Gone are the days you have to scrub and scrub… and scrub to get your oven to shine like new. The self-clean feature, first introduced by Thermador in 1963, was added to both gas ranges and electric ovens solely to make cleaning easier. And, though once regulated to high-end models, it’s now a near-universal setting on household ovens.
So whether you dropped an entire pie in your oven while trying to remove it, the cheese on your pizza bubbled over, or you’ve just let too many crumbs accumulate over time, it’s time to let that self-cleaning button on your oven work some magic for you.
What type of self-cleaning oven is best?
There are two different types of self-cleaning ovens: Those that clean with steam and those that clean with high heat, or “pyrolytic” cleaning. Both save you from heavy-duty elbow grease — they just function a bit differently:
- With high-heat cleaning, the oven cranks to extremely high temperatures (usually between 800º to 875ºF) to burn off residue and turn it to ash. Most consumers find that high heat performs better with less elbow grease.
- Steam cleaning works with heat and water to loosen soils, but a manual clean will still be needed afterwards — especially for heavy soils. Steam offers the advantage of no burn off, lower temperatures, and no odors.
How often should you self-clean your oven?
For most, a thorough self-clean every four to six months is plenty to keep your oven sparkling, says Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab. Ultimately though, how frequently you need to self-clean your oven depends on how often you use your oven — and how diligently you manually clean it between uses.
“Some consumers use self-clean monthly, whereas others use it only once or twice a year,” said a brand rep from Thermador in an interview with Good Housekeeping. Frequency also depends on the consumer’s cooking habits. “For example, Thermador consumers who utilize the Sabbath Mode feature on their ovens sometimes use self-clean more often to make their ovens suitable between cooking meat or dairy products (ideal for those keeping Kosher).”
How long does self-cleaning take?
Though exact timing varies depending on the brand and type of oven you own, it’s safe to bank on a couple hours. You can always stop the self-cleaning feature mid-cycle if you need to: For specifics, consult the manufacturer’s instructions.
Is it safe to self-clean your oven when home?
Though you may have heard otherwise and that burning plastic smell may spook you, it’s perfectly safe to run the self-clean feature whether you and your family (yes, babies included) are home or not, says Thermador.
In general, self-cleaning ovens do not pose a threat to typical household pets like cats and dogs, either. According to Molly Maids, the fumes self-cleaning ovens produce are harmful only to tropical birds. If you have this type of pet, arrange for them to be out of the house before proceeding with a self-clean.
That said, odors are common, particularly with ovens that clean using heat. For this reason, many consumers opt to ventilate (opening windows or running the hood) concurrently. And, if the smell is overpowering, you can always go into another room while the oven works its magic.
How to use your oven’s self-clean feature
No matter which method your oven’s self-clean feature works on, here are the general steps you’ll need to follow:
- Prep the oven: Prior to using the self-cleaning feature, make sure the surface of the oven is free from any major spills. And, unless they are documented as self-cleanable, remove the racks to prevent discoloration and potential warping.
- Lock the door: Though many models will lock automatically before the cleaning cycle begins, double check, and lock the door if need be.
- Turn on the vent: Ensure there is good ventilation in the home — a ventilation fan or hood is ideal to help remove heat and any odors caused by everything burning off, according to Thermador.
- Let run: Hit that button, and let your oven do its thing.
- Wipe down: When completely cool, wipe down with a damp towel to clean up any lingering residue.
Note: Never use any household cleaners along with the self-cleaning feature.
How to maintain a clean oven between self-cleanings
Though self-cleaning is undoubtedly convenient, your best bet to keep your oven in good, working condition is to give it a little TLC in between more major cleaning sessions. If you really want to stay on top of things, wipe it down once a month or when it begins to look dirty, says Forte. Here’s how:
- Wipe up spills immediately: Use a damp sponge or brush to nab loose bits of food. To avoid burns and inadvertently shattering any untempered glass, always wait until the oven is completely cool to wipe down glass, walls, and racks.
- Clean racks: Remove the racks from your oven for more effective and comfortable cleaning. Then, wash each rack one at a time in warm, sudsy water or a quality oven cleaner. Rinse, let dry, and slide back into place.
- Clean the door: Clean the outside of your oven the same way you would the interior — with warm, sudsy water and a sponge. For streak and spot-free glass, use a glass or grease-cutting multi-purpose cleaner like Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, then scrub with a scrubbing pad, rinse with a clean cloth or sponge, and let dry.
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