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The Essential 10 Steps for Thoroughly Cleaning Your Oven

Use these 10 steps and essential products for a spotless oven every time

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By Architectural Digest US | February 23, 2024 | Diy

When was the last time you cleaned your oven—really cleaned it, not just wiped up that one spot of spilled grease? Considering how to clean an oven can be intimidating, but if it’s been more than three months since a deep cleaning, most cleaning experts agree that it has been too long. Don’t worry; you can make up for that lost time, and usually without using any harsh chemicals or the high heat of the self-cleaning function. The self-cleaning oven route is sometimes the way to go, and we’ll discus the pros and cons of that later, but for now, let’s focus on two superheroes of the cleaning space: baking soda and white vinegar.

Those two humble substances can transform even the grimiest of ovens into a sparkling clean appliance. To find out the best tips and tricks for how to clean an oven, we reached out to cleaning experts—who stressed above all else how excellent an oven cleaner baking soda really is. It’s effective yet completely food- and skin-safe, and it’s tough on grease and grime but not abrasive to the surfaces within your oven. Below we walk through an in-depth oven cleaning process reliant primarily on baking soda—but before we unpack the specifics, read on for the answers to some general oven cleaning questions.

Why is it important to clean the oven?

If you value health, hygiene, the scents in your home, and the taste of your food, then oven cleaning is important. It’s always recommended to clean any area that comes into close contact with food. When it comes to the oven, a dirty interior can affect the taste of your food, and may even be harmful to your health.

“Having a clean oven not only enhances the flavors of your culinary creations, but also prevents the accumulation of grease, burnt residue, and potentially harmful bacteria,” says Marla Mock, president of the cleaning services company Molly Maid. “It also helps prolong your oven’s lifespan, maintain its efficiency, and reduces the risk of unpleasant and unwanted odors.”

What is the best way to clean the inside of an oven?

Aside from deep cleaning every once in a while, the best way to clean the inside of an oven regularly is to wipe down the interior with a damp cloth and hot water after every use, wiping it as it cools. Yes it’s an extra task added to your cooking and cleaning routine, but it will take you all of one minute and may save you many hours later as you avoid the need to deep clean.

If that’s too much, wipe it down once a week—or at least once a month with warm water and a bit of dish soap. Any grime is less likely to turn into buildup with that frequency of cleaning. The more often you clean the oven, the less intense the cleaning has to be, and you will actually save time overall.

Is using oven self-cleaning safe?

“As long as your oven is in good working order, using the self-cleaning oven feature is safe and effective,” says Mock. However, the process typically takes around three to six hours to complete, using high temperatures (around 900 to 1,000 degrees) to incinerate leftover food particles.

This can create strong odors and may potentially release harmful fumes into the air. To avoid any odors from collecting in the home, keeping the space well ventilated while you run the self-cleaning oven feature is advised. Note that each oven is different and it’s important to follow your oven’s manual carefully before attempting the self-clean option.

How long does it take to clean an oven?

You may find quick solutions to oven cleaning, but to get the job done right, we recommend allotting time for the cleaning solution to work properly. That means cleaning an oven from start to finish can take between 13 and 14 hours. Before you throw in the towel, know that this duration is not active scrubbing time. For instance, the baking soda paste method needs about 12 hours to break down all of the grime buildup. For that reason, don’t start cleaning an hour before you need to bake a birthday cake. Plan accordingly, as your oven will be out of commission for at least half of the day. A tip: Begin cleaning the oven and oven racks in the evening after you’ve prepared dinner. The baking soda paste will work hard overnight while you rest.

Here, a step-by-step guide for a clean oven you’ll be proud of.

Step 1: Gather cleaning materials

To get your oven sparkling, you’ll need the following cleaning products:

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Rubber gloves
  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Cleaning rag

Step 2: Remove the oven racks

Take out the oven racks and set them aside, preferably on old newspaper or towels. You don’t want to transfer the grime to your kitchen floor. Be sure to remove any other items in the oven, such as thermometers or pans.

Step 3: Make the baking soda paste

To make your DIY cleaner, mix equal parts baking soda and water until it makes a spreadable paste. Start with half a cup of both ingredients, and double the recipe if you need more. You’ll be coating the entire oven with the baking soda paste, so make enough to cover the entire interior surface.

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Step 4: Apply the cleaning paste

Spread the baking soda paste all over the interior of the oven. (You may want to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. It’s a pretty dirty job, and the grime will get under your fingernails if you go gloveless.) Stay clear of the heating elements as you apply the paste. Be sure to cover extra greasy spots and don’t worry if the paste is thicker in some areas. The paste will begin to turn brown as it comes in contact with the grease.

Step 5: Wait at least 12 hours

Once you’ve completely covered the inside of the oven with the baking soda paste, let it sit for at least 12 hours.

