We Tried 4 Methods for Cleaning Dirty Oven Racks and Found a Clear Winner

published Feb 15, 2023
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Oven racks: The biggest, hunkiest, most annoying things to clean in the kitchen! Scrubbing them requires a certain finesse (because all the wires can send gunky soap slime flying) but also lots of elbow grease. So … work delicately but also with vigor? Yep. They’re cumbersome, too, so they probably don’t fit in your sink, which means finding an alternative place to clean them. And the longer you wait, the dirtier they get. See? Annoying,

Which brings me to this little experiment. I set out to find the best (and easiest!) way to reliably clean oven racks. I figured, with a clear winner, people (myself included!) might actually clean their racks every three months. (That’s the recommended frequency! Seriously!) I tested four popular methods — here’s how it went.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

How I Tested the Different Methods

I found four promising methods that I wanted to test, which meant I needed to gather four oven racks. I pulled the two out of my own oven and borrowed two equally dirty ones from a neighbor. (Don’t you want to be my neighbor? I borrow things, clean them for you, and return them!) Then, I got to work, taking pictures and detailed notes for myself.

The ratings: Each method received a 1 to 5 rating; 5 being the best method overall, and 1 being the least favorite method. Along with the rating you’ll find notes on how easy or difficult the method was, how much elbow grease it took, how much time it took to clean the rack, and my general thoughts.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Oven Rack Cleaning Method: Dryer Sheets + Dishwasher Detergent

  • Total time: Overnight (up to 12 hours)
  • Rating: 2

The method: Lay an old towel in the bottom of a bathtub, line with a few rows of dryer sheets (so that they’re about the size of the oven rack), then place the racks on top of the dryer sheets. Fill the bath with just enough hot water to cover the racks, then dissolve a 1/2 cup of liquid or powder dishwasher detergent.

Let the racks soak overnight, then use the dryer sheets to wipe the racks, removing grease and food particles. Rinse racks clean with clean, soapy water.

How it went: The dryer sheets are supposed to dilute the bond and soften baked-on food, making it a breeze to clean your oven racks. While they were able to get the racks looking decent (even shiny in some parts), the really tough grime didn’t come off easily at all.

I decided to try using a scrubby sponge to see if that would help, and it did, but there wasn’t enough of an impact for me to consider it a good-enough method to use for cleaning in the future. Also, I know plenty of people who try to avoid dryer sheets, so I also considered that in the final rating.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Oven Rack Cleaning Method: Dishwasher Detergent

  • Total time: Overnight (up to 12 hours)
  • Rating: 3

The method: Lay an old towel in the bottom of a bathtub, place the oven rack on top, then dissolve about a 1/2 cup of liquid or powder dishwasher detergent in a warm bath. Let the oven rack soak overnight, then rinse clean with a scrubby sponge and clean water.

How it went: This method is basically exactly the same as the first one, only it doesn’t call for dryer sheets, so I was very interested to see how it would go. The soaking part worked just as well, but the scrubby sponge was definitely better at removing baked-on food from the racks than the dryer sheets.

I think it’s safe to say using a dryer sheet in the cleaning process isn’t necessary. This method is great if your oven racks aren’t super dirty, and you have the time to let them soak overnight. Just be sure you have a good scrubbing sponge, and be ready to use some elbow grease!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Oven Rack Cleaning Method: Trash Bag + Easy-Off Oven Cleaner

  • Total time: 50 minutes, 5 active minutes
  • Rating: 4

The method: Place your oven rack inside a big trash bag and set in the sink or on the ground outside. Spray the grates liberally with Easy-Off oven cleaner from 9 to 12 inches away. Close up the bag and let it sit for up to 45 minutes. Then use paper towels to scrub the gunk off the rack. Rinse with warm, soapy water when you’re done.

How it went: I carefully pulled the top side of the garbage bag open, grabbed a roll of paper towels, and began wiping away the gunk that had bubbled up on the oven racks. Easy Off is a fan favorite, and it’s obvious why — it takes little to no effort to scrub off the gunk after you’ve let the product have time to work its magic.

I wanted to give this method a 5 because it really does work wonders, but my preferred method is up next, because it’s nowhere near as fume-y, and doesn’t require an aerosol can.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Oven Rack Cleaning Method: Bar Keepers Friend

  • Total time: 1 hour, 5 active minutes
  • Rating: 5

The method: Make a paste using Bar Keepers Friend and water. The paste shouldn’t be too thick or too thin; you’re looking for a peanut butter consistency. Use a basting brush to paint the paste on the front and back sides of the oven racks. Let the paste sit for 45 minutes, then rinse clean using a scrubby sponge and warm soapy water. 

How it went: This method is a bit messy (the paste will drip!), but — holy cow! — it works wonders. It ended up being my favorite method because it was easy, and cleaned with very minimal effort. I loved that it took just under an hour and only called for about 5 minutes of active, scrubbing time. I did make this work in my sink, but you can also do it in the tub (put down a towel first!) or even outside.

How do you usually clean your oven racks? Tell us in the comments below!

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: We Tried 4 Methods for Cleaning Dirty Oven Racks and Found a Clear Winner