Do self-cleaning ovens truly work?
March 26, 2009 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I've never had a self-cleaning oven, and I'm sick of kneeling down on the floor and dealing with that mess - it's not even a wall oven. My husband says a coworker tells him that you still have to spray oven cleaner on, then wipe it off afterward. I don't believe this, but want to be sure before I buy a stove. I assume that results might vary depending on how often you clean it and how dirty it is to begin with.
posted by onemorething to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Self-cleaning ovens work by raising the temp in the oven to a really high level and burning off everything inside, which in practice creates tons of smoke (no big deal if your oven is vented) and leaves carbon (and other things) behind. You will still need to clean it with oven cleaner.

I think the best solution for avoiding cleaning the oven as frequently is to put a drip pan on the bottom on top of a layer of foil. Clean the drip pan and replace the foil.
posted by plinth at 7:44 AM on March 26, 2009

I have never cleaned my self-cleaning oven with a spray oven cleaner. Self-cleaning ovens do work. Do make sure to take the racks out before turning on the clean function. Wipe up spills immediately and scrape off any clumps before you clean and you'll be fine.

There is a product on the market that is intended for self-cleaning ovens. I think it's an Easy Off product that is meant for touchups.
posted by Fairchild at 7:47 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've never used oven cleaner with mine. I just wipe up the ashes left after using the self-cleaning function. But my oven is only a couple of years old. It may be different once some "build up" accumulates.
posted by jrossi4r at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've let mine get about 3 yrs accumulation before running the self-clean cycle, and it worked fine. All that cheese turned to ash, which I just scraped out. I did use a cleaner, but not oven cleaner because I didn't have any. Just a kitchen cleaner like 409 afterward to clean out the ash.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:52 AM on March 26, 2009

The instructions for most self-cleaning ovens specifically say NOT to use oven cleaner in them as it will ruin the finish that the self-cleaning function depends on -- and then you're just left with an ordinary oven that can get really hot.

That being said, the self-clean function will leave a powdery ash on most surfaces in the oven, so if you're the type that thinks the inside of your oven should be spotless and gleaming, you'll want to wipe it out with a damp cloth afterwards. I personally don't care (I put things in there to get charred, and I don't cook on the actual oven surfaces!) but I'm not very OCD about the inside of my kitchen appliances.
posted by SpecialK at 7:52 AM on March 26, 2009

I have a self-cleaning oven and like it. I agree with most of what plinth said, but find that a regular cleaner like 409 (or often just a damp rag) is sufficient to get out the ash that is left after a cleaning cycle. This article on self-cleaning ovens states that they are also better insulated which results in energy savings. I like and use my self cleaning feature. As for keeping the bottom clean, my stove has the bottom heating element under the bottom of the oven, making it flat and easy to wipe spills off of so there is less smoke when cleaning. That feature may only be found on more expensive models, though. I haven't bought a stove in several years and so do not know what is available now.
posted by TedW at 7:53 AM on March 26, 2009

Our gas self-cleaning oven is wonderful. Despite plinth's comment, there's really nothing to do after it's cleaned itself, just a little grey ash to wipe up. Carbon + oxygen + heat turns the carbon (oil, grease, crumbs, whatever) to CO2. There is some smoke, because our oven vents into the room, so we clean it when we can have the kitchen door or windows open, but I hate cleaning ovens and now never need to.
posted by anadem at 7:54 AM on March 26, 2009

I just used the self cleaning mechanism on my oven a few weeks ago. Like what others have said, the heat just gets raised extremely hot and stays that way for about 3 hours. I just had some crumbs left on the bottom of the oven which I wiped away. I stupidly left my pizza stone in there as well and it went from black to white. I was amazed.

AFAIK oven cleaner is not necessary in addition to the self cleaning mechanism.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 7:56 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, they work and I'm so thankful for mine. Agreeing with the above that you do not use oven cleaner and all that is left over is a little bit of ash on the bottom of the oven. One wipe with a damp paper towel and you are done.
posted by pixlboi at 7:59 AM on March 26, 2009

I have a self-cleaning gas oven that I have cleaned maybe twice in the past three years, and that's after a fair number of roasts and pizzas have gone in and out of it. I prevent most of the debris from sticking to the bottom of the oven by placing a battered old cookie sheet on the bottom rack, so even pizza baked directly on the upper rack doesn't leave a mark. (The racks themselves may need scrubbing a little more often if things like melted cheese get on them. As mentioned above, do NOT leave the racks in during the self-cleaning cycle.)

The self-cleaning cycles are a little smelly, but otherwise, you don't have much to deal with. Wiping out a small bit of ash with a damp cloth is all I've ever done after a cycle.

(If you can time your cleaning to the coldest times of the year, it's an efficient way to heat the house a little, too.)
posted by maudlin at 8:04 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

My self-cleaning oven is from the 70s, has instructions warning not to use oven cleaner printed right on the door. We haven't had any trouble damp-sponging away the small amount of ash residue left behind after cleaning cycle.
posted by jamaro at 8:29 AM on March 26, 2009

Hundredthing the "they do work" but yeah, you have to mop up the floor of the oven with a sponge. I give the whole thing a quick mopping with a citrus cleaner, and our 7-year-old oven looks factory-fresh.

I'm going to go clean my oven right now! This has inspired me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:35 AM on March 26, 2009

One more vote for "self-cleaning ovens seriously rock." Mine also came with very clear instructions *not* to use oven cleaner on it, ever. We make sure not to leave anything (racks, etc) in the oven when we do the weirdly apocalyptic self-cleaning cycle, and then we use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe out the resulting ash.
posted by Hellgirl at 8:50 AM on March 26, 2009

In case you're wondering about the rack thing: My parents once accidentally left the racks inside, and they (the racks) ended up getting all warped and discolored. They're still using them - the racks are just a little crooked now.
posted by pocams at 9:10 AM on March 26, 2009

Thanks for all the input - it was great to get so many points of view to give me an accurate overall answer. A self-cleaning oven sounds like a dishwasher - the dishwasher will save you the work of soaking and scrubbing the dishes, but it won't put them away in the cupboard afterward :- ).

My husband didn't think the self-cleaning feature was important, but he sort of got educated about that - he bought a nice, fairly new stove with a dirty oven off CraigsList while I was out of town, and found out how much work it is. And it still isn't exactly clean - he didn't get all the oven cleaner wiped off. He didn't realize how many times you have to keep wiping with a clean/rinsed rag.
posted by onemorething at 9:41 AM on March 26, 2009

Hopefully they door will slide off the oven so you can reach in there.

I always got a bucket of clean water and wear gloves to wipe out the inside after I used the oven cleaner. Put a scrap towel in front of the stove to catch anything that drips out.
posted by wrnealis at 10:00 AM on March 26, 2009

And you get the added bonus of having the option of using the cleaning cycle to cook pizza.

And just to echo all the other comments--I haven't had a non-self cleaning oven in fifteen years. I run the cleaning cycle every year or so and get a little powdery white ash. I don't bother to remove the racks, either. They're a little discolored, but otherwise unharmed. Next time I think I'll try leaving the pizza stone in to clean it too. How much harm can a little heat do to clay tiles (assuming no sudden temp changes)?
posted by fogovonslack at 12:07 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to say that the pizza stone cleaning does work, even on 20 year old stones. That is enough for me to nominate wocka wocka wocka's answer to sidebar status. I even took pictures, but it will be months before I put them online, given my current rate of getting things done. Also, if you do this, your stone should be completely dry before trying it lest the steam from any residual moisture cause it to explode. I am sure there are other caveats but cannot think of them right now.
posted by TedW at 5:00 AM on March 28, 2009

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