How To Clean An Oven (Inside And Out)

You’ll be able to taste the difference!

Your oven has a lot of components, therefore we’ve got a lot of different tips and techniques for cleaning each bit of it. From the glass door and the metal racks to that mysterious self-cleaning function, this comprehensive oven cleaning guide has arguably way too much information on all things oven related—including several suggestions for how not to clean your oven.

Why it's important to clean your oven

You should clean your oven for the same reason you clean most appliances: The dirtier your oven is, the less efficient it becomes at reaching your desired temperature. Well-oiled machines just work better. (Weird, right?!) Also when you ignore all that crusty, burnt-on food and grease in the oven for long enough, it can become an actual fire hazard. And how embarrassing would that be, to have to explain to friends and family that you burned your kitchen down because you were too lazy to clean out the oven? Oh, and all that grossness accumulating in your oven probably isn’t exactly enhancing the flavor of your food, ya know?

How often to clean your oven

You should be cleaning your oven—at the very least—seasonally (every 3–4 months). If you’re doing lots and lots of cooking (ahem: pandemic baking), consider cleaning it more often.

How to clean oven glass

Cleaning oven glass is a bit more involved than cleaning, say, windows or mirrors. Ovens see a lot of grease and extremely high temperatures, so their glass doors are considerably more dirty.

  • Make sure the oven is off. We’re ashamed we even need to list this as a first step, but hey, safety first!
  • Open the oven door completely, and begin removing any big, obvious chunks of food.
    • You can use a vacuum attachment to suck up crumbs, especially from the seam where the oven’s door hinges are.
    • Finish the initial crumb removal process by wiping off the interior of the door with a damp rag or sponge.
  • Mix a paste of baking soda and water so that it’s thick like cake batter. (You’ll only need to mix in a few drops of water to about ⅓ cup of baking soda.)
  • Spread the paste over the interior oven glass so that it’s completely covered in an even layer.
  • Let the paste sit and work its magic for about 15 minutes.
  • Wipe the paste from the oven glass with a clean, damp rag.
  • Rinse the glass well with warm water to remove any residual baking soda paste.
    • If there’s still stubborn grease or stains remaining on the oven glass after you remove the paste, you can use a razor to gently scrape away at it. Then wipe any scraped-off bits off of the glass with a damp rag.
  • Dry the oven glass surface with a clean, dry rag or paper towel.

How to clean inside of an oven

But first, some tips on how not to clean the inside of your oven:

  • Don’t assume all parts of your oven can be cleaned. Consult your oven manual to be sure you’re not going to damage any heating elements by cleaning them (they’re usually located on the oven’s ceiling and floor). You also want to be super mindful of the oven’s flexible gasket (generally found on the inside of the oven door). Cleaning the gasket with anything too abrasive could disrupt the seal that keeps the oven’s heat in. (Same deal with cleaning your dishwasher; its door gaskets keep the water inside!)
  • Don’t do that thing where you put a layer of aluminum foil on your oven floor in an attempt to keep it clean. The foil can actually either reflect or block heat, which can lead to both under- and overcooked food. Another fun feature of coating your oven floor with aluminum foil is that it may actually melt to your oven floor and majorly damage your oven beyond repair.
  • If you’re about to have company over for dinner, don’t attempt to use the oven’s self-cleaning mechanism. This seems like an easy way to clean the inside of your oven, but it will actually lock your oven shut during the cycle, which can last from 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on your oven. If you’re in a hurry, best to just manually scrub the inside of your oven, which ought to take you no longer than 30 minutes or so (plus additional time if you’re soaking the racks overnight).

A few more things to consider when cleaning the inside of your oven:

  • Always, always make sure the oven is off and cooled before cleaning.
  • Always remove all pans and oven racks before cleaning the inside of your oven. This will allow you to be able to better reach the oven floor, ceiling and walls.
  • Begin cleaning the inside of your oven by manually removing all loose chunks of food, debris and crumbs. You can do this by gently scraping at them with a plastic spatula or putty knife, using a vacuum hose attachment or wiping them out with a damp rag.
  • While you’re cleaning the inside of the oven is a great time to be soaking the oven racks elsewhere. How’s that for efficiency?

