how to clean the oven and when you need to do it (plus natural ways to clean an oven and how the self cleaning function works)
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Have you been cooking and baking a lot more often lately? If so, it’s probably time to clean the oven! But should you use the self cleaning feature? And can you clean your oven with natural ingredients? Here’s everything you need to know.

Cleaning your oven is one of those chores you know you have to do but dread the thought of. However, every once in a while, you just have to get it done. A clean oven will make your food taste better, cook more efficiently, and use less energy. Best of all, cleaning an oven isn’t as hard as you think it is. Follow these simple cleaning tips to get your oven squeaky clean.

There are a few ways to go about the job, so use the links below to jump to your preferred method, or scroll to see them all:

When Should You Use the Self-Clean Function?

Most ovens have a self-clean button. This handy function is only meant to clean moderately dirty ovens. The self-clean function locks your oven door and increases the oven’s temperature up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit (or more, depending on your oven). The high heat burns off any stuck-on residue. However, if you have a lot of grimy buildup in your oven, it can backfire and cause excessive smoke. It may even start a fire. If it’s been a few months since you cleaned the oven or it’s caked with splattered food, skip the self-clean function.

If your oven is not too dirty, then, by all means, self-clean away. Before you hit the clean button,  remove the racks first and clean those yourself by hand. Most self-cleaning cycles take about two hours, but check your owner’s manual for the exact time. Also, plan to stay home for the full cycle and let it cool completely before opening. Once it’s done, you will see white ash at the bottom oven that you can swipe away with a damp cloth.

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Cleaning an Oven with Store-Bought Cleaners

Store-bought oven cleaners will effectively remove grease and grime. However, these types of cleaners tend to be caustic. Before you use the cleaners, make sure there’s plenty of ventilation in the kitchen and you are wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses.

1. Remove everything from the oven.

2. Protect the floor beneath the oven with newspapers or paper towels.

3. Put on the gloves and glasses.

4. Spray the oven cleaner all over the inside of your oven. If the oven is electric, try not to get any of the cleaners on the heating elements. Gently lift the element, and spray underneath. For gas ovens, try not to get any cleaner where the gas comes through. Be sure to get the back, sides, and door.

5. Let the spray sit for 20 to 30 minutes (or the time indicated on the label of the cleaner).

6. While you wait, take the oven racks outdoors and spray them with the oven cleaner. Place them into a large trash bag and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes as well.

7. Once the time is up, wipe away the cleaner with a damp rag. Make sure you remove all the oven cleaner. If you run into a few stubborn spots, use a wet scouring sponge or steel wool.

8. Remove the oven racks from the bag and rinse with hot, soapy water. Use a scouring sponge to remove crusted on grime, if needed.

9. Dry the racks and place them back in the oven. 

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How to Clean Your Oven With Natural Supplies

This DIY method requires at least 12 hours of your time and elbow grease, but it’s perfect for those who are sensitive to store-bought cleaners. It uses just two ingredients—baking soda and vinegar—no harsh manufactured chemical products needed to get your oven clean.

1. Remove the racks and everything else from the oven.

2. Protect the floor beneath the oven with newspaper or paper towels.

3. Mix ½ cup of baking soda with 2 to 4 tablespoons of warm water. This will form a spreadable paste.

4. Put on your rubber gloves. Spread the baking soda paste all around the inside of the oven and the oven door. Steer clear of the heating element (if your stove is electric) or avoid getting any of the paste into the slits where the gas comes through.

5. Close the oven door and let it sit for 10 to 12 hours, or let it sit overnight.

6. Plug up the sink or bathtub (if you have large oven racks) and place the oven racks in. Sprinkle them with baking soda and pour vinegar on top. The vinegar and baking soda will foam. Once the foaming stops, fill the sink or tub with hot water until the racks are just covered.

7. Allow the racks to sit for 10 to 12 hours (or overnight).

8. Once the oven and racks have had their soak, put on your gloves again.

9. Open the oven and wipe off the baking soda paste with a damp cloth. If you have stubborn spots, use scouring pads to scrub them off.

10. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray the oven and oven door. If there is any baking soda residue left, it will foam.

11. Wipe away the foam with a clean damp cloth.

12. Remove the racks from the sink or tub, and wipe them down with a damp cloth. Use a scouring pad or steel wool to remove caked-on grime.

13. Dry the racks and put them back in the oven.

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Related Reading: 8 Places in Your Kitchen You Can Clean with Vinegar

How Often Should You Clean the Oven?

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There’s no set oven cleaning schedule that’s right for everyone. Instead, your oven deep cleaning schedule should be based on certain clues. If you can answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to clean your oven:

  • First of all, take note of the oven’s general appearance. Do you see layers of burnt-on residue inside the oven? Is the door covered with splattered grease?
  • When you heat up the oven, does it smell?
  • Does your oven smoke every time you turn it on?

As a general rule of thumb, plan on cleaning your oven every three months. If you are an avid baker or cook, you may need to clean it more often.

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