How to clean an oven after it’s been cleaned?
November 24, 2020 9:31 PM   Subscribe

A helpful person decided to clean our oven. I believe she doused it with a thick coat of Lysol spray, but I’m not totally sure. I’ve tried preheating a few times, and it just smells very strongly of chemicals. How can I clean it of whatever she did to make it safe for us to cook in it and eat?

This is pretty upsetting, as I rely on the oven to cook this time of year, and I hoped to make a pie tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I know how to clean an oven (self cleaning cycle and wipe with diluted vinegar), but I’ve googled enough to know that I can’t do a self cleaning cycle when there are these chemicals in there. Everything I read says not to clean an oven with Lysol or similar, but what do I do when it has been done?
posted by studioaudience to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty much every domestic cleaning product is easily soluble in water. If you go over the interior with a rag that's soaking-wet with plain warm water, then do it again, I can't see how there would be enough of any cleaning product left in there to cause you grief during the self-clean cycle you'd use next to burn off any residual smells.

To be on the safe side, though, run all of your home's exhaust fans (kitchen and bathroom) while the self-clean is going, preferably with a kitchen window cracked open and any doors between the kitchen and the rest of the house closed.
posted by flabdablet at 9:45 PM on November 24, 2020 [13 favorites]

What flabdablet said. My first sentence was almost exactly the same.

If you think there's a possibility that they used something flammable, wipe it out and then let it air with the door open for awhile before the self clean.
posted by kjs4 at 9:53 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’ve googled enough to know that I can’t do a self cleaning cycle when there are these chemicals in there

Seems to me that there could be two potential issues with unknown chemicals stuck to an oven interior during a self-clean:

1. Flammability. The concern would be that once the self-clean has raised the interior temperature enough to make a cleaning product off-gas at a nose-detectable rate from whatever it's still clinging to inside the oven, the concentration inside the oven might be high enough to start a fire.

I don't think this concern is warranted, but if it bothers you, the thing to do (after the initial warm water wipe out) would be to preheat the oven again as you've already done (this will be less likely, not more likely, to start a fire because your previous preheats will only ever have reduced the amount of any potentially flammable fumes), then switch it off, open the door, and set up a box fan to blow out the interior until it cools. At which point there is no way that anything stuck to interior surfaces is going to be present in a high enough concentration to pose a fire risk.

The only way this assessment could really be wrong enough to matter is if there's a decent-sized pool of some relatively pure but not very volatile liquid fuel, like maybe a half a cup of vegetable oil, hiding in the hot zone. But I can think of no plausible way for a wiped-out spray to pose a realistic risk of fire.

2. Toxicity. It might be that either the cleaning product itself or some of its high-temperature breakdown products are not something you want to be breathing.

Again, the solution to pollution is dilution - initially with a warm water wipe out for any residual liquid, and then by running all your exhaust fans to pull clean air into your house while the self-clean vaporizes whatever is left stuck to the oven.

I strongly doubt that your oven is going to smell significantly worse at any point during the self-clean than it did during the preheats you've already done, and by the time the self-clean is finished it will most likely smell of hot metal and not much else.
posted by flabdablet at 10:12 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'd worry that she used a liquid cleaner on a sponge, and that there is some of that liquid, or a diluted version of it, below the heating chamber. If you have a drawer below the main part of the oven (some people store baking sheets in this), open it and make sure it's clean and dry.

You can also take apart the oven burners and see if there is cleaner inside the top part of the oven.

In short, my guess is that the chemicals you're smelling aren't on the oven walls -- those are probably wiped and/or rinsed clean. I'd look for residual stuff in other parts of the oven.
posted by amtho at 11:03 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ovens aren't airtight but they are fairly well sealed to keep the heat in, which means that when they aren't on, there isn't a lot of air moving through them. Try leaving the door open for several hours (overnight should be good) with the fan running in the kitchen and see if that doesn't get you most of the way to solving this problem.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:29 AM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

For wiping it down as suggested, you'll find it vastly easier to do a thorough job if you remove the oven door, which can be easily done on almost any model of wall oven or stove. Usually, it entails opening the door partway and pulling up, but there may be a catch to undo. Look at the oven manual. If you don't have a paper copy, Google [manufacturer] [model number] manual, and it should come up.
posted by beagle at 6:21 AM on November 25, 2020

I'm not a fan of self-cleaning ovens. They use extremely high temperatures and even with the internal fans and ventilation, the electronics and wiring inside the stove get very hot and may shorten their lifespan.

I agree with amtho that there may be liquid in the chamber below the floor of the oven. Most modern ovens have an exposed electric element on the top for broiling and browning, but the main oven element is below the floor pan in the oven. Liquid may have gotten in there. To check, you need to remove the oven racks then remove, usually two or four screws in the bottom of the oven. Remove the pan and inspect below with a flashlight. You should see the oven electrical element and you may see signs of liquid in there as well.
posted by JackFlash at 11:41 AM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Many thanks to everyone’s tips and prompt help. I combined everyone’s tips and am set to start baking my pie in about 30 minutes. :)
posted by studioaudience at 9:39 AM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

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