I don’t generally think to clean my oven unless I need to pass a move-out inspection or bits of burnt food lurking within it start setting off my smoke alarm. But the longer you put it off, the grosser your oven gets, so go ahead and tackle it right now.
There are commercial oven cleaners out there—I like Bar Keeper’s Friend for stainless surfaces like my sink and cookware; simply sprinkle the powder in your oven and scrub with a wet sponge. However, store-bought products can be harsh and generally smell like the chemicals they’re made from, and it’s easy to DIY with ingredients and materials you already have on hand.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Rubber cleaning gloves
A soft cloth
A spray bottle
A sponge or dish brush (for really dirty ovens)
Heads up: don’t start this process if you need to use your oven in the next 12 hours. It’s best to wait until you’re done cooking for the day so the cleaning solution can set overnight.
How to clean your oven
Remove the racks
First, take out your racks, thermometers, steel plates and any other accessories or items you store in your oven. You’ll clean your racks separately—we’ll get into that below.
Mix your cleaning solution
Next, make a paste with baking soda and water, which you’ll spread all over your oven’s interior. Start with 1/2 cup of soda and a few tablespoons of water (I used 3, but you can eyeball it), adding more as needed.
If you have a large oven, you may need to scale this recipe.
Spread the paste
Put on your gloves and spread the baking soda solution on all interior surfaces save for the heating element, fans and gas valves. You can use a paintbrush or old toothbrush for this, but I had neither, so I used my fingers. Really work the paste into the extra greasy spots.
Wait 12 hours
Now it’s time to hurry up and wait. Let the paste dry for 12 hours or overnight.
Clean your racks
While you wait, fill your sink, bathtub or a plastic bin with dish soap and hot water for soaking your oven racks. If your racks are large, you may have to shift them around as you clean so all parts are immersed. Let them sit for a few hours, then wipe away any grime with a sponge or cloth.
If your oven racks are especially dirty or there’s grease or grime left over after your initial clean, sprinkle with baking soda, pour white vinegar on top, and scrub off the resulting foam.
Wipe off the dried paste
Take a clean, damp cloth and wipe away the baking soda mixture. Rinse the cloth as needed. You can also use a sponge or abrasive brush to scrape stubborn spots.
Spray with vinegar
Spray (or drizzle if you don’t have a spray bottle) any remaining chunks of your baking soda paste with vinegar and wipe away the foam.
Return the racks
Once your racks are dry, put them back in the oven along with anything else you removed. That’s it.
What about self-cleaning ovens?
Many ovens offer a self-cleaning function, which basically just heats the oven way up—to around 480 degrees Celsius, far higher than you can set it for cooking—to burn off grime. All you have to do is scrape out the ash when the cleaning cycle is done.
This works decently well for moderately dirty ovens, so if you have a really fancy appliance or an aversion to getting your hands dirty, you can certainly go the self-clean route. (Just make sure you remove the racks, etc. before starting the cycle.)
However, the process can produce a pretty gross smell and the super high heat may set off sensitive smoke alarms or even blow fuses. And if your oven is caked with grease and burnt food, you may need to scrub it by hand anyway.