How to Clean the Oven

After using your oven regularly, it tends to get really dirty with baked on grease and burned bits of food. But if you’ve ever had to clean baked-on grease, you know how difficult it is to get rid of. Learn how to clean the oven with these easy tips so that you aren’t scrubbing all day.

gloved hand wiping an oven with a sponge

Before you get started cleaning your oven, there are a few things you’ll want to take into consideration.

Learn how your oven works

Can I made a confession to you? After moving into our new house several years ago, I recounted to my friend how I was forced to clean the oven because the previous owners of the house had left it rather dirty. She asked me if we had a self-cleaning oven, and I told her that I didn’t know, that we had not been given an owner’s manual for the oven.

The next time she came over to visit, she looked at my oven and said, “Yes, you do have a self-cleaning oven. See this ‘clean’ button right here?”

I felt like the dumbest person ever. Here I had a self-cleaning oven but had spent the better part of the afternoon on my hands and knees scrubbing the inside of it instead of just pressing a little button.

The moral of this story is to make sure you are familiar with your particular oven. If you’re like me and moved into a home with an existing oven, do a quick Google search to find out how to use the self-cleaning function. It only took me a few minutes to read up on my oven and learn how to use the self-clean feature.

the dirty interior of an oven

If you have a self-cleaning oven

After you’ve read your oven’s manual or done your research to find out how to use the self-cleaning feature, you’re ready to begin.

First, take out any oven racks. They can become damaged in the high heat that is used in the self-cleaning process. You’ll also want to wipe out any crumbs and discard them in the trash.

My oven takes about 3 hours to clean, and it usually emits a bit of a burning smell while it’s working. Although nothing is actually on fire, I’ve had my smoke detectors go off while cleaning my oven enough times to know that I need to place a fan nearby so that we don’t have to hear the ear-piercing sounds of the alarm. For this reason, it’s a good idea not to start the self-cleaning cycle at night before bed or at a time when you are going to be out of the house.

If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven

I’ve done my share of cleaning ovens the old-fashioned way…with elbow grease…and it’s definitely not fun. And although I prefer to use more natural cleaning products in my home, this is the one time I will go with a traditional oven cleaner, like Easy Off (affiliate link).

I like this cleaner for two reasons: it works very well and doesn’t require too much scrubbing, and it’s not as smelly as some other brands that I’ve tried.

To clean your oven, simply follow the directions on the back of the can, which involves spraying the cleaner on the walls and floor of the oven, waiting for a set amount of time, then wiping the cleaner off with a cloth. It’s important to wear some sort of gloves while wiping off the cleaner so that it doesn’t irritate your skin.

gloved hand wiping out an oven with a sponge

What about natural oven cleaners?

While I was researching this post, I came across many posts on Pinterest for cleaning ovens with baking soda and vinegar, so I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, I have to say that I didn’t have very good results with the baking soda and vinegar method. While it did remove some of the burnt-on grease, it didn’t remove all of it, even with a lot of scrubbing with a scouring pad.

Perhaps my oven was just dirtier than the ones that they tested in the Pinterest posts, but I still found that I had to do a lot of scrubbing for little reward. That’s why I think it’s worth using a chemical cleaner like Easy Off, since it saves a lot of time and since I would only use it a few times per year.

How to Clean Oven Racks

If you find that your oven racks are a bit grimy as well, you can place them into a large trash bag and spray them thoroughly with oven cleaning spray and leave to sit for a while outside. Then just wipe the grime away with a clean cloth, or spray them with the garden hose, making sure to wear protective gloves.

I did have a bit of luck with using a vinegar/water spray on my oven racks, although it did require quite a bit of scrubbing. So if you tend toward more natural cleaning methods, try using the vinegar.

interior of a clean oven

Preventing Oven Messes

One good way to avoid having to clean the oven is to prevent any spills while you are cooking. Many times I will place a large cookie sheet under the pan that I’m using for my food, so that it can catch any drips before they wind up at the bottom of the oven to burn.

You can also cover anything that might potentially be messy, like a roast chicken or turkey, with foil to avoid any of the fat burning on the sides of the oven.

While it’s not the most fun thing to do, it’s important to learn how to clean your oven so that you can prepare your family’s food in a clean space. A few minutes of work and prevention will really pay off in an oven that you aren’t afraid to show your friends and family.

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4 thoughts on “How to Clean the Oven”

  1. blank

    Our oven is a self-cleaning oven but because the timer is broken it no longer works. Eventually, we want to get a new one but until then, I clean it by hand.

    I spent hours one year cleaning the oven with a putty knife, a scouring pad and lots of baking soda, vinegar, and water. Since then I’ve been able to keep it pretty clean by just using a cookie sheet like you suggested. It’s catches 90% of the stuff that can dirty up my oven and the little extra I try to clean out right away so it doesn’t get stuck on. 🙂

    But I’ll have to try the Easy Off if my oven ever gets really bad again.

    1. blank

      Oh, what a sad thing to have lost your self-cleaning feature! I never knew how valuable that is until I used it for the first time. Luckily you aren’t having a hard time keeping your clean 🙂

      I was really disappointed that the vinegar and baking soda didn’t work for me, because the pictures that I saw in others’ posts made it look like it would be a sure way to get rid of that baked on gunk in the oven.

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