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How to clean an oven

Dirty Oven
(Image credit: Future)

It’s something we all have to do, but hate to do. Cleaning the oven can take time and effort and most of us will only face the chore when absolutely necessary. Even if you own one of the best electric ranges out there, over time, burnt food residue will build up causing smoke and unwanted smells.

Cleaning the oven is essential though, not only from a hygiene perspective, but also from a safety point of view — leaving it unchecked can lead to fires so it can’t go ignored. The smell and smoke inside of a hot dirty oven can also contaminate any food you cook in it, so it really is best practice to clean it regularly. Follow this guide to find the best way to clean an oven.  

How often should you clean your oven?

This largely depends on how often you use your oven and how much residue builds up inside of it. In general, it’s good practice to lightly clean the oven once a month and then deep clean it every 2-3 months.  

What you will need to clean your oven

Either an oven cleaner or baking soda and white distilled vinegar

Dishwasher detergent

Rubber gloves

Towels or newspaper

Microfiber cloths or sponge and scourer

Empty spray bottle

Tell-tale signs of the oven needing cleaning include smoke building up within, potentially setting off sensitive smoke alarms. If you’re struggling to see through the glass door due to grease and splatterings, then that’s another sign. Lastly, you can smell smoke and grease when it’s time to give it a clean. It’s also a good idea to check the oven quickly after each meal; if you notice any fresh residue, wipe it up immediately, otherwise it will burn on.  

What does the self-clean function do on an oven?

Before you start, check if your oven comes with a self-clean program and if it does, follow what the manufacturer recommends in terms of how often you should run it. There are two types of self-cleaning ovens; pyrolytic and steam cleaning. 

During a pyrolytic self-clean cycle, which can last several hours, the oven will be locked and reach temperatures of 500 degrees celsius or 900 degrees fahrenheit. The high temperatures will reduce any residue to ash and once the cycle is finished, you simply brush it out. However, be sure to check that you won't need the oven for the duration of the cycle as it will be locked throughout.

It's also a good idea to run this program on a cool day when you can open a window as you will feel the effects of the heat in the kitchen and it can produce a smell, too. We wouldn’t recommend running this program if the oven is particularly dirty with lots of food residue inside of it. Remove this residue beforehand as it will cause excessive smoke. 

Steam clean ovens use steam to pre-loosen any residue, but you will need to manually clean it afterwards. These cycles are much faster than pyrolytic, operate at a lower temperature and don’t produce as much smell, but they do require more elbow grease. 

If your oven comes with a self-clean program, but you would rather use a standard oven cleaner, be sure to check that the ingredients in the cleaner are compatible. Some chemicals will erode the enamel within self-cleaning ovens, so it’s always best to check with the manual.   

How to clean an oven

Baking Soda in Oven

(Image credit: Future)

1. Preparation: Let the oven completely cool and remove everything including the rack holders if possible. This will give you ample space to clean. It’s a good idea to lay down some towels or newspaper around your oven too.

2. How to clean your oven with baking soda: If you’re using an oven cleaner, follow its instructions for application and removal. If you want to try a more sustainable method, you can use baking soda, but it's important to note that this likely wont be able shift heavily burnt on residue within the oven. You may need to resort to an oven cleaner and scourer for this. Baking soda will remove everyday grease and grime though.

To do so, make up a paste with 1 cup of baking soda and 4 tablespoons of water. While wearing gloves, apply the paste to the inside of the oven using a microfiber cloth or just your fingers, keeping it fairly thick and covering all residue. We found it best to dab it on with a spoon, and then just scrub it around with our hands. Avoid the heating elements and ventilation slots if you have a gas oven. You may notice it starts to turn brown, but not to worry, that means it’s working! 

3. How to clean a glass oven door: The same paste can be used on the glass door to remove any built-up grease. Generously apply it once again. The inner glass panel on some oven doors can be removed for easy cleaning. Let the paste sit in the oven for at least 8 hours, or ideally overnight.  

Cleaning Oven Racks

(Image credit: Future)

4. How to clean oven racks: While you’re waiting, you can tackle the oven racks and holders, if you removed these. It’s easiest to wash both in a bathtub or a sink, but be sure to lay something down to stop them from scratching the surface. Non-slip mats or towels work well for this. Once the racks are in your tub or sink, fill it with hot water until the racks are just covered. Use the hottest water possible to get the best result.

Mix a cup of dishwasher detergent with some hot water separately to pre-dissolve it. This can then be added to the racks and left to sit for 8 hours or overnight. If you don’t have this kind of dishwasher detergent, then there’s also a method which uses baking soda and white distilled vinegar. Before you fill the tub/sink, sprinkle baking soda all over the racks, being sure to cover any soils.

Next, fill an empty spray bottle with white distilled vinegar and spray the racks. You will notice it will start to foam. Once the foaming stops, fill with the hottest water possible until the racks are submerged and leave for 8 hours or overnight. Any residue should scrub off with ease afterwards. Be sure to rinse the racks, or run them through the dishwasher before putting them back!

5. Remove the baking soda paste: Once time is up, use a spray bottle filled with white distilled vinegar to give the oven a final spritz. It will start to foam as the vinegar reacts with the baking soda. Once the foaming stops, use hot water and a microfiber cloth or sponge to remove the paste and scrub the oven clean. Remember, don’t use anything abrasive on the glass door as it can scratch.  

Your oven should now be a much better sight! If any burnt residue remains, you may need to repeat the above steps on a focussed area or resort to an oven cleaner, but this method will shift everyday grease and grime. Don’t forget to give the outside a clean with a damp microfiber cloth as well.

Clean Oven

(Image credit: Future)

How to keep your oven clean

  • Invest in an oven liner. These are designed to protect the floor of your oven by catching any spills. These can be easily removed and cleaned, or if necessary, replaced.  
  • Keep an eye on your oven. After every meal, inspect your oven for any grease or splatters. Cleaning these up immediately is a lot easier than once burned on.   
  • Clean the oven more regularly. Make sure you schedule to regularly clean your oven, rather than leaving it until necessary. Cleaning it more often will make the chore much easier and keep your oven in the best working condition. 
Katie Mortram

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed kitchen appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieMortram.