How Self-cleaning Ovens Work

By: John Kelly

Are Oven Cleaners Necessary for Self-cleaning Ovens?

Oven cleaners? No way. One of the big advantages of a self-cleaning oven is that it lets you avoid oven cleaners, which are among the most toxic of household cleaners. If you use them, any residue of oven cleaner left behind might release dangerous fumes during the self-cleaning cycle.

Oven cleaners contain lye and solvents, which they need to attack burned-on oven grime [source: Di Justo]. The directions for these cleaners will tell you to use rubber gloves and avoid contact with your eyes or skin. Today there are less toxic cleaners labeled "safe for self-cleaning ovens." These are based mainly on baking soda.


Don't use metal scrapers, scouring pads or wire brushes on self-cleaning or steam cleaning ovens. These can damage the interior walls and make the self-cleaning process less effective. You'll want to avoid using either oven cleaners or abrasives on continuous cleaning ovens for the same reason.

All you'll need to clean your self-cleaning oven is a damp cloth or sponge to wipe up the powdery residue after the cleaning cycle and some mild detergent or baking soda for cleaning the areas around the door and the exterior surfaces. A water-and-lemon-juice mixture is good for removing light grease stains. Never scrub or put cleaner on the fiberglass gasket around the oven door to avoid damaging the oven's seal [source: Urman].

When you use the self-cleaning cycle, turn on the fan in the hood that's attached to outside vent. Open windows in the kitchen for ventilation. You could put a fan in the window if needed. This will get rid of any smoke or fumes as well as some of the heat. It'll help keep your smoke detector from sounding an alarm, too.

Don't leave the oven completely unattended while cleaning. You'll want to avoid touching the outside of the oven, as it can get hot. Always keep children away. And be aware that birds are highly sensitive to toxic gases and smoke. If you have pet birds, put them in a room with good ventilation while the oven is cleaning [source: KitchenAid].

A quality self-cleaning oven should give you years of happy baking and eliminate one of your least favorite household chores.