If you call yourself an avid home cook, you most likely put your oven into overdrive year-round, and not only during holidays. What doesn’t land in the plates typically ends up in the oven chamber: roof, floor, oven walls, racks, and window glass. When you don’t remove the splatters and debris, they will dry and harden to a point beyond what you can wipe with a soapy sponge. Every three to six months, you should deep clean the oven so that the food doesn’t burn and the residues affect the taste and, even worse, cause a fire. Don’t take a cloth and the nearest cleaner within reach to clean your dingy oven just yet! Instead, study up on the right and wrong ways to make your oven immaculate.
The do’s of oven cleaning
Even if you don't see all the built-up grime and dirt in your oven, you most likely smell it and taste it. This is true especially if you haven't cleaned it for several months. As with many things with life, there are correct and wrong ways to manage things, and oven cleaning doesn’t make for an exception. Without any further ado, here are the most important things to do for oven cleaning.
1. Clean the oven on a regular basis
Frankly, not many people hurry into oven cleaning because it’s challenging on so many levels. That doesn’t mean that you should never do it. On the contrary, you should brace yourself and clear your schedule before cleaning the oven. Since it's such a complex appliance, you need time, energy, and patience to get the best cleaning results.
Regular oven cleaning is essential for your health and the lifespan of your oven. The splatters of salsa sauce on the oven’s door or the cheese boiled on the bottom may not seem much, but the food residues may carry diseases when not removed.
Also, the more you cook in a dirty oven, the more the food residue will cook and burn. When you're not paying attention, a piece of food may reach the heating element and generate fire.
2. Do examine your oven to see how dirty it is
We can all agree that most of us don’t hurry home because we cannot wait to clean the oven. Having said that, let’s clear things out: you don’t need to clean the oven after every single use, but you shouldn’t wait until it causes a fire either. The rule of thumb is to clean your oven every 3 to 6 months. When you only use the oven from time to time, you can get away with longer than six months in-between cleaning periods. On the other hand, when your daily cooking involves the oven, you might need to clean it every month.
Either way, you should examine the oven and see how dirty it is. If you use the oven every day, you might not even notice the grease stains and splatters. The food residue at the oven’s bottom is what you see more frequently. Clean the oven the moment you notice them.
3. Some ovens require specific cleaning methods
Do you have an oven with a steam cleaning feature? If so, you shouldn’t use any cleaners or additives when cleaning it. It doesn’t mean that you can wait forever until you clean the oven; it means that you shouldn’t use cleaners when your oven runs the steam-cleaning cycle.
It's similar to self-cleaning ovens, even though some differences exist. When you have a regular oven, you might need to decide which kind of cleaners to use: natural or chemical. You don’t need to make that decision with the self-cleaning and steam-cleaning ovens. Don’t feel wrong about not owning an oven with self-cleaning or steam-cleaning features. Some effort on your part is much needed when cleaning these ovens as well.
4. Always start with a cool, empty oven
You don’t just go ahead and clean the oven. You begin with turning it off and let it completely cool so that you don’t burn yourself while scrubbing. Take out from the oven all the pots, pans, and oven racks so that you easily reach the floor, roof, and walls of the oven.
A good idea is to vacuum the oven before cleaning. Use a model with a crevice attachment to remove crumbs, loose food residues, and small chunks of food.
5. Remove racks and all detachable oven components
You don’t want to damage any of the oven’s components while cleaning. Please read the manufacturer's instructions on which elements you remove before cleaning. These parts are designed for easy removal and cleaning. Make sure that you remove the racks, tray, and any detachable parts to clean them aside.
6. Do pre-soak the removable oven components to speed up the cleaning
When you haven’t cleaned the oven for a long time, the risk of having to scrub the stubborn food particles, grease, and grime is high. You don’t want to spend hours scrubbing away, especially when you don’t have much time on your hands.
One of the best hacks to try is to pre-soak every individual part of the oven. Place the removable components in the sink filled with water and cleaning solutions. Due to their weird shape and big size, racks fit best in the bathtub. As for the components you cannot detach, rub the surfaces with a soft cloth dampened in the cleaning solution.
Place some old towels in the bathtub before laying the racks side-by-side. Sprinkle every rack with a one-eight-inch-thick layer of baking soda and spritz white vinegar all over the racks. Once the baking soda stops foaming, fill the tub with hot water and completely submerge the racks. Let them sit overnight.
Oven window glass
Spread the oven cleaning solution over the window glass on the interior. Let it soak for 15 minutes and wipe it away with a damp cloth afterwards.
Oven walls, roof, and floor
Use a gloved hand to spread the oven cleaner over the oven’s interior surfaces. Stay away from the heating elements on the floor and roof. If you use a homemade solution with baking soda and water, you should let it work for 8 hours or so.
