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Getting Down & Dirty: How To Clean An Oven

Dirty oven? When you have a spill its best to clean it up right away, but whether you have a electric or gas oven, AHS has the proper tips for cleaning your oven

There are two paths to getting the full life expectancy out of your oven: either you don’t use it, or you keep it clean. For most of us, the first path isn’t an option.

The importance of a clean oven is one of longevity and efficiency. Baked-on dirt makes the oven heat up more slowly, making it less efficient. Yes, there are commercial oven cleaners available, but most contain harmful chemicals. You don’t want to expose yourself and your family to any of those hazards.

Then there’s the self-cleaning oven function. It sounds like the perfect solution, but just say no. Your oven is not designed to withstand the extreme temperatures for the prolonged period of time required to incinerate the grit, grease and grime. It will cause your oven to wear out prematurely. And if your oven is coated with Teflon®, this toxic coating can break down under the extreme heat of the self-cleaning cycle. Toxic fumes are not something you want to be cooking up in your kitchen.

Fortunately, learning how to clean an oven without these hazards is not impossible (Hint: There is actually a homemade oven cleaner that makes the task both safe and easy.) And when that oven eventually breaks down (which, unfortunately, it will), we've got your back.

Related: How Does a Convection Oven Work — and is it Worth it?

Materials Needed to Clean Your Oven

To do a good job of cleaning your oven, you will need the following:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • A soft bristled brush or toothbrush
  • Sponge
  • A dry cloth or paper towels

How Often You Should Clean Your Oven

Wondering, “How often should I clean my oven?”? Well, that depends on how often your oven is used. If your oven is used on a regular basis, you should make it a part of your monthly cleaning routine, in addition to wiping it down weekly. Of course, the best thing to do when you have spills in the oven is to wipe them up immediately, before the spills become baked on. Baked-on food and grease can cause the oven to smoke and smell bad, thus affecting the taste and smell of the food.

If you hardly ever use your oven, just look in on it every now and then to make sure no stray wildlife have taken up residency, and give it a good wipe-down when you’re cleaning the outside.

The Best Way to Clean Oven Racks

Most oven racks slide out of the oven. A good place to clean them is in the bathtub. Simply put a towel in the bottom of the tub so the racks don’t scratch the tub finish. Then, place the racks on the towel, fill the tub with hot water until the racks are covered and dissolve a half cup of dishwashing detergent in the water. Let the racks soak for at least four hours or overnight. Loosen any stuck-on particles with a soft brush or sponge, rinse them to remove the soap and dry them off. Easy peasy!

Cleaning an Electric Oven

For cleaning power that may surprise you, consider using baking soda to clean the oven. Simply make a paste with one-half cup of baking soda, mixing it with three tablespoons of water. (Use a cup of baking soda with one-third a cup of water if the oven is really dirty.) With the racks removed, use a paper towel or sponge to remove any loose particles from the bottom, sides, top and door. Then, use a soft bristled brush to scrub the inside surfaces with the baking soda paste, being careful not to scrub the heating element. Let the paste soak for one to three hours, or overnight for a really dirty oven. To remove the paste, you can spray it down with vinegar or use a paper towel or sponge soaked with vinegar. Replace the racks.

Cleaning a Gas Oven

Use the same method as above, with the following addition:

The gas burner is under a panel in the bottom of the oven. There are vent slots in the panel. Be careful not to let any liquid run down through the slots and onto the burner.

You can also inspect and clean the burner by either removing the bottom panel or removing the broiler drawer, if it has one. If there is no broiler, you may have to remove a front panel that’s under the oven door. Turn the oven on and observe the burner flames. If there are gaps in the flames, some of the gas ports (which are small holes) may be clogged. Use a toothpick or straight pin to unclog them. Then, clean the burner with a small brush. Consult your oven’s manufacturer’s instructions if the flames need adjusting.

Ovens, like all appliances, may break down from time to time, even if you put in the time to keep yours clean. Take the heat off yourself when that time comes with an American Home Shield® Oven Warranty.

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