Photo by Marcus Nilsson
What Is Self-Cleaning, Anyway?
Most modern ovens have a self-cleaning function, according to Chris Thornton, senior manager of product training at Samsung. This may sound like a nice automatic scrubbing, but it’s really just your oven heating up to an extreme temp (like, 900 degrees), which incinerates any crusty bits. Very cool, but it comes with some rules that need to be taken seriously.
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Your Oven Is Not Self-Cleaning So Now What?
Whether you go with a commercial cleaning product or a homemade version, the process is the same: apply, wait, wipe clean. Two of our favorite store-bought products are Easy-Off Fume Free Oven Cleaner (target.com, $4) and Mrs. Meyer’s Baking Soda Cream Cleaner (mrsmeyers.com, $4). For a DIY cleaner, make a paste by combining 3/4 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup water.
Pro Tip: If a pie bubbles over mid-bake, put a pile of salt on the spill while it’s still hot, then scrape it up.
Use aluminum foil.
If you have a gas oven, consider lining the bottom with aluminum foil and changing it out when it gets yucky.
Get Rid of the Nitty Gritty
- Read the oven manufacturer’s instructions first to learn how to prevent harmful fumes, see how long the cycle will last and more.
- Remove all pots, pans, grates and drawers; the super-high heat can warp them.
- Do not use any commercial chemical cleaners in the oven before turning on the self-cleaning function.
- Stay in the house during the cycle (which can last anywhere from one to five hours) to ensure that your kitchen is properly ventilated throughout. Obviously, high temperatures can be a fire hazard.
- Don’t touch the oven door during cleaning—it could burn you. (Yup, it’s that hot.)
- Once the oven has cooled, wipe away any leftover white ash.
Cleaning the oven yourself
- Put on an old T-shirt and grab a folded towel to kneel on.
- Take out the oven racks and scrub them with a scouring pad, then let them sit in a solution of dishwashing liquid and water for a few hours or overnight. (Your bathtub’s a great place to do this.)
- Apply cleaner to the walls, floor and ceiling of the oven. For commercial cleaners, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If using DIY paste, leave it on overnight. For extra-gnarly spots, spray white distilled vinegar on top of the paste and let it sit and work its magic.
- Remove cleaner with a warm, wet rag.
- Spray the oven window with an all-purpose cleaner, then scour off any burnt marks with a razor-blade scraper.
Thornton suggests giving the oven some TLC every three to six months. To prevent gunk from building up in the meantime, do your best to wipe off drips and spills as they happen.
Dealing with the Stovetop
This is the easiest type of cooktop to clean. Use dish soap or an all-purpose cleaner and a sponge. For stubborn spots, let cleaner soak in for a few minutes, then use a razor-blade scraper to gently remove.
Most cast-iron grates can be put through the dishwasher, which makes life super easy; just check the manual or the manufacturer’s website first. Otherwise, soak in soapy water and remove any stuck-on food and grease with a scouring pad. Wipe down the stovetop with soapy water and a sponge.
Remove the coils (if possible) and wipe them clean with a sponge or scouring pad, being careful not to get the electrical connection wet.