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June 3, 2016 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a relatively easy and very non-toxic way to clean your oven? A method that you really like?

I am looking for personal experiences here.
I don't want to use anything toxic, fume-y, or harsh enough to need gloves or even leave potentially toxicky residues. (The fan on the oven bonnet is broken and the fume issue is non-negotiable for us.) At the same time I am pretty lazy when it comes to getting down and scrubbing the baked-on black grease. I can relent more easily on the laziness front than the toxic one.
I am looking for both the product (baking soda? Vinegar?) and the method (Leave it on for an hour at such and such a temperature? etc) that you like.
*ALso -- The oven has a self-cleaning button that I've never used. Googling has warned against using this as it's apparently high risk for burning out a fuse. Is this really true?
posted by flourpot to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Just try the self cleaning button. It will get extremely hot and burn the crud off.

Also, learn to bake in a manner that doesn't get it gooked up. I can't take the fumes and I learned to just not bake in a greasy way so I could mostly avoid cleaning the oven. It can help to put some water in the bottom of a pan, for example if you are baking chicken. But if you use glass baking pans, do not add cold water to a pan where the water has baked out. This will cause it to explode into a million pieces. It is dangerous is ruins your dinner to boot.
posted by Michele in California at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use a metal spatula to scrape up the goop and charred residue on the bottom of the oven. Not perfectly clean, but good enough for me. Then I put a layer of heavy duty aluminum foil on the bottom. Replace this when it gets disgusting.
posted by H21 at 1:54 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Use the self clean, it cranks the oven to 700F or so and everything just sort of turn to a grey ashy dust. You can then remove it with a damp cloth or a sponge. The idea behind 'using the self clean feature will kill the oven' is yeah, it's gonna get really really hot and if the brain board is getting ready to fail heating everything up to higher-than-normal temp will do it in. We like to live dangerously so we use it but sparingly. Buy a half sheet pan on Amazon for like twenty bucks and put it under your dutch oven or roasting pan.
posted by fixedgear at 2:07 PM on June 3, 2016

If you're concerned about the oven self-clean cycle (which can be tough on older ovens, apparently) , you can do a steam clean to loosen the gunk before you scrub.

Put around a cup of water in your oven in an oven-safe pot. Set the temperature to 350F/180C/GM4. Bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat and let it sit for half-an-hour with the door closed. This will loosen the gunk.

You can use vinegar to help clean, but I find a food-safe degreaser (look for a "grill cleaner") to work better.
posted by bonehead at 2:15 PM on June 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have used the baking soda and vinegar method in the past and it works well, although it can be a challenge to wipe everything out (and my oven was never that greasy, so your mileage may vary).

I would recommend, depending on how dirty your oven is, to get as many of the "bits" out first -- brush out any loose charred food products & give it a quick rub-down with a damp towel or sponge before moving onto this step. I think it also helps to scrub a bit with the baking soda mixture. I also wouldn't wipe off as much of the baking soda mixture before spraying it with vinegar (although depending on how much you used, you should wipe off some of it) -- the reaction is what helps things dissolve.

You may need to do this a couple of times if your oven is really bad and some of it you may never quite get off with this method, but it worked for me.

(I was concerned about toxic chemicals, but I mostly resorted to this because I had baking soda and vinegar around.)
posted by darksong at 4:34 PM on June 3, 2016

Baking soda is your answer. It has magical grease-removing power. Here's how I do it: wipe down the inside of the oven with a wet sponge. Sprinkle baking soda on all the greasy spots, then drizzle on more water to make a paste. If there are bad spots on the sides, make a thick paste of baking soda and water and smear it on. Now comes the key step: wait. Let it all sit overnight, or for at least a few hours. The baking soda will turn brownish as it absorbs the old grease. Then wipe it off. It can take quite a bit of wiping and water to remove it all, but you shouldn't need to scrub. It's a very good idea to wear rubber gloves for this step -- the baking soda isn't toxic, but it's just as good at removing oil from your skin as it is at removing grease from your oven, so it can dry out your hands something awful. Really crusty spots might need a second (or third) treatment.
posted by Corvid at 4:35 PM on June 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I honestly just use elbow grease + metal scouring pad + an abrasive (like water/baking soda paste). I'm a toxicologist and this is the least toxic approach I know. I've also never met a gross oven that this doesn't work for, but then again I've always been around ovens that have been cleaned at least every couple years. Once I had to get a paint scraper out to physically dislodge some big deposits, but, yeah, there you go, scrape that shit out and rub down the problem spots with a soluble abrasive. It's not that laborious, but you might get a little greasy in the process.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:58 PM on June 3, 2016

flourpot: "The oven has a self-cleaning button that I've never used. Googling has warned against using this as it's apparently high risk for burning out a fuse."

Self clean doesn't strain your fuses anymore than initially heating the oven from cold so I wouldn't worry about this.
posted by Mitheral at 5:39 PM on June 3, 2016

May be, but this long-time tenant (in 15 apartments, so far) has never had an oven whose self-cleaning feature was enabled.

Recently been using the baking soda and vinegar; which I find as effective as oven cleaner (and not near as toxic).
posted by Rash at 6:39 PM on June 3, 2016

If you do decide to use the self-cleaning feature, remove everything (including the racks!) from the oven first and while the oven is doing its thing, give the racks a good soaking/scrubbing.
posted by Night_owl at 10:08 PM on June 3, 2016

I guess I'm the lone voice of dissent, but the self-clean function toasted our oven and resulted in having to buy a brand new one. It's pretty risky, in my opinion!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:01 AM on June 4, 2016

If you need to use a lot of elbow grease, it may be easier to take the door off the oven for the duration, so you can get closer with better angles. Make sure you know how to put it back on.

Also, here is a whole cleaning thread about scrubbing and nobody has mentioned Magic Eraser (or the very cheap generic brands that you can buy online). I have one, but I've never used it on anything much less ovens, so I'm not recommending it personally, but I do wonder if it would do the job. I'll just leave this comment and let others chime in to agree or disagree.
posted by CathyG at 9:58 AM on June 4, 2016

I use Scrubbing Bubbles on my oven instead of oven cleaner. While it's hardly chemical-free, it releases far fewer horrid fumes than does oven cleaner and it does a pretty okay job of digging into burned on grease. I've tried the vinegar and baking soda method, but find that cleaning up the mess it leaves behind makes for way more work than I want to do cleaning the oven.
posted by Lynsey at 10:07 PM on June 4, 2016

Thanks everyone. I appreciated everyone's answer and marked as "best" the ones I might want to return to in the future. I used the paste of baking soda and vinegar, left it on for a while, scrubbed it out with a textured sponge and water, and it worked quite well. I'm planning to use bonehead's steam method to get off the lingering tiny black areas on the oven floor. Much appreciated advice!
posted by flourpot at 8:35 AM on June 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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