Cleaning your oven is an unpleasant chore, but it’s an unavoidable one. First, a dirty oven looks gross, unlike a place for food. It can also smell terrible, especially as drippings and leftover food turn into char. To make matters worse, food in the oven could come out tasting like rotten char. That is, if the food cooks properly, with a dirty oven, you can never be too sure. The cherry on top is that the longer you push off the cleaning, the harder the chore becomes. Experts recommend cleaning ovens every three to six months to avoid this buildup. But if you have postponed this task for much longer than that or are facing a particularly nasty spill, don’t worry. There are many ways to clean your oven — including the racks, doors, and knobs — to make it look like new.
5 Foolproof Ways to Clean Your Oven
Method 1: The self-clean option
This is the easiest way to clean an oven and it involves no harsh chemical cleaners or scrubbing on your hands and knees. “The self-clean cycle is a time-saving convenience feature,” says Paul Bristow, executive director of built-in cooking at GE Appliances. “During the cleaning cycle, the oven is heated to about 880 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, food inside the oven incinerates, leaving behind a small amount of ash. The leftover ash wipes out easily with a damp cloth.” Just ensure the oven has cooled down before wiping the interior. 
However, self-clean has some notable drawbacks. For one, it locks up the oven for three to five hours. It can also cause the kitchen to heat up, which may be unwelcome in the summer. It may also emit an unpleasant smell into the kitchen, another reason to clear out while the cycle is going. But the biggest drawback is that self-clean may not effectively remove difficult stains and grease. These stuck-on dirty patches might need another cycle or some good-old fashioned scrubbing.
Method 2: Store-bought oven cleaner
There are multiple commercial oven cleaners and they are easy to use. Remove large chunks of loose food and ash before spraying the cleaner around the inside of the oven. Let it sit for 30 minutes before wiping it away. Because of the potent chemicals in these cleaners, it’s best to open windows and wear gloves and face masks while cleaning.
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Method 3: Baking soda and vinegar
If you don’t like using harsh chemicals (or if you can’t be bothered to go buy them), you can make your own using vinegar, baking soda, and water. “…The baking soda acts as an abrasive and the water softens baked-on crud and loosens food particles,” says Jessica Samson, director of national branding for The Maids. “Make a paste and apply it liberally on the oven’s interior surfaces and give it 20 minutes (ideally longer) to break down the burned food.”
For extra oomph, spray vinegar over the baking soda paste and set it for 20 minutes. Scrub the oven with non-abrasive pads, then wipe it with a damp microfiber cloth.
Method 4: Baking soda and lemons
This method requires two large lemons or half a cup of citric acid. Start by sprinkling baking soda around the oven and scrub with water, ensuring that it is spread all over. Let this sit for 10 minutes. Mix either the juice of the two lemons or the citric acid into a bucket of warm water and use this mixture to wash off the baking soda. Once the oven is clean, rinse it with the lemon water again to leave a pleasant citrusy aroma. 
Method 5: Steaming
Steaming is essentially the DIY alternative to running a self-clean cycle, and it’s just as straight-forward. “Place a pan of water in the oven and turn it up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 minutes,” says Kris Koenig, CEO of Natura Clean. “When it’s cool enough, add some dishwashing soap to the pan of water, then use it and a nylon sponge or non-scratch wool pad to scrub the loosened-up muck as well as the entire oven interior.” 
Read: Vinegar Is the Secret to Soft Towels, Whiter Whites, and More Laundry Solutions
Bonus Oven Cleaning Tips
- Always make sure the oven is off and cold before you begin cleaning.
- Wear rubber clothes while scrubbing, especially when using harsh chemicals.
- Remove any big chunks of dirt and food debris by hand before applying the cleaner.
- Use a toothbrush to reach the smaller areas.
- For baked-on grease, apply the baking soda paste with the spray of vinegar and leave overnight before wiping it away with a sponge.
- If you are cleaning a gas oven, avoid dripping cleaner into the gas burner under the vent slots. One way to prevent this is to cover the bottom vent with foil while burning. Remember to remove the foil before using the oven again.
How to Clean Oven Racks – Whichever oven-cleaning method you choose, wash the metal racks separately. Simply remove them and soak them in boiling water with dishwasher soap. You can use a large basin, sink, or even bathtub. After two hours, scrub the racks with a stiff brush or steel wool. Once they are rinsed and dried, return them to the newly cleaned oven. Keep in mind, only use steel wool on the racks, not on the oven interior itself, since it can ruin the steel or porcelain finish.
How to Clean Oven Knobs – Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the knobs down, adding some soap if needed. Don’t spray them directly; spray the cloth instead. “The liquid could get behind the knobs and switches and short out the control panel,” says Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance. “Instead, spray a rag with liquid cleaner and then rub the controls to prevent shorting.”
How to Clean Glass Oven Doors – Make a paste of ½ cup of baking soda with 3 tablespoons of dishwashing soap. Spread it around the inner glass of the oven door and let it set for half an hour or longer. Once the grime can be wiped away easily, use a non-scratch sponge to clean off the paste. For the outside glass, spray white vinegar or glass cleaner and scrub with a non-scratch sponge. Rinse with a wet cloth. Ensure you do not use abrasive scrubbers or scourers that could scratch the glass. 
Keep Reading: Why Do Oven Doors Shatter and How to Prevent It?
- “How to Clean an Oven Thoroughly—Plus, How Often You Should Clean It.” Real Simple. Wendy Rose Gould. April 13, 2023
- “How to clean an oven with baking soda, vinegar, lemons and more for quick results.” Real Homes. Jessica Brown and Sarah Warwick. May 20, 2022
- “3 Tips for Cleaning Your Oven to Keep It Sparkling.” Better Homes and Gardens. Alicia Chilton. August 18, 2022
- “Here’s How to Clean a Glass Oven Door Inside and Out.” Reader’s Digest. Jill Waldbieser. August 17, 2023