What Actually Happens Inside A Self-Cleaning Oven

Many ovens have a self-cleaning feature, but if the appliance is not suddenly becoming a dishwasher, how is the inside getting clean? The answer is heat. Self-cleaning ovens have a setting that cranks the temperature up to somewhere between 800 and 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The high heat essentially incinerates baked-on grime, leaving ash that can be easily wiped out. The cycle can last anywhere from one to six hours, depending on the oven model and how dirty it is.

The high temperatures might sound alarming, but they're safe. Fire-related incidents and damage to oven hardware are pretty rare. Many models have a locking feature to keep that extremely hot oven secure. Sometimes, this is a manual lever, but there are also automatic locks that click into place once you start the self-cleaning cycle and will not unlatch until the oven has cooled. The oven door may get quite hot, so avoid touching it and ensure children and pets keep a safe distance. Remove pots and pans from the range if your oven is below the stove, as they may get hot.

Some ovens also have a steam-cleaning cycle. This process doesn't use as high of a temperature and usually only takes around an hour. It is best for light cleaning and doesn't pack the punch of a self-cleaning cycle.

Tips for a successful self-cleaning oven cycle

Because the self-cleaning cycle is burning off gunk, it will create some smoke. To minimize smoke, wipe out chunks of food or spills and remove oven grates, dishes, and utensils. It is crucial to avoid any chemical cleaners that will create toxic fumes. Instead, use dish soap, vinegar, or baking soda paste and water. You can also use these to wipe out the ash left behind after the self-cleaning cycle. If your oven is particularly grimy, clean it with a bowl of lemon water as a pretreatment.

Since a self-cleaning cycle doesn't use chemicals, the smoke is not toxic, but it may have an odor. It is best to open windows and doors and turn on overhead ventilation. Also, it is best not to run this cycle right before having guests over, just in case any smells linger.

Using the self-clean feature on your oven every six months is a good target. Some folks self-clean their ovens less frequently, while others may choose to clean them more often. Lighter manual cleaning in between self-cleaning sessions is essential for preventing debris build-up. Follow these tips for cleaning every part of your oven if you don't know where to start.