How to clean an oven with or without the use of a commercial cleaner



oven kitchen dirty clean home

  • Keep your oven regularly, even ones with a self-cleaning feature, is important for the taste and cooking of your food.
  • No one likes doing it, but it's a lot easier than waiting until it becomes truly overwhelming.
  • Easy Off Professional Fume Free Max Oven Cleaner and a little patience will get the task off of your to-do list. 
  • Read more: How to clean a microwave

I've been cooking and baking since the discovery of fire, so I've tested lots of methods and products for cleaning an oven in my time.

One of the most involved ever came after what has become known in my family as "The Great Ham Drop." 

In an attempt to "make my life easier," I placed a beautiful ham in a disposable aluminum pan; covered it with brown sugar, mustard, and bourbon glaze; and popped it in the oven. For several hours, luscious aromas filled the air as I prepared other dishes to slip into the oven.

When it was time to remove the ham, I overestimated the strength of the disposable pan and as I pulled the ham from the oven rack, the pan folded in the middle and the ham rolled out onto the oven door. Sticky sweet glaze ran down onto the oven floor, onto the other dishes in the oven, and oozed into every crevice of the oven and out onto my hardwood kitchen floor. It was so bad that I had to disassemble the door to clean the glass because the ham juices seeped between the layers.

Hopefully, you'll never have such a disaster, but if it's been a while since you really looked at your oven, take a peek. If the door is splattered with grease, the bottom of the oven has a crusty residue, there's an odor of burning food, or it starts to smell a little smoky when the oven is turned on, it's time to clean your oven.

If you're reading this and smugly thinking, "I have a self-cleaning oven," well, don't be too sure of yourself. The self-cleaning function is great if your oven is just slightly dirty. But if it's grimy with lots of grease and food residue, using the self-cleaning cycle can be dangerous. The feature locks your oven door and raises the temperature to 550 degrees Fahrenheit or higher which can cause the grime to start smoking and even catch fire, but you can't easily stop the cycle and unlock the oven to put out the fire. So yeah, it's definitely time to clean your oven.

How to clean your oven with a commercial cleaner

I've tested plenty of cleaners and Easy Off Professional Fume Free Max Oven Cleaner is always my go-to choice. I use it regularly and for small spills between more thorough cleanings so that the job is more manageable.

I have short arms and have to put my head in the oven to be able to reach the back when I'm spraying. Even though commercial cleaners are not as caustic as they once were, I still like to put on a pair of safety glasses and wear kitchen gloves to protect my manicure.

What you'll need

With the exception of an oven cleaner and cleaning sponge, you'll probably have all the tools, but we've linked them out just in case you need the essentials.

  1. Empty the oven of all racks, broiler pans, and thermometers.
  2. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then turn off the oven.
  3. Protect your floor with a layer of paper towels to catch any drips.
  4. Turn on the range hood and make sure the kitchen is well-ventilated.
  5. Read the directions on the oven cleaner label and spray an even coating of Easy Off on every interior surface of the oven including the door. Do not spray the cleaner on gas vents or electric heating elements.
  6. Close the door of the oven and allow the cleaner to work for at least 30 minutes. Leaving it to work longer is not harmful to the oven surfaces.
  7. To clean the oven racks, take them outside or protect an area with plastic as you spray both sides with the oven cleaner. Once the racks are well-coated, place them inside a heavy-duty garbage bag. Close it tightly and let the oven cleaner work for at least 30 minutes or longer.
  8. After the oven cleaner has done its work, use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe away the cleaner and the greasy residue from the oven interior and the racks. It's handy to have a bucket of warm water close by as you'll need to rinse the cloth frequently in clean water as you work. 
  9. To remove any stuck-on food that the oven cleaner didn't cut through, use a wet Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to scrub it away. 
  10. When the oven is clean, give it one final rinse with a clean damp microfiber cloth and reassemble the racks.

How to clean your oven with baking soda and vinegar

If you prefer to use items you might have in the kitchen, you can clean an oven with a mix of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, patience, and some elbow grease. This is a good project to start right before going to bed or going to work as the oven will be out-of-service for at least eight hours.

What you'll need

With the exception of an oven cleaner and cleaning sponge, you'll probably have all the tools, but we've linked them out just in case you need the essentials.

  1. Remove oven racks and anything you are storing in your oven.
  2. Protect the floor with paper towels or newspaper to catch any drips.
  3. Combine one cup of baking soda and about two tablespoons of water in a bowl to create a spreadable paste, but you can eyeball and adjust with a bit less or more water. Large ovens may require a second batch of the paste.
  4. Use your hands or an old pastry brush to spread the paste on every surface in the oven, including the door.  Don't put the paste on electrical heating elements or gas vents.
  5. Close the door and wait eight to 10 hours.
  6. Place the racks in a bathtub or large sink. Spray them with distilled white vinegar and then sprinkle with dry baking soda. The mixture will foam. Once the foaming stops, fill the tub or sink with hot water until the racks are covered. Allow them to soak for eight to 10 hours.
  7. When it's time to clean the oven, wipe away the baking soda paste and grime with a damp microfiber cloth. Rinse the cloth out often in warm water.
  8. For any stuck-on bits that remain, spray the area with distilled white vinegar and sprinkle with a bit of baking soda. Let it foam and then scrub with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
  9. To finish cleaning the racks, drain the bathtub or sink and wipe away grime with a microfiber cloth. 
  10. Dry the racks and reassemble the oven.

How to keep your oven clean longer

  • Don't overfill your baking dishes, especially those with lots of liquid like fruit pies.
  • Use roasting bags when cooking beef, pork, chicken, and even vegetables that might splatter.
  • If foods need to be basted or stirred while cooking, remove them from the oven to perform the task to prevent spills and drips.
  • Line the bottom of the oven with easy-to-clean liners.
  • Wipe up spills as soon as possible. It's easier to clean one area than the entire oven.
  • Use the self-cleaning cycle frequently rather than once per year.

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