Step 6: Tackle dirty oven racks

The best way to clean oven racks is to give them a soak in hot water for at least two hours. (Consider using this time for stovetop cleaning.) Add a quarter cup of unscented Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap if your oven racks are extra grimy. The bathtub works great for this step. Place old towels on the bottom to keep the dirt from transferring onto your tub. Once time is up, the residue should come off pretty easily with a scrub brush. Rinse.

Step 7: Wipe off the baking soda paste

After 12 hours, use a damp cloth to wipe away the baking soda paste and oven residue from the oven’s interior. A spatula or scraper may be necessary if elbow grease isn’t enough to deal with stubborn areas. Loosen the residue gently so as not to scratch the surface. Avoid scouring pads as they can damage the oven.

Step 8: Spray vinegar inside the oven

Add white vinegar to a plastic spray bottle and spritz it all over the interior of the oven. White vinegar is an excellent cleaning agent and will cause any residual baking soda paste to foam up and loosen any extra sticky bits.

Step 9: Clean the interior of the oven glass

A clean oven interior will go unnoticed if the glass door is murky with grease. To clean the glass, make another batch of baking soda paste, spread it all over the window. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Wipe off the paste with a damp rag or paper towel.

Step 10: Wipe down oven doors and knobs

For the final oven-cleaning step, give the exterior of the oven door a vigorous wipe down. Use a natural vinegar cleaner: Mixture equal parts of water and white vinegar. Spray onto a rag, and clean the exterior. (If you spray it directly onto the knobs and panels, you risk getting the cleaner into a control panel, which could make it short-circuit.) Buff the outside of the oven until spots and streaks disappear. Use a microfiber cloth to clean a stainless steel oven.

How often should I clean my oven?

Ask yourself, “How often do I use my oven?” The more frequently you use the oven, the more splatters you’ll accrue. An avid baker should aim to give the oven a deep clean once every three months. For someone with a less-than-regular cooking habit, a cleaning every six months, or even once a year, can work.

If you ever notice significant residue lurking in the oven, or something drips to the bottom of the oven while cooking, wipe the mess once the oven cools. You don’t want the gunk baking, and undoubtedly smoking, every time the oven is on. The primary oven maintenance cleaning tip: Wipe down the interior with a damp cloth and hot water and dish soap once a month, and the grime is less likely to turn into buildup.

How do you keep an oven clean?

Once you’ve cleaned your oven to the point that it’s sparkling, you’ll want it to stay that way for as long as possible. To start, pop in some nonstick oven liners, like these ones from Amazon, to help you fight off future grease. These mats catch drips and spills, are easy to remove, and clean quickly. Alternatively, place a sheet of foil directly on the oven rack beneath the rack holding a pot or dish that could drip or have loose food that drops. Avoid placing foil at the bottom of the oven as it can damage the appliance if it gets too hot.

What is the easiest way to clean a really dirty oven?

If you want an easy way to clean a truly soiled oven, turn to some excellent cleaning products. Toby Schulz, CEO and cofounder of Maid2Match, says that many people turn to Bar Keeper’s Friend to clean their ovens. “Just make sure you’re using the cleanser powder, and ‘rinse’ the interior with a damp cloth afterwards,” Schulz explains. “BKF also works well for cleaning oven racks. Either sprinkle damp oven racks with some BKF cleanser powder, or make a paste with BKF cleanser and water then apply it to the racks. Let the solution sit for a minute or two, then scrub with an abrasive sponge and rinse the racks thoroughly before using them again.”

What is the best safe way to clean an oven?

Ultimately, it all comes down to baking soda. For a quick take, note what Mock says: “Create a paste using three-quarters of a cup of baking soda and quarter cup of water and apply it generously to the interior surfaces, avoiding the heating elements, then allow the paste to sit overnight. This will help loosen any stubborn, baked-on grime. The next day, gently scrub away the paste using a damp cloth or sponge. For stubborn spots, use a plastic scraper to ensure it does not damage the oven's surface.”

That exact approach laid out by Mock is arguably the safest way to clean an oven, because it involves no chemicals and it does not use intense heat which can release harmful particulate matter into the air. That said, as with your own health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; wipe the oven’s interior down regularly with a damp cloth and a touch of dish soap and no deep cleans will be necessary.

How do I clean stubborn oven spots?

“For stubborn stains on oven interiors, try a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda,” recommends Mattie Sheppard, strategic interior designer and cleaning advisor at Real Estate Bees. Apply the paste, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then scrub it away with a non-abrasive sponge. And for spots on the glass, another effective hack is using a razor blade for scraping off that tough, baked-on grease. Just be cautious and use the razor at a flat angle to avoid damaging the surface.

This story originally appears on Architectural Digest US.