I hate cleaning our oven. There, I said it… I hate it… HATE it. I’m almost certain it’s not your favorite task in the kitchen, either, right?
But it is a necessary evil in all of our lives… and it hurts much less if you clean it more often because the gunk isn’t as baked on. We usually clean our oven twice a year – fall and spring. To be fair, though, we don’t usually have many big messes, though, so you might want to clean your oven more often.
If you have big messes in your oven, you’ll probably be tempted to reach for those toxic chemical cleaners. Don’t! Let me show you how to clean your oven without using harmful chemicals.
Keep in mind we haven’t cleaned the oven in about 6 months, so you’ll see that while we do have a mess in the oven, it’s not a huge mess. We’re older and wiser and know how to avoid most of the messes that could be made in the oven. We’ll talk about that later in the article, though. For now, let’s get started.
Some people use the self-cleaning feature on their oven, but I don’t. Why? Because it runs at temperatures usually around 500ºC (~900ºF) for 2-6 hours (mine would run for 4:15). That’s way too much power to waste in my opinion. Not to mention that if you have one of those ovens that have the hidden heating elements on the top and bottom (they’re covered), chances are you’ll blow a fuse or breaker.
Use your self-cleaning feature at your own risk and only after reading the owners manual for your specific brand and model of oven.
So if we’re not using those harsh, smelly, toxic chemicals, what are we using? My favorite stuff, of course! Citrus vinegar cleaner, baking soda, salt, and good old fashioned elbow grease! To scrub, I’ll be using the mesh from a bag of oranges wrapped around a regular kitchen sponge… and of course, lots and lots of water!
I took the oven racks out and put them into the (clean) bath tub, ran enough water to almost cover them, sprinkled them with baking soda, and poured in about 2 cups of CVC (citrus vinegar cleaner). I let them soak while I went back and got started on the stove itself.
First, a little lesson on kitchen appliance nomenclature.
- Oven – That box which heats up and bakes cakes, casseroles and cookies.
- Stove – That place with separate cooking areas for frying pans and pots; also called a cook-top.
- Range – That thing that is an oven and a stove in one.
That’s right. There is a difference. You can have a stand alone oven, and a stand alone stove, but when they’re combine they become the range. (The more you knooooooooooooow!)
Anyway, when I clean my oven, I typically clean the entire range, including under it, behind it, and the sides of the range and the counters where it is housed. Basically I clean everything outside of the oven itself. I start by sweeping the floor where the range was, then I spray everything with CVC and wipe it all down. If you have a range, be sure to “raise the hood” and clean underneath the cook-top.
Next, I move the range back into place, open it up, and use a plastic or nylon spatula to scrape up any loose bits from the bottom. Using a damp cloth, wipe out all the loose junk and toss it in the trash.
Now sprinkle a little baking soda in the bottom of the oven. Grab your CVC and spray the entire inside liberally. I mean the top, back, sides, bottom, and the door. Really soak things.
After the initial spray job, I grab the baking soda box again, sprinkling everything I can. The things I can’t really sprinkle (the back, sides and top), I “dust” it with baking soda – I take a handful and toss it like chicken feed. If you sprayed enough CVC to begin with, the baking soda is starting to react with it now. Spray it one more time to be sure the reaction is taking place. This is actually loosening up more of the baked on junk.
At this point, I let the baking soda and vinegar work while I went back to the tub and cleaned the racks.
I’ll be truthful with you – I didn’t do a full 100% cleaning this time. Meaning I didn’t use steel wool to ensure I got every little bit of gunk off of everything. You certainly can, and the next time I clean it, I probably will, too, but this time I didn’t feel like it. I’m human. I just wasn’t feeling up to a hardcore cleaning.
So back to the racks.
The picture was taken BEFORE I scrubbed them. that’s after the baking soda and CVC had worked its magic. I used the mesh wrapped sponge to scrub-a-dub the racks, drained the tub, rinsed the racks (and the tub), then stood them up in the tub to dry, and had a cup of coffee to let the baking soda and CVC finish working in the oven.
When I scrubbed the oven, it took a while. It’s not an easy task, and my back always hurts afterward, but it’s worth it in the end. I also ended up using about 6-8 cleaning rags in the process, too. The first thing I did was sprinkle the oven with salt. Salt will act as a mild abrasive to help remove those tougher baked on bits. I’ll scrub with the sponge, rinse, and repeat until I’m sure nothing else is coming loose. Then I switch to the cleaning rags. I usually use 1 per side, wiping, rinsing and repeating until it’s completely clean all the way around. I always do the door last because by that time, my back is killing me. I can sit on the floor and clean the door – that way my back doesn’t hurt anymore. (Yes that rhymed, I do it all the time. You get these two for free, the next one costs a dime.)
Ready for the BEFORE and AFTER shots? I knew you would be.
If you have an uncontrollable tendency of making messes in the oven, try using these foil oven liners in the bottom of your oven. That way, when you’re ready to clean your oven, the bottom isn’t a total disaster, and all you have to do is replace the liner.