Woman putting cookie sheet into oven
Don’t Trust this Oven Feature, Say Experts

Your oven might have a self-cleaning feature, but should you use it? Last year when shopping for new wall ovens for our test kitchen, we were advised by the expert at the appliance store to never use the mode.

The intense heat can compromise interior components, such as the fuse or control panel, she told us. “If you want your oven to last, don’t use that setting.” Subsequent research by our team confirms her claim.

In 1963, General Electric devised the first self-cleaning oven. The idea was simple; heat the gunk that splatters on oven walls and overflows to oven floors “until it carbonized and turned to ash”. The concept caught on and over the years most major manufacturers got on board with their own self-cleaning feature.

The Kitchn interviewed Adam Dahl at The Appliance Loft, an appliance shop in Cincinnati. “Manufacturers, Adam implied, know this and they understand that self-cleaning cycles are a problem. But, he said, customers demand self-cleaning options. They’re so highly desired that it’s very difficult to sell an oven without one. And yet it’s pushing an oven to do something that is fairly extreme and difficult to engineer, and so there are genuine risks of damaging the oven.”

So if it’s not a good idea to actually employ this feature, what are the alternatives?

Of course there are oven cleaning foams that may “work like magic,” but personally they give me a headache just thinking about them. The harsh chemicals are said to be toxic and dangerous to inhale, and can leave harmful residues inside the oven, as well. So the question is, do you want your food basking next to those solvents? Next.

Turns out, there’s an easy, natural solution, and one that you’re likely to already have on hand. Here’s how to clean an oven with the good ol’ combo of baking soda and vinegar:

The process is straightforward, but you’ll need to plan ahead; it’s best for the baking soda solution to be applied and then allowed to adhere for at least 12 hours.

First, remove the racks from the oven. If they need a deep clean, soak them in a sink of soapy water for a few hours, then scrub clean with a non-abrasive sponge.

Make the cleaning paste: Use a ratio of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. For most ovens, ¾ cup baking soda and ¼ cup water will do the trick.

Apply the cleaning paste to the surface of the oven. You can use a brush for this, or if you don’t have one, a paper towel will do. Be careful to avoid lighting fixtures, heating elements or anything else that the baking soda could scratch or damage, or where it would be difficult to remove once it’s dried. (Do not use the baking soda mixture on the glass door; you’ll clean that part later.) Let the paste sit overnight, or up to a day.

Using a plastic scraper, or a plastic spatula, scrape the dried baking soda. Wipe with a wet cloth to remove residual paste.

To clean the glass door, mix a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar with a tablespoon of water. Wipe the door clean with a microfiber cloth that won’t scratch the glass.

Return the racks to the oven, and repeat cleaning as needed.

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Lois Van Leuven
Lois Van Leuven
3 months ago

I kinda understand, but I’ve had self-cleaning ovens for years, because I have a bad back and cannot bend over to clean them. I can honestly say, I have never had a problem with them. I’ve had them for about 25 years, and personally, I’m not ready to go back to cleaning them myself. If you would have said there was a heath issue with them, then I would have reconsidered.