Cleaning the oven seems so daunting that most of us avoid it entirely. Here’s how I failed miserably at the task, and what I will do next time (and suggest you do instead).
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Cleaning the oven sounds horribly miserable, which is probably why I tackled this task for the first time in my life mere months before my 40th birthday.
Pinterest Oven Cleaning Fail
While perusing hopeful pictures of sparkling ovens on Pinterest, I finally settled on an article for an ‘all-natural and effective overnight oven cleaner’. I liked the fact that the author’s cleaning method uses the exact ingredients that I use in my effective everyday cleaners: Baking soda, white vinegar, castille liquid soap, and essential oils. I also liked that the method recommends an overnight sit to soften the gunk and lessen the elbow grease.
I imagined a sparkling, shining clean oven.
What I got was this:
Have you seen The Good Neighbors? If you haven’t–and you have Amazon Prime–you need to head on over there right this minute and watch season one. It is an excellently hilarious British sitcom about a 1970s couple that decides to quit their jobs and become suburban homesteaders.
I promise there’s a point to this.
In the episode The Weaker Sex, Tom and Barbara acquire an antique cast iron wood-burning stove. Rather than scrubbing it down together, Tom cheerfully leaves Barbara alone to do the dirty work while he goes out to play in the garden.
Barbara’s reaction is priceless:
It’s also an excellent rendition of how I felt after trying to clean my oven.
A Review of the Oven Cleaning Process that I used (Thanks for nothing, Pinterest!)
Tip: Don’t forget to take out the oven shelves first!
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, then turn off, and spray with 1/4 cup water mixed with 10 drops of essential oil (lemon or orange are recommended). This is good in theory because the oil + water + heat should help to soften the gunk and prime it for cleaning. But have you ever tried filling a spray bottle with only 1/4 cup? It’s kinda like it’s empty, so the sprayer doesn’t work. You’ll need twice this amount of water, in my opinion.
- Mix 1/4 cup salt with 1/2 cup baking soda and sprinkle it on heavily soiled spots. Have you ever tried sprinkling a powder on an upside down, or vertical, surface, such as the ceiling or sides of an oven? It doesn’t stick, so gravity pulls it down, and the bottom of the oven is covered in salt and baking soda, but the ceiling and sides are left untreated. I also inhaled a good amount of this as the baking soda wafted into the air.
- Mix together 1/4 cup salt, 3/4 cup baking soda, 2 teaspoons of liquid castille soap, and 1/4 cup water into a paste. Spread evenly on the walls and let sit overnight. I really want to like this solution, but this is where it turned really wrong. While the paste itself is a highly effective solution for scrubbing baked-on gunk, it’s not easy to spread on the upside down and vertical surfaces. It would stick to the sides for a minute and then fall off, so most of it ended up sitting on the bottom of the oven. Unfortunately the crevices–where the paste could gain purchase–were caked in the stuff. This included above the heating element in the ceiling, inside the fan on the back wall, inside the side racks that hold the shelving, and all crevices surrounding the door window–including inside the rubber gasket that’s supposed to never be wiped down. What else could I do at this point but let it sit overnight and hope it was better in the morning?
- The next day mix 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup vinegar, spray down the oven, wipe and rinse. Oh, if only it were that easy. For the amount of dried-on baking soda paste, this amount of liquid isn’t remotely enough to scrub it off. And did I mention all of those crevices? In the picture above (my failed oven cleaning attempt), you can see that neither the baked-on oven crud, nor the dried-on baking soda paste came off with a simple “wipe down and rinse”. I got out my spray bottles of vinegar and plain water, and my goal became freeing my one-year-old oven of baking soda cake…forget the baked-on gunk.
- And don’t even get me started on the wire shelves! This was not in the instructions, but I read somewhere else that if you soak the shelving in a baking soda-water solution in the bathtub overnight, then there is no need for scrubbing – only a quick wipe. Wrong again! Though I scrubbed and scrubbed and got my bathtub all gunky, the shelves look the same as they did before the soak.
- So back to the oven: after scrubbing and scrubbing and trying tricks like using an old toothbrush to try to clean baking soda out of crevices, I finally gave up and ran the self-cleaning option. I know there is an argument against this regarding air pollution, but I was just a little frantic about having potentially just ruined my new oven. I turned on the exhaust fan and opened all windows even though outside temps were in the 30s. The fumes were pretty horrid, and if I hadn’t been heating my oven to a gazillion degrees and worrying about burning the house down, I would definitely have left the house.
So this is what the oven looks like now, after having run self-clean:
I’m happy with the results, but the self-clean took place about a month ago, and no matter how many times I wipe down the residual ash, it appears again after each time I use the oven.
Also, remnants of baking soda are still present:
What I WOULD do, if I were to clean my oven again
- Remove oven shelves. How to best clean them? I have no idea–you tell me!
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and then turn off. Mix one cup of water with 1/2 cup vinegar, and spray oven surfaces.
- Let sit until the oven is cool enough to touch. Wipe well, scrubbing lightly and briefly at particularly gunky spots.
- Run self-clean on a nice day, so that you can open all windows and exhaust fans and play outside in the garden all day, coming in occasionally to check that your house isn’t going up in flames.
- Wait until the oven is cool enough to touch. Wipe down the ash and use white vinegar to wipe down the door window.
- Deal with the annoyance of needing to repeat wiping out the ash. Look on the bright side: THERE’S NO SCRUBBING!
- Cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil or oven liners to catch a lot of the gunk.
- Consider a store-bought product (anyone ever try this one?) that can work on trouble spots that resist even the self-clean.
- Check out the comments below because my readers are really smart people and have great ideas. 🙂
Maybe I’m cheating the DIY crowd here by using the self-cleaning option, but there are just some things I don’t want to spend my life on.
How do you successfully clean your oven without using nasty chemicals?