Are you fed up using your usual heavy-duty chemical oven cleaner? Are you worried when you read health warnings like “Danger, may cause burns, harmful if swallowed” on your oven cleaning spray?
Wouldn’t it be great if there were natural ways to clean your oven without using the harsh chemicals you find in commercial oven cleaners?
I thought so too – and, like you, I also want something that’s effective and actually gets the oven clean – I know from experience that soapy water just won’t cut it.
So I did lots of research into natural oven cleaning, and it turns out there are some good options to choose from.
Natural Oven Cleaning Options
Your Oven’s Self-Clean Function
If your oven has a self-cleaning function, it can be a great option as no chemicals are used in the cleaning process.
There are two main types of self-cleaning function – high-temperature and steam. Some ovens even offer both options.
Many people don’t use the self-cleaning functions of their ovens, but if you want a natural solution to oven cleaning without chemicals, they’re well worth a try.
High-temperature self-cleaning ovens simply run the oven at a very high temperature for a few hours, to burn up and carbonize any food residue and stains in the oven, so they can be wiped away easily.
Notice that self-cleaning ovens don’t actually clean themselves – you still need to clean them – they just try to minimize the elbow grease!
This is great in theory, and it can work well if your oven isn’t very dirty or greasy.
But if (like a lot of us) you’ve let your oven get dirtier than you care to admit, then it has its limitations:
First of all, high-temperature self-cleaning will run your oven at 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-6 hours!
Running your oven at such a high temperature can make your kitchen very hot. Probably ok in Alaska in the winter – but not so great in Arizona in the summer!
Also, if your oven is a bit greasy, high-temperature self-cleaning can fill your kitchen with smoke, and even set off your smoke alarms which is really annoying.
If used regularly, the high temperature and long duration can cause reliability problems with the fuses or heating elements, especially on cheaper brands of oven.
On the plus side, high-temperature self-cleaning is natural because it doesn’t use any harsh or corrosive chemicals.
- Can be very effective
- Cleans all parts of the oven
- Long cycle time
- Uses a lot of energy
- Can produce irritating smoke
- May cause reliability issues
- Oven gets very hot to touch and may be a danger to children
Some self-cleaning ovens have a steam self-cleaning function instead of a high-temperature one.
You either pour some water onto the floor of the oven or put a heat-proof dish of water into the oven.
When you select self-clean mode the oven heats up to about 212 degrees Fahrenheit – which boils the water and fills the oven with steam.
The steam then softens the food residue so it’s easier to wipe away when the self-cleaning cycle finishes.
As this method uses a much lower temperature it doesn’t heat your kitchen up very much and avoids filling the house with smoke.
Some people find their sides and top of their oven isn’t cleaned as thoroughly as the floor using this method – it depends on how well your oven circulates the steam.
- Usually takes less than an hour
- Uses less energy
- Doesn’t produce smoke
- May not clean whole oven evenly
One of the most effective homemade oven cleaners is one of the simplest and uses no harsh chemicals: Simply mix baking soda and water.
1. Make a Spreadable Paste
Take 3/4 cup of baking soda and add 3-4 tablespoons of water, depending on how thick you want the paste. Mix thoroughly.
2. Apply and Allow to Work
Make sure your oven is cool, remove the racks, then apply the paste to all the surfaces you want to clean.
You can use your paste on your oven racks too – but it may discolor aluminum racks. If in doubt, it’s usually better to soak them separately in dishwashing liquid or pop them into the dishwasher.
Leave your oven for at least 20 minutes to allow the baking soda paste to break down the stains and food residue. If the oven is very dirty you may want to leave it overnight for best results.
3. Wipe Clean
Simply wipe away the baking soda paste with hot water and a damp cloth or sponge.
If the oven is really greasy it’s often easier to wipe with lots of paper towels instead.
You’ll find that most of the food residue and burnt on stains wipe away without scrubbing, leaving you with a lovely clean oven.
4. A Finishing Touch
Use a spray bottle to spray a 50:50 mix of warm water and white vinegar inside the oven. Finally, wipe with paper towels.
This will neutralise any remaining baking soda residue and leave the inside of your oven sparkling.
Why Does it Work?
Science! Baking soda is alkaline, while the grease and food residue in your oven is acidic.
So the baking soda paste breaks down the grease and gunk in your oven and makes it easy to wipe clean.
What About Baking Soda and Vinegar?
Some people recommend a combination of baking soda and vinegar for cleaning your oven.
Both ingredients are excellent household cleaners, but they don’t work well when combined because baking soda is alkaline and vinegar is an acid, so they tend to cancel each other out.
For that reason, we don’t recommend this combination to clean your oven.
Use a Steam Cleaner
If you have a hand-held steam cleaner then it can be a great way to clean your oven.
For dirtier ovens, it can be more effective than the stem self-clean function, as you can direct the steam exactly where it’s most needed and also agitate the dirt and grease with the steam cleaner’s attachments.
Be careful using a steam cleaner in an oven as it’s very easy to get burned by the steam, particularly when you’re cleaning towards the back, as the oven is an enclosed area.
How to Clean your Oven
Whichever natural oven cleaning method you choose, there are some golden rules that will help you get the best results:
1. Start with a Cool Oven
Always start with a cool oven. This minimizes the risk of getting burned and also stops your oven cleaning mixture from drying too fast or giving off fumes.
2. Remove Oven Racks
For best results, remove the oven racks next. This will give you better access for cleaning the oven.
Oven racks are usually best cleaned separately anyway, so it makes sense to remove them at this stage.
3. Scrape off Loose Debris
Use a plastic scraper to loosen debris and wipe or vacuum it out before you apply any oven cleaning materials.
4. Choose your Oven Cleaning Method
If you’re keen on a natural cleaning method that avoids harsh and corrosive chemicals, we recommend either using your oven’s self-cleaning function or using the baking soda paste method detailed above.
5. Clean your Oven Racks
A solution of baking soda and water used with a wire scourer gets great results on most oven racks.
If the racks are too large for your sink, try cleaning them in the bath instead.
6. Cleaning Oven Door Glass
The baking soda paste you used on the rest of your oven will also work on the glass.
Simply apply it with a brush when cleaning the rest of the oven and leave the door open. After a few hours you can wipe it off and the oven glass will be clean.
If you want a really sparkling result, finish off by wiping the glass down with white vinegar.
Natural Oven Cleaning FAQ
Q. How often should I clean my oven?
A. Most experts recommend cleaning your oven 4 times a year. This can vary depending on how often you use your oven and the types of food you cook. If you notice the oven is smoky in use then it’s probably time for a clean.
Q. How much does it cost to have my oven professionally cleaned?
A. Most oven cleaning services will charge between $150 and $200 to clean a domestic oven. A commercial-sized oven will cost a bit more.
Q. Can you clean an oven with vinegar?
A. We don’t recommend vinegar for cleaning a dirty oven as baking soda gets better results. But if the oven is already quite clean and you just want to keep it that way, or mop up a spill, then a quick wipe down with vinegar and water works well.
Let’s face it, cleaning the oven is nobody’s favorite kitchen activity.
But now that you know there are natural ways to clean your oven and still get great results – hopefully, it won’t seem like so much of a chore.