A dirty oven makes cooking unpleasant, especially when it fills your home with greasy smoke. That same mess also attracts household pests, even when it’s not in use and you’ve got the door shut. So, tempting as it might be, ignoring that mess can lead to bigger problems.
Now, you could head to the store and grab a spray can of oven cleaner — there are plenty of brands available. But if you’ve got a self-cleaning or textured oven, store-bought oven cleaners can damage the finish. And, even if you don’t, the fumes from such products can damage your health. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to clean your oven naturally, and you probably already have everything you need.
How To Clean A Self-Cleaning Oven
If you’re lucky enough to have a self-cleaning oven, cleaning it is easy. Start by removing anything in your oven like spare pots and pans, as well as towels hanging from the door handle. Self-cleaning cycles can reach over 550°F (288°C) inside, so not surprisingly, the oven exterior can get hot and damage things touching it. Next, wipe up any large spills on the oven floor with a damp rag, remove the racks, and start the self-cleaning cycle. Wait for your oven lock to release before you open it, and wipe away any residue you find inside.
You may not always want to run the self-cleaning cycle, though. Given the high temperatures involved, using the self-cleaning feature on your oven adds heat to your home — something you may not want to do during the summer. It also uses quite a bit of energy, so it’s not worth it for minor messes. On the other hand, since the self-cleaning cycle works by incinerating grime, using it with a filthy oven can pose a fire risk. That’s why it’s good to know how to easily clean your oven without commercial sprays.
Steps to Clean Your Oven Naturally
This easy, overnight method works even on crusty, messy ovens. You just need a bit of elbow grease and a few common kitchen ingredients.
- Soak the Racks
To give yourself room to work, take out your oven racks. These are usually pretty dirty, too, so you should go ahead and get them soaking while you clean the rest of your oven.
An easy way to clean your oven racks is by dissolving a dishwasher pod or 2 tablespoons of powdered dishwasher detergent in a large sink or bathtub half-filled with very hot water. Line the bottom of the basin with towels so the racks don’t scratch it, then slip the racks in and let them sit overnight. The next day, use an old toothbrush to loosen any remaining grime, then rinse and dry them before putting them back into your oven.
Use a clean, wet sponge or rag to wipe up crusty bits or foamy black blobs on your oven’s floor. Removing this first layer of mess will make the next few steps a lot easier. If you need to scrape or pry up any burned-on bits, use a silicone or wood spatula — not metal.
- Use Homemade Oven Cleaner
Mix up some homemade oven-cleaning paste and use it to coat the inside of your oven, avoiding the burner elements. When mixing the paste, you don’t want it to be too runny, or it will just slide down your oven walls. As you apply it, think of it as “painting” the inside — you want to cover every bit of your oven’s interior, including the glass on the door.
- Wait then Wipe
The homemade oven-cleaning paste needs time to dissolve grease and loosen grime, but how much time depends on how dirty your oven is. If it’s a little messy, you may be able to proceed in a few hours. Otherwise, close the oven door and let the baking soda paste sit overnight.
Once you’re ready to proceed, start wiping away the paste with a rag dipped in hot water. It’s not a bad idea to keep a bucket of warm water nearby to do this. Don’t worry about getting up every little bit of the baking soda, though — the next step takes care of it.
- Spray and Wipe
To finish cleaning your dirty oven, fill a spray bottle with equal parts warm water and white vinegar. Mist this mixture all over the oven interior — it will fizz and foam where it hits any remaining baking soda. Wipe it away with a warm, damp rag and let it air dry, then put your clean racks back into the oven.
How to Clean Greasy Oven Door Glass
If your oven door’s glass is still greasy after following these steps, open the door all the way and place some towels on the floor beneath it. Then, apply a thick layer of the homemade oven-cleaning paste to the glass. Dampen a rag with very hot water and put this over the glass, and let it sit for an hour or two. Pull the rag off, spray with the vinegar-water mixture above, and scrub with an old toothbrush. (Some readers have recommended scrubbing with the corner of a dishwasher tablet, not pod, or with a melamine sponge or Magic Eraser.) Wipe the residue away with a damp cloth and buff it dry.
Tips to Keep Your Oven Clean
Cleaning an oven is never really a fun task, so it makes sense to do what you can to prevent spills and messes.
Keep Spills from Happening
Don’t overfill cookware. Use the pan sizes recommended in recipes instead of trying to get by with smaller ones. Ideally, you want a least an inch of space between the surface of whatever you’re cooking and the top of the pan. If you don’t have that much space, put an empty baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch drips.
Wipe or Salt Fresh Spills
One of the easiest ways to keep your oven clean is by wiping up spills while they’re fresh so they don’t get a chance to bake on and become a hardened mess. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to remove food in the middle of cooking, though — just sprinkle a handful of table salt on any fresh spills and keep cooking. The salt will absorb liquids and make it easier to wipe away the mess as soon as your oven cools.
Line the Oven Floor Properly
Never line your oven with aluminum foil, even if that’s how your grandmother did it. Foil can fuse to the floor of modern ovens and cause fires, plus it voids your warranty. Instead, use a removable, washable oven liner, and you may never have to clean your oven again. When a spill happens, you just pull out the liner and rinse it off — it’s that easy.
Steam Clean Your Oven as Needed
Steaming is also a great way to clean your oven without baking soda. Fill a metal (not glass) roasting pan halfway with hot water and put it on the middle rack. Remove the other racks. Turn your oven to 450°F (233°C) for a half-hour, then turn off the heat and leave the door closed. Wait an hour or until the oven is cool enough to work with, then carefully discard the water and remove the rack. Wipe away loosened grime with a soft, damp cloth, and put the racks back in place once the oven is dry.
How Often Should You Clean Your Oven?
There’s no set schedule for how often an oven ought to be cleaned since it really depends on how often it’s used. If you cook often, you’ll want to clean it at least every three months, or immediately if it smells bad or starts to smoke while in use. At a minimum, though, you should wipe spills when they’re fresh, then deep clean it once a year to prevent pests and damage.