I don't want to blow up, but I also want a cleaner oven.
June 23, 2013 9:03 AM   Subscribe

I have an old, small gas oven in my new apartment that desperately needs cleaning. The problem is that it has pilot lights. Help me!

I read this question, but my oven 100% has pilots.

The oven is super gross (many years of grime) and definitely needs to be cleaned before used. Soap and water won't cut it. But how the heck do I do this? I have the traditional heavy-duty oven cleaner chemical spray, but it says "do not use on pilot lights" (among many other "do nots"... I hate using this stuff).

Is there an alternative cleaning solution that I could use, which isn't flammable but would work for this? Or do I need to turn off the gas, clean, then reignite all the pilots? That seems terrifying to me.
posted by Paper rabies to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how much elbow grease you're willing to invest, a steam cleaner might be a good option. A lot of them have attachments - so you can use steam plus a scraper (for example) to attack the gross areas. It's far more time-consuming than the usual oven cleaner spray, and it's definitely messy (make sure you have plenty of old rags, cloths or microfibers around), but it works without any chemicals.
posted by VioletU at 9:25 AM on June 23, 2013

A non aerosol oven cleaner is the answer. A commercial oven cleaner applied by wiping on (wear gloves) or a trigger sprayer (don't breathe the mists) will work. Check you local restaurant supply cash and carry for the product. It will be highly caustic (it has to be to dissolve the built up carbon) but will not be flammable.

Alternatively, re-lighting the pilot isn't as scary as you imagine. The thermal coupler will prevent gas from being expelled while it's out, and even if it didn't it trickles so slowly that even after a couple hours there will not be enough in the atmosphere to cause and explosion. Open your windows, move some air around with a towel and it'll be fine.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:26 AM on June 23, 2013

The brilliant Unfuck Your Habitat advises the following for cleaning ovens:
Cover the interior of the bottom of the oven with a fairly substantial amount of baking soda; enough to fully cover it. Use a spray bottle to spray vinegar on top of the baking soda (this will fizz up, making an awesome oven volcano). Spray vinegar on the sides of the oven, the inside of the door, and anywhere else. Let it sit for a few hours, overnight if you can. Use a damp sponge or damp clean rag to wipe everything down, rinsing and rewetting frequently. Have a scrub brush on hand for any stubborn spots.
posted by ambrosia at 9:38 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have been successful getting lots of old baked on super gross out of my rental unit stove using baking soda paste. Make a thick paste with water and baking soda, brush it on with an old paintbrush, wait until it dries and then wash it out with a wet sponge. Makes a huge mess, but is really effective and does not smell awful like oven cleaner spray. You may have to redo a few stubborn spots, and scrub them with a brush, but overall I think it worked out better than oven cleaner.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 9:41 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm going to third the use of baking soda, although the method I used is slightly different. Cover the grime with baking soda and then spray with water; let sit overnight and wipe clean the next day. There might be some areas that need a bit of scrubbing, but most of it should come up with just a sponge.

I was amazed at how well it worked. I have a self cleaning oven but wanted an alternative because I read that the high temperature can actually damage the oven. And I hate the smell of oven cleaners. I'm curious about using vinegar instead of water and may try that next time. I'm just not sure about starting a volcano in my oven.
posted by Bresciabouvier at 9:54 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

My go-to site for household cleaning is Home-ec101. While they oddly enough haven't covered exactly how to clean an oven, they have indicated the following: The glass cleans well with Bar Keepers Friend. For stuff stuck to the bottom and needs a lot of work, think of it like a pan: apply vinegar, then heat. Wipe, cool, apply Bar Keepers Friend. Repeat as necessary.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:20 AM on June 23, 2013

Nthing the use of a Baking Soda paste... Works amazingly well.
posted by Jacob G at 11:40 AM on June 23, 2013

Personally nothing i've ever tried has worked as well as the foam-up spray on oven cleaner that seems like it's basically scrubbing bubbles but for ovens. To the point that i use that to clean bath tubs and other things as well.

I'd just shut off the valve where the pipe on your wall connects to the (usually yellow) flexi-hose that runs to your oven, and deal with re-lighting the pilot with a BBQ lighter afterwards.

I'd also leave the cleaner on for like, another 5-10 minutes longer than it says to so it can really annihilate the mess.

I once had to clean a particularly awful oven when i was moving out of an apartment, and i tried basically every other solution first since that just seemed like the "nuclear option". Everything else just chipped away at the surface of the burned on nastiness in a really pathetic way. That stuff in two applications left the oven looking showroom clean without very much scrubbing at all.

Yes it smells awful, and it's nasty to deal with(especially the frothy dirt+foam slurry that results when you start wiping) but it's really the easiest way.
posted by emptythought at 3:56 PM on June 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips everyone! I opted for the baking soda paste and it worked surprisingly well! It didn't take out all the gunk when compared to the industrial chemical, but it was convenient, less smelly/explosive, and a decent arm workout.
posted by Paper rabies at 7:15 PM on June 27, 2013

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