How to Clean Your Oven

How to Clean Your Oven

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 with that said, the longer you leave that bad boy (especially in a share house) the nastier your oven will become. Eventually, you’ll find yourself having to deal with a monster of a mess and who is bothered for that? So, get it out of the way now (I’m telling this to myself, too).

There are commercial oven cleaners out there, however, store-bought products can be harsh and generally smell like the chemicals they’re made from. So, if you’d like to keep your oven cleaning all-natural, know that it’s very easy to DIY with ingredients and materials you already have on hand.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Rubber cleaning gloves
  • A soft cloth
  • Dish soap
  • White vinegar
  • 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

ImagePhoto: Emily Long

Next, make a cleaning solution 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. Martha Stewart suggests adding essential oils if you’d like to liven up your paste.

If you have a large oven, you may need to scale this recipe.

Spread the paste

ImagePhoto: Emily Long

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

ImagePhoto: Emily Long

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

ImagePhoto: Emily Long

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

ImagePhoto: Emily Long

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.

This article has been updated since its original publish date. 

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