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What better time to give your oven a deep clean than summertime when we're cooking most of our meals on the grill? But before you know it, we'll be back in the kitchen baking pies, casseroles and other warm, hearty meals in no time.
If it's been a while since you last ran your oven's self-cleaning cycle, take a peek inside. You'll likely see burnt-on sauce or greasy drips hanging out in the bottom from recipes long forgotten. Not only is oven grime a fire hazard, it also influences how your food cooks and tastes. To prevent buildup, Carolyn Forté, executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, recommends deep cleaning your oven two to three times a year. But if you really want to stay on top of things, wipe it down once a month or when you notice it's starting to look dirty.
For a full deep clean, follow these steps to make your oven look — and cook — as good as new.
What You'll Need:
1. Remove the wire racks
Remove the racks from inside the oven before cleaning the interior, especially if you have a self-cleaning oven. The self-clean cycle works by setting the temperature inside the oven incredibly high (some ovens go as high as 900° F!) to burn off any leftover food and grease. While your oven’s racks are meant to withstand high cooking temps, these elevated temperatures are too much for the racks and can cause irreparable damage to them.
2. Remove any loose food bits from inside your oven
After you've removed the wire racks, use a wet rag or sponge to remove any loose bits of food and grease that are in the oven.
3. Run the self-cleaning cycle or apply the oven cleaner if your oven doesn't have a self-clean cycle
If you’re using an oven’s self-cleaning cycle, great news: You don’t have to do anything during this step. Just make sure to open several nearby windows in your home and run your kitchen exhaust fan, if you have one, throughout the entire cycle to minimize odors and smoke build-up. If you can’t remember the last time you ran a self-clean cycle, the odors released will likely be pretty unpleasant, but you shouldn’t leave your home until the self-clean cycle is completely finished.
For ovens without a self-cleaning cycle, follow the directions on the label of the oven cleaner of your choice. Many of them should sit for some time to loosen stuck-on debris and grease. You should never spray an oven cleaner onto your oven while the self-cleaning cycle is running.
Pro-tip: Running the self-clean cycle once every four months will minimize the unpleasantness of using the function. The odor and smoke that many find uncomfortable about self-cleaning ovens is produced by the burning bits of food and grease, but with more regular cleaning, less of this debris is accumulated making for an easier, odorless self-clean experience.
4. Wash wire racks in the sink
While the oven is self-cleaning or the oven cleaner is sitting inside working its magic, wash your racks in the sink in warm, soapy water. For stubborn gunk and grime, scrub the racks with a scrub sponge or scouring pad. Then, rinse them and let them air dry until you’re ready to load them back into the oven. If racks are especially dirty, soak them overnight in a cleaner like Carbona 2-in-1 Oven Rack and Grill Cleaner.
5. Clean up debris or oven cleaner inside the oven
After the self-cleaning cycle is over and the oven is completely cooled down, use a wet sponge or cloth to remove the ashy food bits at the bottom of the oven. If using an oven cleaner, now is the time to wipe it away with a wet sponge and rinse the interior with water.
6. Replace the wire racks and clean the glass window
Finally, place the racks back inside the oven and clean the glass window, inside and out, using a degreasing multipurpose cleaner or glass cleaner and microfiber cloth for a streak-free finish. Remove any stuck-on grease splatters with a non-scratch scrub sponge. "You should never disassemble the oven door to clean between the glass layers," says Forté. "This should only be done by an authorized technician to help prevent damaging the glass or the door or voiding your oven's warranty."
Can I clean my oven with baking soda?
Many others recommend using a baking soda paste to clean your oven’s interior, but we don’t. It’s messy and requires more scrubbing and rinsing, plus who wants to spend two days cleaning their oven? Baking soda is mildly abrasive and a great spot cleaner for your oven, but not something we recommend cleaning your entire oven with. Likewise for other DIY cleaners like baking soda with vinegar or lemons in an oven-safe tub of water.
While these might be effective cleaners and we understand the hesitation to use oven cleaners because of the fear of fumes and strong odors, it is simply much easier to use an oven's self-cleaning function or a cleaner formulated specifically to clean the burnt-on foods left behind in ovens. And oven cleaners on the market today are very different from products of the past. Many are formulated for reduced fumes or to be fume-free.
How to Keep an Oven Tidy Between Deep Cleanings
Just because you now know how to effectively clean your oven doesn't mean you shouldn't try preventing a mess in the first place. As a general rule of thumb, cover pans with lids or aluminum foil to prevent splatters and place baking sheets on the bottom racks when baking pies and casseroles to catch anything that might bubble over. As soon as you suspect a spill, carefully sprinkle table salt on it while it's still warm to absorb it and wipe it up with a damp sponge or cloth once the oven is cool.
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