Weekend Projects

This Weekend: The Dreaded Task We All Have To Do Sooner or Later

updated Sep 27, 2022
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(Image credit: Emily Billings)

It’s easy to neglect cleaning something that’s mostly shut away. The guest room closet and garage come readily to mind. But there’s another hidden area that’s all too often ignored because no one else sees it and because, frankly, it’s a total pain to clean. This weekend we’re not turning our backs, or shutting the door, any longer.

All during October, we’re tackling your home’s “scariest” tasks — the dirtiest, foulest, most dreaded jobs on your to-do list. For the next four weekends, get out your rubber gloves and get ready: we’ll all knock them out together.

This Weekend’s Scary Assignment: Clean your oven like it’s never been cleaned before.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

All About That Self-Cleaning Cycle

The thought of cleaning your oven’s interior with the flip of a switch is certainly tempting. But this seemingly easy fix isn’t without its complications.

The dangers of using the self-cleaning cycle include breathing toxic fumes from the oven’s Teflon coating and the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide fumes come from incinerating food particles left in the oven, so it’s important to clean out the oven (without chemicals) before you even think about using the self-cleaning cycle.

Fumes created by the self-cleaning cycle are especially harmful to pets (particularly birds) and those with asthma or other respiratory trouble. It’s also very important not to use chemical cleaners before using the self-cleaning cycle as these heated to high temperatures produce additional toxic fumes. Yikes.

The self-cleaning cycle can also damage the oven due to the effect of extreme temperatures on the unit itself: “Appliance technicians have reported that non-responsive electronic control panels and burned-out calrods – tubular elements that convert electricity into heat – are common repair calls for ovens that have broken during the extreme heat of self-cleaning” (Molly Maid).

Read more here: Why You Should (Almost) Never Use Your Oven’s Self-Cleaning Function

If you decide to go ahead and chance it with the self-cleaning cycle, be sure to thoroughly read your unit’s manual. (Find it online if you don’t have a physical copy.)

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Use Time to Your Advantage

Oven cleaners can be extremely caustic and full of fumes, two qualities you probably want to avoid when cleaning in a somewhat enclosed space, such as an oven.

Hence, many people turn to the classic baking soda and water paste option. The key to this technique, however, is letting the paste sit for an extended amount of time on the charred leftover bits and gunk in your oven. Consider applying the paste before bed so it can sit overnight.

In the morning, wipe the paste away with water. Some like to add a spray of vinegar either during or after (just remember this).

Soak the Oven Racks

To get a head start on making those oven racks sparkle, line your bathtub with a towel (or you risk scratching it!), fill with hot water, and squirt some Dawn or other dish washing soap into the water. Once they’ve soaked (you could work on your oven door while you’re waiting), remove them and tackle any remaining grime with Bon Ami and and a scrub brush, or for good measure, a Scrub Daddy.

De-greasing the Oven Door

Despite an overnight soak in a baking soda paste, your oven door might remain caked with the kind of stubborn grease that makes many of us throw our hands in the air and reach for the poisonous stuff. But I recently found that a Magic Eraser wipes this grease off with ease.

For more tips and inspiration, check out:

While a clean oven may not be immediately uplift the look of your kitchen, you’ll be pleasantly surprised every time you open it to cook something. Moreover, a pristine oven will motivate you to clean up fresh spills without letting them bake on for weeks or months and, with any luck, you won’t have to repeat this task for a long, long time.