I Cleaned My Oven with Steamed Water and Vinegar — Here’s How It Went

published Nov 29, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Volo

I’m going to be honest: I don’t remember the last time I deep-cleaned my oven. I have lots of excuses: I have two little kids; we don’t use our oven that much; I hate the smell of chemicals in the place I cook my food; I just don’t have time. Plus, when I do use the oven, I usually use pans, so what does it matter if the walls are dirty?

Credit: Ashley Abramson

Well, last night, I was cooking a frozen pizza and realized just how nasty I’d let the oven get. I did my research and looked for the easiest method I could find, one that also doesn’t call for oven cleaners or the using self-cleaning feature. What’d I find? A steam bath of vinegar and water.

If you’ve ever steamed a bowl of vinegar or lemon juice in your microwave, then you already get the premise of this cleaning trick. Basically, the solution is supposed to get hot enough to create a grease-cutting steam inside the oven, making the grime on the surfaces much easier to wipe off. My thinking: If it saves time and keeps my kitchen from smelling like burning chemicals, I’m in. 

Credit: Ashley Abramson

How I Steam-Cleaned my Oven With Vinegar and Water

  1. I grabbed a deep, metal baking pan. I’ve read you can use glass baking dishes, too, but this is what was clean.
  2. I filled the dish with tap water and ¾ cup white vinegar. Many of the suggestions I read varied between ½ cup and 1 cup of vinegar, so I chose the middle. 
  3. I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees, which seemed to be the general recommendation across the internet, then put the solution in the oven.
  4. I waited for the steam to do its work. Once the solution started boiling (it took more than an hour, even after I cranked up the heat), I turned the oven off and let everything sit for 30 minutes with the door shut.
  5. I took the baking dish out and allowed the oven to cool down a bit, so I could clean it.
  6. Then, I took a bottle of water-vinegar solution and squirted it around the oven (with a little extra on the bottom, where there was a bunch of burned gunk from last night’s pizza).
  7. I used a wet sponge to scrub and added a mixture of baking soda and water with a sponge wherever there was burnt-on build-up.
Credit: Ashley Abramson

The Verdict

Unfortunately, this is not the most effective method for oven-cleaning. First, 350 degrees definitely wasn’t hot enough. After more than an hour of waiting, the solution barely steamed, so I turned up the heat to 375 degrees.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

Even at 375 degrees, I was surprised by how little steam built up in the oven, and how baked-on the stubborn spots still were. Even the oven door, which I figured would be most affected by the small amount of steam I saw, required a lot more torque than I would have liked. I definitely had to do a decent amount of extra work with that baking soda paste to finish the job. 

Credit: Ashley Abramson

There was one unexpected bonus, however: The baking dish I used had some significant baked-on gunk. It’s the same pan that I use to catch hot cheese drippings when I bake frozen pizza, and honestly, I had given up all hope that I’d ever use this pan for anything except building up gunk. 

When I went to dump the hot vinegar-water solution in the sink, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The gunk totally slid off! I had to do a tiny bit of light scrubbing with a wet sponge, but the pan was basically good as new when I finished. While I won’t be attempting to clean my oven with steam again, I would definitely use this method in the future for removing stubborn grime from my bakeware.