How to Clean Large Kitchen Appliances

Large appliances in your kitchen range from enamel-coated metal boxes that clean up with the swipe of a wet cloth to ranges that have at least four depressions to trap and hold spilled food. If you keep up appearances by regularly wiping sticky fingerprints off the refrigerator door and drips off the front of the dishwasher, you can put off cleaning the messes that lurk within your large appliances until you have time to deal with them thoroughly.

When the time does finally arrive for you to do some heavy-duty kitchen cleaning, the suggestions and guidelines in this article should come in handy. From dishwashers and ovens to refrigerators and microwaves, we have your kitchen covered.

Cleaning Dishwashers

The dishwasher's job is to clean your dishes -- but, ironically, it can get pretty dirty in the process of performing that function. Here's how to keep your dishwasher as clean and fresh as your dishes:
  • Baking soda comes in handy when the dishwasher needs cleaning. Dip a cloth into the soda, and use it to clean smudges from the exterior; the same method will also remove stains from the liner. Use a synthetic scouring pad to clean stubborn soil.

  • Clean out hard-water stains, deodorize, and sparkle the inside of the dishwasher by running a wash load using powdered lemonade mix. The ascorbic acid in the powder helps the cleaning action.

  • If the interior of your dishwasher retains odors, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the bottom of the machine and allow it to sit overnight. The odors will be washed away with the baking soda during the next wash cycle.

Microwaves also take a beating. In the next section, we'll tell you how to keep them looking -- and smelling -- good.


Cleaning Microwaves

So your microwave is splattered and battered? We have some ways to freshen it up:
  • Use a mild dishwashing detergent, baking soda, or glass cleaner to clean the inside of the microwave, and wash the glass tray in the sink or the dishwasher when it is soiled.

  • Never use a commercial oven cleaner in a microwave oven.

  • If your microwave is splattered with old sauces and greasy buildup, place a glass measuring cup with 1 cup water and 1/4 cup vinegar inside microwave. Boil for 3 minutes, then remove measuring cup and wipe inside of oven with a damp sponge. You'll be surprised how easily it will wipe away.

  • Deodorize your microwave by keeping a dish of vinegar inside overnight. If smells continue, change vinegar and repeat procedure nightly until the odor is gone.

Take a look below your microwave -- how's that range hood looking? If "greasy" is the first word that comes to mind, read the next section.

Cleaning Range Hoods

Many ranges have separate or built-in range hoods above their cooking surfaces. Range hoods are usually vented to the outside and remove grease, steam, and cooking odors from the kitchen. Some hoods do not have outside vents and rely on replaceable charcoal filters to clean smoke and odors from the air. Both vented and nonvented hoods have fans to draw air and smoke from the cooking area, and both need to be cleaned to keep them free from buildup and working effectively.

  • Wipe the exterior and interior of the range hood regularly. When you need to give it a thorough scrub, use a solution of hot water, dishwashing detergent, and ammonia to cut the grease; wear rubber gloves.

  • Remove the filter cover, and wash it in soapy hot water. Allow it to dry completely before replacing. Wipe the blades of the fan with an ammonia solution.

  • Clean metal mesh filters when they are dirty, and replace the filters on nonvented range hoods every six to nine months or as often as the manufacturer recommends.

  • Avoid washing charcoal filters; washing will reduce their effectiveness.

Ovens -- the focus of our next section -- require as much work to clean as range hoods. While there are many oven cleaning products available for purchase, there are some tricks to the trade.

Cleaning Ovens

There are many strong cleaning products designed to clean standard ovens. However, many oven cleaners are dangerous when they come in contact with your skin or eyes. Wear rubber gloves, and protect your eyes while cleaning. Don't breathe the spray mist or the fumes. Avoid dripping the cleaner on any surfaces other than those it is intended to clean. Carefully read and follow the manufacturer's instructions when you use a commercial oven cleaner.

When you clean a traditional oven, protect the heating elements, oven wiring, and thermostat from commercial oven cleaners with strips of aluminum foil.

Many stoves are equipped with self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning ovens. A self-cleaning oven uses a pyrolytic, or high heat, system to incinerate oven grime, creating a powdery ash. A continuous-cleaning, or catalytic, system eliminates small spatters through the porcelain-enamel finish on the oven liner, which absorbs and spreads soil to promote cleaning at normal temperature settings. Large spills must be wiped up; they will burn and may permanently stain the oven surface. Dust continuous-cleaning ovens weekly and self-cleaning ovens after the cleaning cycle, using the dusting attachment of your vacuum to remove dried food particles or ash.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions when using the cleaning cycle of a self-cleaning oven, and follow the manufacturer's recommendations to care for a continuous-cleaning oven. Neither kind of oven should be cleaned with commercial oven cleaners. Continuous-cleaning ovens should never be scrubbed with abrasives or powdered cleansers; these products will damage the surface.

Oven racks that have stubborn baked-on blackened areas can be cleaned by "steaming" off the soot with ammonia vapors. Just lay the racks on old towels in your bathtub. Fill the tub with warm water and 1/2 cup ammonia, and let it sit 1/2 hour. Be sure the bathroom is well ventilated. Rinse.

If a pie or similar sugary items boils over in your oven, sprinkle the sticky spill with salt. Let it sit until the spilled area become crisp, then lift off with a spatula when the oven cools.

When cleaning your oven, finish by wiping the entire surface with a sponge using a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. This will help prevent grease buildup.

Now that we've warmed up by reading about how to clean an oven, let's move onto the cooler side of things -- refrigerators.

A Homemade Oven Cleaner
You can make your own oven cleaner if you follow these directions:
  • Pour 1 cup ammonia in a glass or ceramic bowl, place it in a cold oven, and allow it to sit in the closed oven overnight.
  • The next morning, pour the ammonia into a pail of warm water and use this solution and a sponge to wipe away the loosened soil. Caution: Wear rubber gloves whenever you work with an ammonia solution. The fumes are strong at first, but they soon dissipate.

Cleaning Refrigerators

The final item on the agenda is the refrigerator. Here are some suggestions for getting that task done and moving on with your life:

  • A frost-free refrigerator should be cleaned when dirty or about every four to six months. Clean a manual-defrost refrigerator when you defrost the freezer compartment.

  • Wash the drip pan whenever you defrost or clean your refrigerator.

  • Defrost the freezer section of your refrigerator when the frost gets to be 1/2-inch thick. Turn off the freezer, and remove all food. Remove shelves, bins, racks, and trays, and wash them in a mild soap solution. Dry thoroughly.

  • Do not put food back into the freezer until you have wiped off any condensation that develops and the freezer has been running for at least 1/2 hour. Wipe the interior of the refrigerator to prevent puddles from remaining in the bottom when you replace the bins.

  • Vacuum the dust behind the bottom grille of your refrigerator at least once every six months.

    Vacuum the bottom grille of your refrigerator regularly.

    Vacuum the bottom grille of your refrigerator regularly.

  • Control refrigerator odors with a box of baking soda placed at the back of a shelf. Replace the box every other month. Also, place a box in the freezer if odors are a problem there.

  • Wipe the inside of your refrigerator with a sponge soaked in vanilla extract to deodorize it.

  • Commercial kitchen cleaners will remove smudges and dirt and leave a protective wax coating on the exterior of the refrigerator, but baking soda will also clean and shine your refrigerator. Rub the exterior with a cloth dipped in baking soda, rinse well, and dry with a soft cloth.

As you've seen, cleaning large appliances doesn't have to be a large undertaking. The secret is to clean regularly -- then the dirt and grime won't seem so overwhelming.