Okay, so here’s how to clean the inside of your oven:

  • Mix a DIY oven cleaner of 2 cups of baking soda and ¾ cup of warm water. If you want your oven to smell really fancy, you might even add a couple drops of citrus-scented essential oil into your baking soda paste.
  • Spread your baking soda paste gently over each oven component, including the walls, ceiling, and floor.
    • Be sure to avoid any heating elements on the ceiling and floor of the oven!
  • Let the paste sit in the oven for about 5–7 hours. During this time, the baking soda will loosen any grime and grease so you shouldn’t have to scrub too much.
  • Take a damp sponge and begin with the oven walls, wiping them from top to bottom.
  • Repeat your wiping motion (rinsing and wringing out your sponge often) on the back wall of the oven.
  • Then wipe the oven’s ceiling and floor from back to front (still be mindful of the heating elements!).
  • Continue to wipe out the oven with your damp sponge until there is no more baking soda residue to be found.
  • Leave the oven door open for a couple hours to allow the inside to air dry.

How to clean grease from an oven

  • Empty the oven, including the racks. (More on cleaning those below.)
  • Mix a DIY oven cleaner of 2 cups of baking soda and ¾ cup of warm water. If you want your oven to smell really fancy, you might even add a couple drops of citrus-scented essential oil into your baking soda paste.
  • Spread your baking soda paste gently over each oven component, including the walls, ceiling and floor.
  • Let the paste sit in the oven overnight. During this time, the baking soda will dissolve all that sticky, smelly greasy build up.
  • In the morning, take a damp sponge and begin wiping the oven walls from top to bottom.
  • Repeat your wiping motion (rinsing and wringing out your sponge often) on the back wall of the oven.
  • Then wipe the oven’s ceiling and floor from back to front (still be mindful of the heating elements!).
  • Continue to wipe out the oven with your damp sponge until there is no more baking soda residue to be found.
    • If you’ve still got crusty residue, use a plastic spatula to scrape at any stubborn bits, as needed.
  • Hit the oven with a spritz of white vinegar to help dissolve any remaining baking soda residue. Vinegar reacts with baking soda by causing it to foam up, so you can just wipe it out with your damp rag.
  • Wipe out any more remaining baking soda foam and vinegar residue.
  • Leave the oven door open for a couple hours to allow the inside to air dry.
  • Replace the oven racks.

How to clean oven racks

Give your oven racks a bath (yes, in the bathtub)

  • Lay an old towel (it’s going to get greasy) on the bottom of your tub. Lay your oven racks on top of the towel. (The towel will protect the bottom of your tub from getting scratched.)
  • Fill the tub with hot water until the oven racks (and towel) are completely submerged.
  • Add ¼ cup of dish soap such as Dawn (yes, that’s a lot of dish soap) to the tub.
    • Alternatively, you can use ¾ cups of laundry detergent.
    • If the racks are super gross, you can use white vinegar instead of soapy water and add some baking soda to the mix to cut grease and dissolve burnt-on food.
  • Let the racks soak overnight.
  • In the morning (after coffee, of course), scrub the racks with a soft bristled brush or an old rag.
    • For really stubborn grease, add salt to your scrubbing utensil for a more abrasive punch.
  • Rinse the racks with hot water to remove any residue from your cleaning agents.
  • Dry and replace the oven racks.

Take it out to the yard

  • That’s right—it’s going to get messy. Take the oven racks outside and lay them in the yard.
  • Use hot water from the hose to rinse them off.
  • Create a mixture of hot water and degreasing dish soap, like Dawn. Grab a scrub pad, and get to work.
  • Scrub, rinse and repeat as needed. It may not be the least effort required on this list, but it certainly works.
  • Do a final rinse, and leave to dry on towels outside.
  • Wipe down with a clean kitchen towel before replacing the oven racks.

Dryer sheets + dishwashing liquid

  • Once again, you can use your bathtub to soak the oven racks—or use a washtub or sink basin.
  • Fill your tub with super hot water and add several generous squirts of dish soap such as Dawn to degrease.
  • Then add about 10 dryer sheets into the mix, and stir it around. The water should foam up. (If you’re not into wasting dryer sheets, used ones should suffice!)
  • Let this weird oven rack soup sit overnight.
  • Drain the water in the morning, and then use the wet dryer sheets to wipe any remaining residue from the oven racks. They should be shiny by now!
  • Rinse the oven racks thoroughly with warm water.
  • Dry off the oven racks, and replace them.

Orange essential oil

  • Make a paste with baking soda, vinegar and a couple drops of orange essential oil. Orange essential oil has antimicrobial terpenes, which will help to clean the oven racks (plus it smells yummy!).
  • Stick your oven racks in the sink.
  • Use a damp sponge to apply the paste to the oven racks.
  • Let the paste sit on the oven racks for about 5–7 hours.
  • After the paste has set, scrub the oven racks with your sponge to remove any grease or food buildup.
  • Rinse the oven racks with warm water.
  • Dry thoroughly, and replace the racks.

