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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Smokin’ Hot: Self-Cleaning Ovens

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

It’s the holidays. Families are on cooking and baking overload between mid-November and New Years day. With that in mind, I thought now might be a good time discuss self-cleaning ovens and whether this feature should be used. Reminder: a dirty oven can pose a forgotten fire hazard in your home!

Walter Mathau opening oven and inside is on fire
Let’s try to avoid this scenario, eh?

The Inspiration

Recently, I realized our oven was in need of some serious cleaning love. It’s no secret that in our house The Mathematician is the oven MVP. While I can technically cook, it’s just mostly perfunctory Rachael Ray style 30-minute meals. The Mathematician may be the champion of using the oven, I’m the only contender for the oven cleaning champion. It’s a weak claim to fame, but I’ll own it.

I don’t think our dirty oven alone would have been enough to spark an entire article (unless, maybe, I’m really desperate for a topic). However, around the same time I was tackling the disgustingness of our oven, I encountered a Facebook post from a friend. I felt her post merited discussion.

The post in question:

PSA: NEVER, I mean NEVER use the Self-Clean feature on your oven. Our 3 yr old GE wall unit oven is now garbage after using the self-clean feature for 2 hours!! 🤬😭🤬😭🤬😭🤬

Anonymous Facebook friend

This post popped up on my feed within days of me reading the same advice (in multiple posts) on one of my favorite haunts the Cleaning Tips reddit thread. Since most ovens have a self-cleaning feature, I felt I had to share this PSA with the masses!

Self-Clean Function

Nearly 9 out of 10 models have self-cleaning function, according to Consumer Reports. This feature typically heats the oven “to temperatures north of 800° F to burn off baked-in spills and spots, leaving you with a thin layer of white ash that’s easily wiped off with a sponge.”

The self-clean function is, apparently, a raging internet debate. It was like wading into a parking lot brawl outside a biker bar. Here are a few choice snippets I found:

After doing some research, it seems that many of the appliance repair companies specifically recommend not using self-clean. There is a decent chance the heat will fry at least one component. It also poses a risk of off-gassing smoke and chemicals while burning off the food as well as full on fire if your grease hits flashpoint heat.

Verdict: Skip the self-clean feature.


So what should you use instead? You want to start by checking your oven’s manual, if you have it. Beyond the manufacturing instructions, you’re looking at either a chemical bomb or a lot of elbow grease.

Many ovens have a steam clean setting, which doesn’t carry the same risks because of the lower temperature. You basically add some water to the bottom of the oven and run this setting to create steam to loosen the gunk in the oven. (Much like microwaving a mug of water for 2 minutes before you clean the microwave – if you aren’t already using this tip, you’re welcome.). It is a helpful way to kick start the cleaning process.

Easy Off

If you’re down for the chemical bomb, the Easy Off Pro Fume Free has over 4.5 stars with over 6,300 reviews. Just be really careful about where you spray and rinsing it out. You definitely don’t want to turn on your oven and unleash a cloud of heated chemicals on your unsuspecting family!

Baking Soda Paste

If you’re looking for a non-commercial non-toxic option, every YouTube video is going to recommend the baking soda and water paste method. Mix it up, slap it on and let it sit. I recommend sealing it up with either cling wrap (yeah, I know, not super environmentally minded but effective!) or damp paper towel and letting the paste sit for a good long while.

After the paste has sat for a little while, you can use a soft non-scratch scrubbie to work on stubborn stains. Wipe out the excess baking soda with paper towel. Then spray a 50-50 vinegar/water mixture to dissolve any lingering baking soda. Continue wiping until you’ve cleaned out all remnant of the soda.

For stubborn stains on the glass in the oven door, I recommend dish soap to really break that up. Anything really stuck can be smoothly scraped up with a flat razor. Just be careful to keep your angle around 30° to prevent scratching.

Share Your Tips

Do you have a great method for getting that oven squeaky clean? I want to hear it!

And remember, no matter how bad it is, it probably isn’t worse than what these two Redditors posted:

Thanks for joining this week. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help you with any of your homeowner needs.

Photo by Liliana Drew

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