning it.  If you don’t have a manual, see the tip below for finding an online copy.  Also, if your oven is currently on, or is still warm from cooking, make sure to turn it off, prop open the door, and let it cool first.


Step 2: Remove the racks and any other loose items you may have in the oven like an extra thermometer or aluminum foil.  If you leave your racks in the oven they tend to discolor, so this is not recommended.  Important note: Never clean your stove top drip pans in a self-cleaning oven for the same reason.


Step 3: Wipe up the largest of the food particles using a paper towel or soft cloth and water. You can also use an oven cleaner or kitchen degreaser like 409, but if you do, be sure to wipe up all remnants before turning your oven on—otherwise you risk staining it.


Wet your SOS pad with water and then apply elbow grease.

Don’t assume you can safely use SOS pads on all surfaces. Check your manual.

Step 4: Wipe down the area just outside the door on the front frame of your oven.  You can use an oven cleaner or degreaser or an SOS or Brillo pad to do this (assuming it’s an enamel surface).  However, DO NOT use these products on stainless steel.  Use a stainless steel cleaner, instead.  Also, do not use harsh abrasives on the insulation around the door frame.


Wipe up the easy stuff first with a paper towel.

To avoid excess smoke, wipe up loose food particles first.

Step 5: After using any cleaning products wipe up all traces with a damp rag.  Allow to air dry.


Step 6: Close the oven door and slide the door lock to the “locked position”.  Make sure to turn your oven light off.


Step 7: Turn the cleaning cycle of your oven on.  On my stove there are two knobs to be concerned with.  One knob controls my oven temperature and the other is the cleaning timer.  I have to set both to “Clean”.  Check your manual if yours looks different.


Step 8: Open your windows and turn on your exhaust fan.  Oven residue and leftover food particles are prone to burn up and cause a certain amount of smoke.  The smoke may be enough to set off your smoke alarm.  This is why it’s best to remove as much of the food particles as you can before you start your cleaning cycle.  Also, be aware that sheet metal used to make ovens may occasionally make a popping or crinkling noise as it heats up or cools down.  This is considered normal.


55 Plus or Minus: You Don't Know Jack


Step 9: The cycle on my oven takes about 3 ½ hours to complete.  While it’s going, the oven surface gets warm. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep stray food or packaging materials off the stove above it.  My manual says I can use the stove top while the oven is running through the clean cycle.  Check your manual before you assume it’s the same for your oven.  While the cleaning cycle is going, it’s also a good time to clean your oven racks.  Use a steel wool cleaning pad, rinse with water and allow them to dry.


Finish up the oven by hand if more scrubbing is needed.

If you need to touch up a spot or two a steel wool pad does wonders.

Step 10: After the oven cleaning cycle completes, allow the oven to cool before opening the door.  If there are any bits of ash in the bottom of the oven you can vacuum them up, or you can wipe them up with a damp rag and water.  If you still have some baked on particles leftover you can try running the cycle again or using a SOS pad and some elbow grease to clean it up.


Manually Cleaning Your Oven


Step 1: Remove all the racks and extra items from the oven.


Step 2: Wipe out all the excess food particles with a damp rag or paper towel.


Step 3: Turn on the exhaust fan, open a nearby window and put on a pair of rubber gloves.  Now, spray your oven with an oven cleaner such as Easy Off Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner.  This product can be used in a warm or cool oven, but be sure to read and follow all directions.  Most important: Do not spray this in your mouth, nose or eyes!  Once it’s on, allow the product to sit for 5 minutes before wiping it off.  Other oven cleaners may take more time.


Most manufacturers are now getting more attuned to environmental and consumer concerns.  That means there are more choices than there used to be.  For example, Easy Off also makes a “fume-free” cleaner, which they claim contains no caustic fumes. If you are happy with the current product you are using, please let our readers know what it is by commenting below.


Use rubber gloves with steel wool and other cleaners.

Don’t forget to clean those racks. To save your hands wear rubber gloves.

Step 4: After wiping out the oven, spend a few minutes working on the racks.  You can generally do this with an SOS pad and then rinse with water.


The Green Alternative


If you don’t want to buy and use a regular oven cleaner because you’re worried about fumes or chemicals, you can also use baking soda as a “green” alternative.  This method is totally natural.  Granted, it will take longer, but all that means is you leave it on overnight to allow it to do the work.

Here’s what to do:  Either create a paste of baking soda and water and spread it over any baked on “gook” in the oven, or generously sprinkle baking soda over any spots you want to clean and then spray the soda down with water.  If your sprayer doesn’t work very well, you can also dribble water over the top.  You want your baking soda to be thoroughly saturated, but not watery.  You also want any spots to be covered with the soda/water mix.  Now, close the oven and let the soda work overnight.  In the morning, take a paper towel and just wipe up the remnants.  Most, if not all of the baked on foods should now be gone.  If you’re not satisfied with the result, you can always poor a little more soda and water over any leftover spots and check on your progress 6 to 12 hours later.  When satisfied, wipe out the oven one last time with a clean, damp rag.


Save yourself time later by using a cookie sheet or aluminum foil to catch spills.

Prevent drips by putting a layer of aluminum on the rack under your casserole.

A Final Tip


It’s a lot easier to keep an oven clean as you go.  How?  Use a cookie sheet or spread aluminum foil on a rack just below any item that might spill or boil over.  That prevents drips and food particles from falling down near the elements where they tend to burn up. Warning: Some oven manufacturers warn against leaving an aluminum sheet down below the burners on the bottom of the oven. Be sure to check your manual for other warnings specific to your model.


Finding An Online Manual


There are many care and safety suggestions in the manual.

Even the label rivited to the oven suggests consulting the manual.

Just as it was true for cleaning your stove top, it’s best to consult your manual to see specific suggestions for cleaning your oven.  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 oven 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.


How do you clean your oven?  What special tips do you know?  Why not share in the comments below?


Next up in our new tip series: Tackling the plastic food container cupboard.


For a great Home Project Tip on cleaning your stove click here.



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