Ready-to-use oven cleaner

  • Always follow the instructions on the label of widely available cleaners.
  • Remove the oven racks and clean them in a well-ventilated area, or even outside if the weather permits.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Durable works well for removing grease and burnt-on food from stovetops, and it ought to do the trick on your oven racks, too. Wet the oven racks first with warm water. Then just wet the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, wring it out to activate its cleaning agents and get to scrubbing those racks. Rinse when you’re done, dry and replace.
    • Do not use the Magic Eraser on stainless steel or metal with a nonstick coating or in combination with any other chemical cleaning agents!
  • With other ready-to-use cleaning agents, you’ll typically spray the degreaser or oven cleaner directly onto the racks and let it sit for about 10 minutes before scrubbing with a brush or old rag.
    • Rinse the cleaning agent off thoroughly and dry the racks before replacing them.

How to use/clean a self-cleaning oven

Okay, so we warned you earlier that your oven’s self-cleaning function may take a long, long time. So don’t plan on hosting any parties in the near future or whipping up a meat loaf for dinner while your oven is doing its self-cleaning thing. Running your oven’s self-cleaning setting is actually a great excuse to go out for sushi or tacos or something.

The thing with self-cleaning ovens is that they also require a good bit of manual cleaning, too. It’s like how you’ve got to preclean before having your home professionally cleaned.

How do self-cleaning ovens work?

Your oven’s self-cleaning cycle works by blasting its own interior with either super high heat or steam to essentially burn off any burnt-on food remnants.

During the high heat self-cleaning function, your oven will automatically lock its door, as its interior temperature skyrockets up to nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the self-cleaning cycle is completed and your oven has cooled to a reasonable temperature, your oven door will unlock itself. This process could take hours and hours—it’s different on every oven. These high temperature self-cleaning settings work well to distribute the extreme heat evenly throughout your oven so there is usually very little debris or residue remaining once the cycle is complete.

If your oven’s self-cleaning function uses the steam option, you’ll generally have to add a cup of distilled water to a specified container on your oven’s floor, shut the door and set the oven to “steam clean.” This self-cleaning steam cycle runs much more quickly than the high heat option, during which time the oven only heats up to about 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The steam should loosen food particles and grease, but it doesn’t evaporate the grime like the high heat cycles do. Therefore, you’ve still got to spend time scrubbing the interior of the oven when the steam clean ends.

How to operate your self-cleaning oven

  • Bust out your oven’s manual, and follow the directions for the self-cleaning function.
  • Remove everything from the oven, including the racks and any loose debris, grease puddles, spills and/or visible food particles.
  • Leaving too many food scraps or crumbs in the oven during a self-cleaning session can be a major fire hazard!
  • Before you begin the self-clean cycle, make sure your oven vent (it’s usually above or below the oven door or behind the oven door handle) is uncovered.
    • If you have a range hood, switch on the exhaust fan on the hood so the fumes are funneled outside.
    • If you don’t have a range hood, open your kitchen windows to ventilate the room.
  • Select the self-clean cycle, and let your oven do its thing.
    • Don’t touch the oven door (mind the kids!) while it’s self-cleaning, since it’ll be broiling hot.
    • If possible, select the shortest option for self-cleaning mode to use less energy.
    • This is a great time to soak the racks.
  • When the oven is done self-cleaning and cooled down, take a damp rag and wipe out any leftover debris from the oven’s walls, ceiling and floor.

Things to consider when using your oven’s self-cleaning function

- Fumes + failures

  • Self-cleaning ovens tend to stink, literally. Be sure your carbon monoxide detector has fresh batteries and works properly before running the oven’s self-cleaning feature.
    • The enamel lining of your oven combined with burnt food particles combined with high, high heat can emit fumes that are irritating to humans and pets alike.
  • All of that heat buildup in your oven while it’s self-cleaning can cause a fuse to short out or even burn out a heating element.
  • These parts are easily (and somewhat cheaply) replaceable, but if it becomes a regular occurrence while running the self-cleaning function, that could be super annoying.

- Major energy drain

  • The self-cleaning cycle uses a ton of energy to run your oven on turbo high heat for hours and hours.
    • For example, one high heat self-cleaning session could go through 8 kWh of energy, which equates to about a month’s worth of normal oven usage.

At the end of the day, the oven’s self-cleaning cycle shouldn’t be used in lieu of manual cleaning. If you’re going to use it, run the self-cleaning function a couple times a year to deep clean the oven.

We warned you that would be a lot of oven-centric information. But now that your oven is sparkling, from the ceiling to the floor and the racks to the glass, you can confidently prepare dinner knowing that the odorous, oily stain that’s been plaguing your kitchen each time you preheat is long gone (for now, at least).

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