How to Clean Your Oven

published Oct 24, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

If you’re anything like me, you may have a tendency to put off the chores that require the most time and energy. Quick jobs like wiping down counters, washing dishes, cleaning the stovetop, and even cleaning the inside of the microwave? I’m on top of them. Those deep cleaning jobs, on the other hand, often get left undone until they can’t anymore. 

The oven, in all its burnt-on-gunk glory, is a prime example. Since we’ve been grilling all summer, I haven’t had much reason to look at, let alone clean, the inside of my oven. Then, my kids asked for a frozen pizza. A few minutes into preheating, before I even put the pizza in, my kitchen began to smell like smoke. So I turned off the oven, told my kids they could have microwaved chicken nuggets for dinner, and reckoned with the reality in front of me. It was time to deep clean my oven. 

I realized at that moment another reason I put off oven cleaning was lack of confidence. Honestly, I just didn’t know how to clean it. Sure, I knew oven cleaner, or the oven’s self-cleaning function, would likely take care of the problem. But I didn’t want my kitchen to stink again, and I didn’t want to get a headache from the fumes. Then, I learned a DIY solution could accomplish the same thing!

I’m proud to say I’ve overcome my oven-cleaning avoidance, and that next time my kids ask me for a pizza, I will oblige their wishes. Here’s how to get your oven sparkling clean, so you can bake in peace.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Things to Know Before You Start

For most oven-cleaning needs, a homemade solution will do the trick. (See below for instructions on how to whip it up.) Should you opt for a traditional commercial oven cleaner, always ensure proper ventilation. Open any windows in your kitchen, turn on the fan above your stove, and wear a pair of cleaning gloves throughout the entire process. 

Once you start cleaning, you might wish you’d taken a few simple precautions to prevent annoying oven messes. Angela Dixon and Georgia Bell, Grove Guides with Grove Collaborative, suggest a few routine preventative measures. 

“When cooking something that’s bound to bubble over (think lasagna or pie), place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any rogue drips that would otherwise crust or burn on racks and heating elements,” says Dixon. And keep build-up to a minimum by habitually wiping down your oven racks after a particularly messy bake. Easy as pie, and you’ll thank yourself later!

How to Clean Your Oven 

There’s a time and a place for a store-bought oven cleaner, but Bell says a DIY mixture of baking soda and water, plus a vinegar spritz, is typically powerful enough to clean common oven messes. Making the solution should only take a minute, but the actual cleaning process takes around 12 hours. Bell recommends starting in the evening after you wrap up cooking projects, then finishing up in the morning. 

Here’s how to clean your oven with simple ingredients and tools you already have on hand:

Credit: Diana Yen

1. Remove your oven racks.

To effectively clean your oven, you’ll need to remove its racks (and clean them). Use a sturdy brush or scouring pad with hot, soapy water to clean them in the sink. You may have to work hard to wipe away stubborn, baked-on grime. 

Credit: Diana Yen

2. Make a cleaning paste and apply it to the inside of the oven.

Using ½ cup baking soda and 3 tablespoons water, make your cleaning paste in a small bowl. Spread all of it over the inside of the oven, avoiding the heating elements. (A paintbrush can help get an even coating!) Let the paste sit on the surfaces for 12 hours or longer overnight. If your oven racks are particularly caked on, you can apply the paste to them as well in the sink, tub, or a separate bin.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

3. Wipe away the paste.

After 12 hours, wipe away the baking soda paste with a paper towel, sponge, or clean rag. Even with this natural cleaning alternative, you may want to don cleaning gloves to avoid the oven grime. Use a clean, damp cloth to remove any lingering baking soda paste if needed.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

4. Clean remaining residue.

If any residue remains, use a good scrubber sponge or scraper tool and a little elbow grease to remove it. (You can apply more baking soda paste here, as needed.)

Credit: Diana Yen

5. Spray with vinegar.

Finish breaking down any additional buildup by spraying with a vinegar-based cleaner (or use straight white vinegar in a spray bottle) and wipe with a sponge or rag. 

How long after cleaning the oven can I cook?

How long you wait to cook depends on what you used to clean your oven. If you’re using a natural solution such as the method listed above, Dixon says you can cook immediately after cleaning. If you used a traditional, store-bought oven cleaner, you’ll need to make sure there’s no lingering residue on the walls of your oven. Immediately after cleaning, wipe the walls thoroughly with a paper towel dipped in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water until there’s no remaining residue. Then, preheat your oven at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes before starting your cooking process. 

Credit: Cambria Bold

How do I get brown stains off my glass oven door?

Brown stains on a glass oven door are likely due to baked on grease, according to Bell. If the method above doesn’t remove all brown stains, she recommends doing a second round of cleaning with a sturdy scrubber sponge.

Keep in mind that your oven likely has double-paned glass and the stains could be in between the panels of the door. In that case, you’ll need to try your hand at taking apart the door according to manufacturer instructions.