By Amy Hunt
If you’re like most of the world, chances are you haven’t cleaned your oven in a while. Food and grease build-up in ovens is not only gross, but the fumes and flavors can seep off into whatever you’re cooking – which is why we all need to know how to clean an oven properly.
Cleaning your oven might seem like a thankless task, but it should be a regular part of everyone's kitchen cleaning routine.
While other kitchen tasks – such as descaling a kettle and cleaning a microwave – should be done monthly, it's advised that we clean our ovens every three months, to avoid build-up that can become stubborn to get off.
But never fear if it's been *ahem* a little bit longer than that since you last cleaned yours, because there are plenty of methods to help get your oven sparkling and shiny once more.
How often should I clean my oven?
Like most kitchen appliances, how often you should clean your oven kind of depends on how often you use it. However, most households use their oven very regularly - if not on a daily basis. If you use yours more than a couple of times a week, the rule of thumb is that you should be looking to clean your oven once every three months.
Leave it any longer than this and you could be making it difficult for yourself when it comes to scrubbing off caked in dirt, which will any harden with further use. But luckily, cleaning your oven every three months only actually means cleaning it four times a year - which doesn't sound so bad. So pop the date in your calendar and be prepared to get scrubbing...
Four different methods for cleaning your oven
There are four different methods you can employ for cleaning your oven – with everything from self-cleaning to DIY methods that are a bit more natural.
For most cleaning methods you are going to want to remove everything from your oven. Remove kitchen essentials such as baking sheets, pans (see our guide to how to clean a burnt pan here), thermometers and, yes, each of your oven racks too.
Those oven racks can be cleaned using the same method you use on the oven itself but should be cleaned in a sink or outside, so you don’t have to deal with anything dripping onto the oven floor, and you can fully and effectively clean and dry the racks.
1. Use the self-clean function if you have it
Some ovens come with a ‘self-clean’ function – a button you can press that claims to clean the oven for you. Sounds like a dream come true, right?
In some respects, it is. If your oven doesn't get too dirty, or you clean it relatively regularly, it can clean out small to moderate amounts of gunk. This means that the self-cleaning option is the best choice for regularly cleaned ovens that just need a bit of maintenance. However, if it turns out that your oven is a little bit grimier than you originally thought, it can spell the end of your oven, or worse.
Self-cleaning ovens either use steam or extremely high heat to loosen caked-on food residue, so you can easily wipe it away. The oven runs the function for hours, which can be costly in terms of energy. It can also result in unpleasant odors or even noxious fumes as the food is burned. There have also been reports of food residue dripping to the bottom of the oven and clogging the oven, causing the entire thing to break.
If your energy bill is low and you keep your oven relatively clean, the self-clean function might be right for you. If not, try some other, more cost-effective, way to get your oven sparkling clean...
2. Use a store-bought oven cleaner
Traditional oven cleaner sprays and the like are a great option for cleaning your oven, especially if you have a lot of gunk to clean out of it. Oven cleaners use chemicals to soften grime and make it easy to wipe away. Here's how to do it.
- As mentioned, empty out all cookware from your oven as you would when cleaning your dishwasher – baking trays, oven trays, etc.
- Wipe out any chunkier bits of food or burnt debris from your oven. This is the chance to get rid of anything loose that you can simply brush out of your oven.
- Put on gloves and pick up the oven cleaner.
- Typically, you need to apply the cleaner and let it sit for a little while (according to the directions on the bottle) but no more than an hour.
- Apply it to each section of the oven – inside door, walls, etc.
- Then wipe away the build-up with a damp rag. This will be by far the fastest way to get rid of it.
The trade off with this method, however, is of course the chemicals that help to clean your oven. If you are sensitive to chemicals, or try to minimize the toxins you use in your house, oven cleaners might not be the best option for you.
If you do opt to clean your oven with an oven cleaner, make sure to wear protective gear such as rubber gloves and goggles to protect your skin from any contact and your eyes from the fumes.
However, there’s no doubting that cleaning your oven with a store-bought oven cleaner is a great option for a sparkling, gleaming appliance.
3. Try baking soda and vinegar for a more natural approach
So what is the best option for cleaning an oven if you don't want to use chemicals? This method will do a serious deep-clean on your oven without any harsh chemicals but it’s worth noting that it will take more time – a whole day ideally.
- To start, make a paste of baking soda (1/2 cup) and water (2-3 tablespoons). You want a spreadable paste with enough substance to stay put on the slick surfaces of your oven.
- Using rubber gloves, spread that paste all over your oven, taking care to not cover any heating elements or block gas outlets. Once you're done, close your oven door and let it sit for around 12 hours. Make sure your dinner doesn’t require the oven!
- In the meantime, sprinkle baking soda over your oven racks and spray them with vinegar. The mixture will foam, loosening build-up. After it stops foaming, rinse the racks with hot water and set them to dry.
- After the 12 hours is up, use a damp rag to wipe down the inside of your oven. If there are sections of paste that won’t easily be removed, spray them with vinegar. The solution will foam, and will then be easy to wipe up.
4. Clean with water and lemons for less dirty ovens
If you don’t want to use oven cleaner, and you don’t want to wait 12 hours for baking soda to do its work, you can try using lemons. Using fruit to clean your home isn't unusual – it's even part of a handy trick for how to get rid of fruit flies.
However this method will likely only be effective if your oven is only moderately dirty – if you need a heavy-duty method for a pretty filthy oven, it's probably best for you to try one of the methods above.
- Fill an ovenproof bowl or pot with water, and add two lemons to the water, cut in half.
- Place the bowl or pot in the oven and preheat it to 250F (121C), and let it sit at that temperature for one hour.
- After an hour, turn off your oven and let it cool slightly. While it is still warm (but not too warm to touch) wipe down the inside of your oven with a damp rag – the acid in the lemons will loosen all the gunk for easy removal.
Amy Hunt is Life Channel Editor at womanandhome.com, having been with the brand since 2015. She began as the magazine's features assistant before moving over to digital as a News and Features Writer, before becoming Senior Writer, and now a Channel Editor. She has worked on either women's lifestyle websites previously too—including Woman's Weekly, Goodto.com, Woman, and Woman's Own. In 2019, Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards, for her work on womanandhome.com. She is passionate about everything from books, to homes, to food and the latest news on the royal family. When she isn't editing or updating articles on cleaning, homewares, the newest home gadgets, or the latest books releases for the website, she's busy burying her nose in a gripping thriller, practising yoga, or buying new homeware of her own.
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