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The Best Way to Clean Your Oven

Woman cleaning oven in kitchen, closeup
belchonock / Getty Images

Cleaning your oven has to be up there with the least-liked household chores. It is a difficult and messy job, but important to tackle nonetheless. Finding the best way to clean your oven helps make the job easier and hopefully, more tolerable.

Not only does a dirty oven look horrible, but there are other reasons to keep it clean. Old food stuck to the sides of your oven can be a fire hazard and may make your oven inefficient, hiking up your energy/gas bill. It is also unhygienic — potentially attracting pests — and can give off unpleasant smells from burnt-on grease and residue.

But with the right knowledge and basic tools, cleaning an oven doesn’t need to be an overwhelming chore.

How often should you clean your oven?

Add cleaning your oven to your list of regular chores. Cleaning it quickly and often is a good way to keep on top of it. But in general, clean it at least every three to six months.

There are a few signs that highlight your oven needs a good scrub. Number one is appearance. If you notice crust or residue at the bottom of the oven, or grease and other foods splattered against the door and window, it’s time to give it a clean. The other sign is the smell. If you can smell grease or lingering food, then your oven could do with a clean.

How effective is the self-clean function?

With a self-cleaning oven, you will have far less manual work to keep it clean, but you will still have to wipe off spills, residue, ash from burnt food, and dried food from the bottom. Another bonus of a self-clean oven: fewer toxic chemicals in your kitchen.

However, there are some negatives to consider. Self-cleaning ovens have to warm up to 900-1,000°F to incinerate the food residue and turn it to ash that falls to the bottom of the oven. This can lock your oven up for three to five hours and lets off some serious heat and nasty odors. Keep pets and people out of the kitchen during this process.

You may need to do a few rounds of the self-clean function to take out all the stains and baked-on grease. You may also need to remove all your racks and trays and put in an oven liner to protect the enamel coating of the oven. If all this seems more involved than just doing it yourself, below is the best way to clean your oven DIY.

Cleaning your oven in 5 steps

Step 1: Turn off and remove everything

Make sure your oven is off and cooled down. Remove everything from your oven, including racks, thermometers, oven liners, etc.

Next, using a paper towel or old cloth, remove all the excess ash from the bottom of the oven. The more you remove now, the less you will have to get rid of later.

Step 2: Apply your spray/paste

For this step, make sure you have a pair of sturdy rubber gloves handy to protect your hands from harsh detergents. You can either use a store-bought oven cleaner, or you can make your own. Easy-Off Professional Oven Cleaner is great for cleaning ovens or grills and contains no harsh fumes. Or you can make a homemade paste using baking soda and water. Mix half a cup of baking soda with some water to form a paste.

Cover the interior surfaces of your oven, including the door and sides, with your spray or paste. Pay particular attention to any greasy areas, corners, and nooks and crannies. Leave the spray on for the required amount of time, as listed on the bottle. If you are using a baking soda paste, it’s a good idea to leave it on overnight or for a minimum of 12 hours if possible.

Step 3: Clean your racks

In the meantime, clean your oven racks using one of these simple methods:

The first step is to simply take your racks outside, spray them with an oven cleaner, put them inside a large trash bag, and leave them to soak for the directed time.

The other method is to pour some washing detergent into a bath or large plastic bucket, add hot water, and leave the racks to soak overnight. This will loosen the dirt and make it easier to remove with a damp cloth.

Step 4: Wipe your oven down

The next morning, or after the appropriate time, head to your oven with a damp cloth and wipe away the dried paste or shop bought oven cleaner. Use an abrasive cloth if needed to remove any stubborn pieces of food.

Make sure you get into every crack and crevice to ensure you aren’t leaving any traces of dirt or cleaner behind. If you used the homemade paste, you can put a little vinegar into a spray bottle and spritz it everywhere — this will react with the baking soda and gently foam. Take a damp cloth and wipe out the foamy vinegar mixture, and you will be left with a clean and shiny oven.

Step 5: Replace racks

Remove racks from the bag or bath/bucket and rinse them in your sink with hot, soapy water. Use a sponge or other abrasive tool as needed on any sticky spots. Dry racks and place them back into the oven. For the future, you can also add oven liners to the bottom of your oven to collect debris and make cleaning much easier.

Products and tools you’ll need to clean your oven

  • Rubber gloves: Make sure you wear rubber gloves when applying the paste or oven cleaner to your appliance to protect your hands.
  • Dishcloth: You can use any dishcloth or old rag, or purchase a batch like these for regular cleaning. Wipe the oven with your dishcloth before cleaning, and then wipe away the residue after the product has been applied.
  • Spray bottle: If you don’t already have one, you can buy a simple spray bottle from Amazon. Use this to fill with vinegar and spray onto your oven before wiping away.
  • Baking soda: Any household baking soda will do the trick to create a homemade paste.
  • White vinegar: Simple white vinegar is great for spraying onto your homemade paste to create a foam and get into all the nooks and crannies.
  • Oven cleaner: Easy-Off Oven Cleaner is a great alternative if you don’t want to make a homemade paste. It is great for everyday cleaning and effectively cleans ovens with no harsh fumes or scents.
  • Abrasive cleaner: These cleaners are ideal for removing grease and burnt-on food from ovens and racks without damaging the metal.
  • Oven liners: These liners are heat resistant and can be used in all types of ovens to collect debris. Remember to remove the liners before cleaning and to soak them with the racks to ensure they are cleaned appropriately.

The bottom line

Cleaning an oven is not normally the first thing on everyone’s to-do list. But waiting until your oven is really dirty makes this chore even harder. Clean your oven regularly to reduce build-up and make the task as painless as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I clean my oven?

Old food and spills inside an oven can be a fire hazard and may make your oven inefficient. It can also attract pests and give off funny smells from burnt-on grease. 

How do I know it’s time to clean my oven?

If your oven looks dirty, it’s time to give it a clean. Another tell-tale sign is the smell. If you can smell dirty or greasy food, it’s time to put on the rubber gloves and grab your cleaner.

Do oven liners help keep my oven clean?

Oven liners don’t help to keep your oven clean but do catch all the ash and build-up of food that falls to the bottom. These liners can be removed easily, soaked in warm water and detergent, and then put back in, reducing how frequently you need to give your oven a full clean.

Should I get my oven professionally cleaned?

It is possible to hire a company to visit your home and clean your oven for you. Prices will vary enormously and can cost anywhere from $50 upwards, depending on the size of your oven. Some domestic cleaning services will offer it as part of their general home clean, but you are likely to have to pay extra for it. However, with the simple steps outlined above, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to complete this task without having to pay for it.

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