7. Different components of the oven need various cleaning techniques
After pre-soaking the parts, you need to use specific cleaning implements and wiping motions for each of them. Begin with the surface requiring the least soaking time (the oven window glass is one), and continue with the oven chamber surfaces. Racks need the most extended soak so you will clean them last.
Oven window glass
Wipe away the loosened grime with a damp microfiber cloth and unidirectional motion. You want to leave the window glass streak-free. Rinse the window glass with water to remove the baking soda and wipe dry.
Oven walls, roof, floors
Wipe the sidewalls with a damp sponge and go from top-down. Repeat the motion on the back wall so that ash chunks fall to the oven floor. Continue with wiping the roof and the floor and go back to the front. Rinse the sponge and repeat the wiping until you remove all baking soda. Wipe dry for the finish.
Move perpendicular to the grates of every oven rack and use a rag to scrub every frame. Rinse and dry the racks before placing them back in the oven. Don’t forget to clean the bathtub when you’re done.
8. Call the professionals for deep cleaning services
Every now and then, you should call the professionals for deep oven cleaning. If you’re at the end of the tenancy, you might not get your full deposit back due to insufficient oven cleaning. Landlords are detail-oriented for cleaning, and a clean oven is difficult to obtain when you lack the skills, methods, and patience. Stay on the safe side and hire professionals for oven cleaning at the end of the tenancy.
The don’ts of oven cleaning
1. Never clean the oven while it’s plugged
It might sound unnecessary, but you should never clean the oven, or any other electrical appliance, while it’s still plugged into the power outlet. Unplugging the oven keeps you safe and reduces the risk of damaging the property due to an accidental trip over the cord, pulling the cable out of the oven.
2. Don't use the self-clean feature if you're about to have a party
Ovens with a self-clean feature will generate high heat or steam throughout the oven to loosen the food residues. Use the self-clean cycle and don’t scrub it on your own, especially if the oven is severely soiled. When you use this function, your oven might not function from half an hour to six hours. Plus, it can produce burning odours and fumes. It can even short a thermal fuse or burn a heating element when there’s too much heat. Therefore, you should plan a self-clean cycle well before or after hosting a big family gathering.
Also, you shouldn’t use the self-cleaning feature very often; five times a year is enough. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use a damp cloth to wipe away the loosened debris from the oven.
3. Don’t put aluminium foil on the oven floor
Some homeowners line the bottom of the ovens with a sheet of aluminium foil to collect food spills and ease out the cleaning. However, the aluminium foil will reflect or block heat, so the food doesn’t cook enough or overcooks. The effect is present with both gas and electric ovens. What’s even worse is that the aluminium foil can melt onto the oven floor and ruin the oven permanently.
4. Don’t use the self-clean feature too often
High-end ovens can come with a self-clean feature that allows users to clean the ovens with just a press of a button. The feature eliminates the fuss of cleaning, but it’s not ideal to use it too many times a year. Should the users engage in the self-clean cycle regularly, there could be irreparable damage to the oven. The heat or the high steam blasting throughout the oven's interior can also burn out the heating element or cause a short of a thermal fuse. Stay on the safe side and only use the self-clean feature five times a year.
5. Not all oven components allow cleaning
Regardless of what one may think, not all oven components allow cleaning. Get the user's manual to see which parts are safe to clean and which to avoid so that you don't damage the oven. With most ovens, the heating elements on the roof and floor of the oven are off-limits for cleaning. Even if you use gentle moves, you can still scratch the element or even make it generate a spark or flame. It can happen if the element is still warm when cleaning.
Also, avoid cleaning the oven’s flexible gasket (it’s on the interior of the oven door) so that you don’t alter the oven seal that seals the heat trapped inside the oven.
6. Don’t turn the oven to dry it faster
We know that it may sound dumb, but some people try to turn on the oven to speed up the drying process after cleaning. The risk of causing an explosion is high, so never try it.
Also, you shouldn’t hurry into using the oven right after you complete the cleaning. You should let it dry entirely before plug it back in.
7. Don’t use chemical-based cleaners in self-cleaning ovens
Always read the oven manual before purchasing the cleaning solutions to see which commercial products are safe. Chemical-based cleaners work with come conventional ovens, but not with the self-cleaning models. Due to the chemical ingredients, they might corrode the enamel coating of this type of ovens. Instead, you can opt for oven cleansers made with bio-degradable and non-toxic ingredients. They're safer and eco-friendlier than chemical-based alternatives.
8. Don’t overdo it with the controls
If your oven has control knobs, it’s best not to soak the control knobs. Also, you shouldn't use steel wool, oven cleaner, or abrasive cleaners on the control panel.