Some of us find it relaxing but for many, cleaning the oven is the definition of dull. But it's an important task that removes stuck-on food, grease and other waste that can attract harmful bacteria unless it’s cleaned.
Regularly cleaning your oven will give it the best chance of being efficient for as long as possible. Stay on top of cleaning it and avoid the temptation to leave it to tomorrow… or a much, much later date. Not cleaning your oven can lead to damage and even needing a repair for your gas oven, gas cooker or electric cooker. As they say, ‘prevention is better than the cure’ and this is certainly true when it comes to oven maintenance.
Our frequently asked questions are here to help you make a boring job bearable. Follow along and learn everything from how to clean oven racks to the materials you'll need and more.
How often should you clean your oven?
How frequently you should be cleaning an oven depends on how you use it. Cooking regular meals, or baking in the oven, will of course mean you’ll need to clean it more often.
For most people, about every six months is enough for cleaning the oven. If you use more than usual, you should think about cleaning it every three or four months.
To clean ordinary enamel (the ones that are smooth to the touch) linings and oven doors, you should always use a liquid or paste cleaner recommended by the Vitreous Enamel Association. Or you can use a homemade paste of bicarbonate of soda and water – which is non-toxic and won’t react with enamel. It dries leaving a protective coating that absorbs greasy soiling and makes it easier to clean next time!
To make cleaning even easier, before you begin, place a bowl of water in the oven and heat on a high temperature for 20 minutes. The steam produced will help loosen the dirt and grease. Remember to wipe the condensation away before you start using any cleaning products.
For heavily soiled ovens, you should use a commercial oven cleaner. Never use it on a hot oven. Make sure the room is well ventilated and wear rubber gloves.
What happens if you never clean your oven?
I think you know the answer isn’t going to be a good one. If you never clean your oven, dirt will build up and affect how it works. Excess grime can block the air vents and damage other mechanical parts. This can lead to irregular temperatures and unpredictable cooking, increasing the chance of an engineer needing to repair your oven and in worst case scenarios, food poisoning.
You should also be aware that loose bits of burnt food can cause your oven to smoke when in use. Not only will this leave your meals tasting bad, but if grease isn’t cleaned up, fires are also a possibility. If that does happen, we've got everything you need to know if you're dealing with a smoking oven.
A lot can go wrong, but if you keep your oven clean, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
What’s the best oven cleaner?
There are so many different products for cleaning an oven it can all get a little confusing. It all depends on the type of cleaning solution you’re most comfortable working with. Some prefer chemical cleaners whereas others choose organic methods.
Chemical oven cleaner
Chemical cleaners attack tough-to-remove dirt, so wear rubber or nitrile gloves and a mask to avoid breathing in the fumes. If you’re wondering if it’s safe to cook in an oven after cleaning with it, it’s best to leave the oven at a high heat for around 20 minutes before you use it. This should burn away any trace of the cleaner.
Organic oven cleaner
If you’re wary of using chemical cleaners, there are solutions you can make yourself from a mix of water, baking soda and white vinegar. While this can help to clean the dirt inside the oven, you’ll need to be prepared to scrub a lot harder. But at least you know there won’t be harmful fumes or residue to burn off after.
Self-cleaning (or catalytic) ovens use a process called pyrolytic cleaning. This means the internal temperature of the oven rises to around 500 degrees centigrade. The intense heat turns any debris into ash, which is then easy to clean away with a cloth. The frame around the oven opening and the edge of the door outside the seal will need a good wipe down too. Self-cleaning cycles take a few hours, so it’s not as quick as manual cleaning.
What you’ll need to clean your oven
You can raid your kitchen cupboards for most of these ingredients. And you won’t necessarily need everything on the list either.
Things you might need:
- Your preferred cleaner
- A mixing bowl or container
- Rubber or nitrile gloves and a face mask
- A plastic sheet, old towels or newspaper
- Microfibre cloths and old rags
- Nonabrasive cloths and sponges
- Glass cleaner
- A plastic scraper or an old plastic spatula
Step-by-step guide to cleaning your oven
Now you’ve gathered your materials, let’s run through how to clean the different parts of your oven. Before you start, remember to lay out newspaper or an old towel to protect the kitchen floor.
1. Remove and soak the oven racks
Cleaning oven racks is easy. Simply spray them with oven cleaner and leave them to sit overnight. It’s best to do this outdoors because of the fumes. You can lay the racks on a plastic sheet or newspaper. The next day, it should be easy to wipe the dirt away with an old cloth. Then, just finish by rinsing the racks with water and giving them a quick dry.
If you want to use non-chemical cleaner, scrub the racks with the solution then leave them to soak in warm, soapy water.
2. Remove burnt-on food
If there are recent food spills, wipe them away before tackling any burnt ones. Cover the burnt areas in your preferred cleaning product then leave for a few minutes. With store-bought cleaners, check the instructions on the packaging for tips on how to apply the cleaner and exactly how long to let it soak. Be careful not to get any cleaner on the oven's heating element.
Use a damp rag or microfibre cloth to wipe away the product. For larger pieces of food, you can scrape these away with a plastic spatula or scraper. For heavier dirt, apply an oven cleaner on a nylon cleaning pad, avoiding the rubber trim.
Spillages are the cause of most stains in your oven, so why not take a pre-emptive approach and catch them before they hit the oven floor? Placing a foil covered baking tray at the bottom of the oven is a great way to avoid scrubbing away burnt on food later.
3. Clean the inside of the door
As with the rest of the oven, you have options for cleaning the oven door glass too. Again, you might opt for a chemical cleaner or a baking soda and vinegar mixture. If the glass is removable, you could consider soaking it in a solution of biological washing powder.
If you’re using a chemical oven cleaner, check the bottle to see if you can use it on the glass. Some cleaners are too strong and abrasive, which can lead to cracks or shattering.
Only clean when the oven when it’s switched off and the glass is cool. Then, spray the inside of the door with your cleaner before using a damp cloth to wipe away the dirt and grease. Make sure to use one that’s nonabrasive – to avoid scratching. If the door is filthy and you’ve left it a little too long before getting down to cleaning it, coat it with a mixture of baking soda and water. Let the paste sit for 20 minutes before removing it with the cloth.
4. Wipe down the outside
You’re almost there. Well done you! All that’s left to do is spritz the outside of your oven door with glass cleaner. Wipe the glass with a damp, nonabrasive cloth in a circular motion until the grime has disappeared. Finally, finish by buffing the glass with a clean, dry cloth.
To clean the oven knobs, pull them off and let them soak in a bowl of white vinegar or hot, soapy water. Rinse them under water then leave them to dry for a few minutes on an old towel. While they’re drying, use a sponge to clean the area where the knobs would usually sit. If you can’t remove the knobs, spray them with vinegar or scrub them with soapy water instead. If there’s any residue that won’t budge, add a pinch of baking soda to the sponge.
It may sound simple, but regularly wiping down the exterior of your oven is one of the simplest and best ways to keep it looking shiny and new. Everyone wipes down their worktops when they become dirty, so why not do this with the front and top of the cooker too?
There you go. Doesn’t that oven look great? Now just don’t leave it so long next time!