Out of all of the surfaces in the kitchen — out of all of the surfaces in your entire house — the oven is perhaps the nastiest area to have to clean (unless you have little children, then it’s the bathroom). This is because you have spills on the surface of the stove and inside the oven; more than that, the heat needed to cook your family’s meals causes the sauces to sometimes boil over
The mixture of food, spices, and liquids will dry where they fall and leave a concentrated clump of muck, or they will continue to cook until they become charred grossness and adhere to the surfaces they fall on. These messes can become extremely difficult to clean up!
They can sometimes be even harder to clean because many people prefer not to use chemicals and detergents in the process. While such solutions are designed to remove the stuck-on grime from your stove and oven, they can also have adverse effects.
People with asthma cannot use harsh chemicals in their cleaning because it exasperates their condition, or those with eczema will have their skin burning just from being around the fumes from the cleaning solutions.
Little children touch every surface in the home, and this includes the oven (hopefully it’s not on when they do); they are constantly putting their fingers and anything they can get ahold of in their mouths. This is one of the dangers of using such cleaners! No one wants to have to rush their child to the hospital because they ingested toxic materials.
But fear not! You do not have to live with the mess that inherently occurs while cooking. Cleaning your oven without those harsh detergents is possible! It just takes a little bit of know-how (which I am going to share with you in just a minute) and a few household items (I’ll provide a shopping list as well, just in case you don’t have any of these items on-hand).
Armed with these groceries and knowledge, you will be able to tackle those crusty layers of BBQ sauce on the bottom of the oven and the spilled grease covering the top of your stove!
How People Usually Clean An Oven
Typically, people will clean their oven one of two ways. Firstly, they will use concentrated, canned aerosol or liquid cleaners that contain numerous chemicals that, when not used correctly (or not fully removed from the oven surface), can cause serious damage to a person’s health. These will do the trick — they’ll do what they’re designed to do — but at what cost? Chemical burns, corrosion to the respiratory system; it is not worth the risk to yourself or your family just to get last night’s Salisbury steaks out of the oven.
Secondly, people will pay someone to clean their stove (along with the rest of the home) for them. This person, whether it be a household employee whose job it is to do all of the cleaning, or someone employed by a cleaning service, will usually use the same harsh cleaners that many people are trying to avoid nowadays. You can make a request for your service or maid to use different methods and cleaning solutions, but these will often come with an additional fee.
Neither one of these is ideal. Not only for the health factors involved with traditional oven cleaners, but the environment suffers as well. These cleaners, once wiped off of the surfaces they are meant to clean, usually get poured down the kitchen sink, which sends these chemicals back out into the world and harm or kills wildlife.
The Industry is Catching Up
As the heading states, the cleaning industry is catching up to the health concerns and environmental issues surrounding the use of such harmful products. Manufacturers are altering their production lines and formulas to improve the safety of the cleaners they make. You no longer have to order safe cleaners online or pay a higher price in those stores that did carry them. Chemical-free, gentle solutions are now widely available for household use.
Industrial manufacturers especially are reformulating to improve the chemicals hired services use in the homes they clean. Many professional services are switching over to eco-friendly, hypoallergenic solutions for oven cleaners and more. This is good for those who find themselves lacking the time to do their own cleaning; they can use a professional cleaning service they trust to keep their stove and their home chemical-free.
As mentioned earlier, there are a few items you will need to clean your oven. You will not necessarily need all of these, there are a few different ways to accomplish this task. You can test each method of cleaning and see which works best for you.
- Baking Soda
- White Vinegar
- Mixing Bowl
- Spray Bottle (a new one, not one that is reused)
- Rubber Gloves
- Dish Cloth
- Damp Dish Cloth
The Nitty Gritty
Now that you have the resources needed to clean your oven without any harsh chemicals, it’s time to give you the know-how!
Before you tackle the oven itself, it’s best to start with the stove; work your way from the top down basically. You don’t want to finish the inside only to have gunk and cleaner fall down from above when you switch to wiping the stove.
For this, remove the eyes from the stove first (if you have a glass-top stove, this does not apply to you). Next, fill your empty spray bottle with some of the white vinegar — if the vinegar smell is too much for you, dilute it with a 50/50 mix with water (this may weaken the vinegar so only dilute it if the surface is only greasy). Spray a generous layer of vinegar to the stove-top. Allow it to sit for approximately 10 minutes before wiping clean with a dry dishcloth. You can use a damp cloth afterward to help remove the odor that may be left behind.
You can also use baking soda instead of vinegar. Simply spread a layer of the baking soda onto your stove-top then wipe clean with a damp cloth. This may take extra effort since the baking soda may leave a residue that does not come up with the first wipe. Baking soda is better at getting those tough, dried splotches of food, however.
Even before you start with the stove, you should really begin above the stove (remember the work your way from the top?). This is really simple. Boil a pot of water. That’s it! Let the steam moisten the range overhead (the heat will help loosen any food particles and weaken the grease). You can toss in some cut lemons to serve as a degreaser for those tough jobs. When everything is good and wet, wipe it down with a dry cloth.
Now that you have everything above cleaned, it’s time to attack the oven itself. Again, there are a few different ways you can do this. Try a different method each time you need to clean to find what is easiest for you.
Vinegar/Baking Soda Tag-Team
The most powerful method most people have found to clean their oven is to use a combination of the baking soda and vinegar; this seems to get the toughest funk-spots out the best. First, you need to pour your baking soda into the mixing bowl, then slowly add water to it. There are a variety of measurements suggested, but the real goal is to create a nice, thick paste.
Once you have your paste, use the spatula to spread it along the bottom of the oven, the walls as well, along with the inside of the door (you can use your hand to do this if it is easier; you may want to wear the rubber gloves though). Now comes the tricky part: wait.
This method needs at least 12 hours to be truly effective, so it’s best to let it sit overnight. Once you’re ready to clean, use your damp cloth to remove the paste — and the muck with it! If there are any patches of baking soda paste left behind, spray the vinegar on it. The reaction should lift the paste right off.
Have you noticed that a lot of oven cleaners use orange extract in their formulas? That is because oranges, and citrus fruits in general, are a great natural degreaser. Take a couple of oranges or lemons and cut them in half. Squeeze some of the juices out of them into a baking sheet, then fill the sheet with water, anywhere between a ⅓ to ½ of the sheet. Place the cut citrus of your choice in the sheet as well.
Bake the fruit for 30 minutes at 250℉. This will remove grease from your oven and allow you to simply wipe away any grime or grease that was there. If necessary, use the spatula to scrape away any build-up of food that might exist. This method is more for simple cleaning so, if you have a pretty nasty oven, you may want to try the previous method first. Either way, now you know how to clean your oven without harsh chemicals!