No one likes having to clean their oven – it’s a tedious, dirty job – but one that eventually cannot be avoided. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are when placing casseroles in the oven or checking that Sunday roast, there will always be the inevitable spills and splatters, baked on grease and other general grime which will accumulate over time and mean that you will need to give your oven a thorough clean.
Using commercial oven cleaners
Mention commercial oven cleaners and most people will recoil in horror or ply you with warnings about the health risks. This is not surprising – commercial oven cleaners contain many powerful chemicals, such as ethylene glycol, ethers, methylene chloride, lye (sodium and potassium hydroxide), petroleum distillates and pine oil. Many of these are corrosive to the skin and eyes and to the internal organs when inhaled – and it can be hard to avoid breathing in the fumes when using the commercial oven cleaner.
However, if you must use a commercial oven cleaner, then there are a few steps you can take to help you minimise the risks. First, always wear rubber gloves and eye protection (e.g.. chemical goggles) when using the commercial cleaner – ideally, wear an apron too. Read all the manufacturer’s directions carefully and follow them diligently. To give the cleaning process a boost and therefore hopefully speed it up (reducing the time you have to inhale harmful fumes), heat the oven first to 200ºC. Then turn it off, spray the soiled areas with the commercial oven cleaner, ensuring that it is thoroughly covered, and then shut the oven and let the cleaner work overnight. The next day, simply wipe away the grime using a damp cloth or sponge, rinse the oven and then wipe dry.
Natural or Home-Made Cleaners
One of the best ways you can stay safe when cleaning the oven is to use home-made or commercially-bought NATURAL cleaners. These are solutions made up of natural ingredients which can be just as powerful at cleaning the oven than chemical solvents. For example, a simple paste can be made up with equal parts baking soda and white vinegar, together with a few drops of liquid detergent and then applied to the inside of the often. This paste is then scrubbed off with a sponge and the oven rinsed thoroughly and wiped clean.
Another good natural oven cleaner uses equal parts lemon juice and salt, which is made into a paste and then applied to stubborn areas for around 5 minutes, before being scrubbed away with a brush and wiped clean. Even just baking soda and hot steamy water can make a very effective cleaning paste than can be used to scrub the insides of the oven clean with a soft-bristled cleaning brush. Again, make sure all surfaces are thoroughly rinsed and wiped dry.
If the oven has been very neglected and there is a lot of stubborn, baked-on grime, you can use a natural stain remover made of equal parts salt, baking soda and water. This paste is applied to the inside of the oven and then the door is closed and the oven is heated to 240ºC for at least 1 hour. After this, turn off the often and allow it to cool before wiping the loosened debris and any leftover paste with a damp cloth. Another alternative heavy-duty but natural oven cleaner is made of 1 teaspoon each of liquid detergent and lemon juice, 1 & half cups bleach and 1 quart of warm water. Once the ingredients are mixed, it can be applied to the oven cavity using a sponge and then after for approximately 45 minutes, before being scrubbed clean.
Tips and Tricks
Finally, no matter what solution you use, always make sure you rinse everything thoroughly from the inner walls and wipe dry. Rinsing with vinegar as well as water will ensure an extra good clean. Then heat the oven to 200ºC and leave for 10 minutes, before turning it off – this will help “burn off” any remaining residue from the cleaner (especially odours) so that it will not seep into your food.
If you wipe the oven after each use with a hot, damp cloth, this will prevent a build-up of baked on grime and reduce the need for big clean-ups later. If you know you are going to cook messy, greasy food which is likely to splatter or spill, consider using aluminium foil spread under or around the cooking item to catch as much of the mess as you can.
Finally, these instructions apply to the traditional, non-self-cleaning ovens. Many modern ovens now sold are a “self-cleaning type”. These ovens have a special “self-cleaning cycle” which reduces any food spills to a pile of ash which is then easily wiped away by a damp cloth. In this case, there is little you need to do to clean the oven, other than to open a window during the self-cleaning cycle to prevent smoke staining your walls and ceiling – and then wiping down the oven door and frame later. Never use abrasives or oven cleaners on the interior of a self-cleaning oven.