How to Clean Oven Racks, According to Experts

Illustration: Julia Abbonizio/Getty Images

Oven racks might rank somewhere just below shoelaces when it comes to objects of interest, but think about it: If your shoelaces suddenly disappeared, every step you took would be a frustration and a hazard. Now, try imagining life without oven racks and you’ll realize that, while perhaps prosaic, oven racks are an essential element of your kitchen—after all, they hold up your roasts, your pizzas, your holiday ham or turkey, and so much more.

As such, you and your kitchen deserve to have clean oven racks at all times, especially if you occasionally cook foods directly on the racks. When you learn how to clean oven racks properly, you’ll enjoy a cleaner, better-smelling kitchen; better-tasting food; and maybe even a safer and more hygienic home too. Because while you might not spend much time thinking about your oven racks, your oven racks spend a lot time accruing grease, grit, and grime that can lead to unpleasant odors and flavors and even to unhealthy fumes and a fire hazard.

The experts chime in on cleaning oven racks

Because we know you probably haven’t given much thought to how to clean dirty oven racks, we checked in with some bona fide cleaning experts who have and we got their best cleaning method steps and some savvy tips. AD spoke to Toby Schulz, the CEO and cofounder of Maid2Match; Mattie Sheppard, strategic interior design and cleaning advisor at Real Estate Bees; Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid; and Aaron Christensen, resident cleaning expert and VP of growth at Homeaglow.

One thing everyone we talked to agreed on was the need to remove the oven racks from the oven for proper cleaning. Another thing? Baking soda. Each cleaning pro had a few unique tips for how to clean oven racks, so we can lay out a few different methods for you. One (or more) of these oven rack cleaning approaches will surely have your oven racks clean like new and, in turn, will have your pizzas, pies, and pot roasts tasting great again.

How to clean oven racks in the sink

If you have a large enough kitchen or utility sink that can accommodate your oven racks, put it to work. And put baking soda and vinegar to work too.

Marla Mock lays out these easy steps for cleaning oven racks in the sink:

1. Take the racks out of the oven and place them your large sink.

2. Sprinkle baking soda all over the racks, then pour white vinegar on top and “allow the mixture to fizz and work its magic for a few hours to loosen up the built-up grime.”

3. Next, scrub the racks with a silicone brush or sponge to remove the loosened grime.

4. Rinse the racks thoroughly with hot water and dry the racks completely with a soft cloth before returning them to the oven.

And that’s it! If you have a sink large enough that you can fit your oven racks into it, that’s the ideal cleaning location as there is a ready source of hot water, the sink will resist being stained by the grime and grease that comes off the racks, and splashes and sprays will be easily contained.

How to clean oven racks in the bathtub or shower

If you don’t have a sink big enough for your oven racks, don’t worry: unless you have the biggest oven racks in town (or the smallest shower or tub) you can clean them in the bathroom, Aaron Christensen says. He lays out the steps, and make sure you pay special attention to the first one.

1. Spread old towels to protect your tub or shower from scratches, stains, and grime, then lay your oven racks on the towels.

2. Mix together a paste of a half cup baking soda and a half cup of water (making more as needed in the same ratio) and spread it over the racks.

3. Let the racks sit covered in the paste for 30 minutes. “Stubborn grease might need longer for the baking soda to work,” Christensen says.

4. Spray a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water over the racks and let them sit for another 30 minutes. Then scrub the oven racks with a soft brush or sponge.

5. Rinse your racks and let them dry.

How to clean oven racks with a trash bag

Don’t have a sink, tub, or shower in which you can or want to place your greasy, grimy oven racks? Well…that makes sense. And no problem at all, Toby Schulz has the perfect hack for you: Use a garbage bag, and preferably a big, hefty black trash bag that will resist punctures and tears.

Before you get your trash bag, though, for this method it’s best to use a degreasing soap or dedicated cleaning product; Schulz recommends Easy-Off Pro. Oh, and also, you should do this oven rack cleaning process outside, if possible, in case there are leaks.

1. Spray the racks liberally with Easy-Off Pro (or your chosen cleaning product), then put them into a trash bag—pro tip: if possible, spray them while they are already in the bag to keep all of the cleaner in play.

2. Close the bag and let the racks sit for 30 to 45 minutes, turning them over halfway to make sure the cleaning agent is moved around over all surfaces of the racks.

3. Take the racks out and scrub them with paper towels or a sponge, then wash the grease and gunk off with warm, soapy water.

4. Rinse the racks thoroughly with clean warm water (or a garden hose, if that’s the only option), then dry them with a clean towel, a microfiber cloth, or paper towels, or just let them air dry fully.

How to clean extra dirty oven racks

If your oven racks are soiled beyond what any of the rather quick and easy oven rack cleaning approaches above can help with, then the greatest solution is simply patience, Mattie Sheppard says. And note that this approach also works for most dirty grill grates.

1. Place the heavily soiled racks in a bathtub or large basin, like a storage tub you’d get from the Container Store, then fill it with hot water. 

2. Add a generous amount of dish soap and a cup of white vinegar. 

3. Allow the racks to soak for at least a few hours or, better yet, overnight. 

4. Use a scrubbing brush, a sponge with a scrubber pad, or an old toothbrush to remove any remaining grime and rinse thoroughly.

5. If the brush is not effective enough, scour the racks with a ball of aluminum foil or a dedicated scouring pad, as the abrasive texture helps break down gunk and tough residues without scratching the racks.

What is the easiest way to clean oven racks?

The easiest way to clean oven racks is to prevent them from getting dirty in the first place so a deep clean won’t be needed. As long as it won’t affect the way a dish cooks, you can leave a baking sheet on the racks or wrap them in aluminum foil, letting the sheet or foil catch the drips and spatter and leaving the racks beneath all clean. The next best and easiest oven rack cleaning tip is equally simple: Clean them often. Make cleaning the oven racks with a bit of mild dishwashing liquid and water a regular part of your post-cooking cleanup any time you used the oven and they will never get truly grimy to begin with.

What to avoid when cleaning oven racks?

Don’t try to take too easy of a way out, Sheppard says, explaining: “Steer clear of using the dishwasher for oven racks, as the high heat and detergents may cause discoloration.” She also adds: “And avoid using harsh, abrasive cleaners that can damage the racks or leave behind residue harmful to your oven.” Also know that a self-cleaning oven session using high heat will not really clean the racks well and might just leave you with more stubbornly baked-on grease.

Will baking soda and vinegar clean oven racks?

The experts agree, baking soda and vinegar are the heroes of oven rack cleaning, especially when a paste made of baking soda and water is applied first and allowed to sit, and then the vinegar is poured or sprayed on later right before some scrubbing. If you want a store-bought product that has the same efficacy as baking soda and vinegar without the need for you to make your own cleaning paste, try Bar Keepers Friend, a tough but gentle cleaner safe for stainless steel that many cleaning experts swear by. And by the way, baking soda, vinegar, and Bar Keepers Friend work wonders for the inside of the oven itself too. (Though a dedicated glass cleaner is best for the oven door; many vinegar glass cleaners will suit, so chemical-based oven cleaner is needed there.)

How do you get baked-on grease off oven trays?

The foaming action of baking soda mixed with vinegar followed by some scrubbing with a brush or scouring with a pad or with balled up aluminum foil will do it. Just know that you might need to attack stubborn spots a few times and be ready to let the cleaning agent sit on those spots for at least an hour before you get to work. The best cleaning hacks for the dirtiest oven racks really do just involve patience!

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest


More Great Stories From AD It Yourself