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How often should you clean your oven?

View inside open oven with modern white cabinets

Can you remember the last time you did a deep clean of your oven? If not, it might be time to throw on some rubber gloves and get to work. The inside of our ovens can become caked with burnt food and grease residue, which can not only affect the taste of the foods we cook in the oven but can also even increase the risk of starting a fire. Build up in the fridge can also create smoke fumes harmful to your health, and create a lingering bad smell of burnt food, maybe even bringing up bad memories from when you burnt the thanksgiving turkey last year. To keep your food tasting fresh, reduce the risk of fire, and get your kitchen smelling fresh again, it’s important to deep clean your oven often. 

Why it’s important to keep your oven clean

We all know that cleaning your oven can be a pain, but maintaining a clean oven could actually be protecting your family’s safety. In fact, ovens and stovetops contribute to over 60% of home cooking fires[4]. While oven fires can be small, the smoke alone can cause significant and expensive damage to your home. The accumulation of food debris, grease, and oil continues to burn every time you use the oven. This can produce harmful plumes of smoke to evacuate the oven upon opening. Inhaling smoke can cause respiratory issues, as well as leave a bad smell lingering in your home for potentially days. These “carbon-based fumes released by food remnants in your oven can alter the taste of your food”[1] as well. Negative health and safety side effects aside, having an unclean oven can also reduce its performance. Meals can take longer to cook, and therefore you spend more money on energy bills to cook the same old meal that would take half the time in a clean oven. By cleaning your oven often you reduce the risk of fire, respiratory issues caused by smoke inhalation, a spoiled meal, and bad smells in the home, and you save on energy costs, as well as the cost of repair or even replacement. 

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Modern black and white kitchen with stainless steel oven with door open

How often should you clean your oven?

The frequency at which you will need to clean your oven will depend on how much you’re using it. If you use your oven daily for baking or cooking you will need to deep clean it more often to prevent food and grease build-up. If you use your oven just on holidays and special occasions, you can stretch more time between deep cleans. 

If you use your oven several times a week, or even once a week, you should be deep cleaning your oven at least twice a year. Ideally, you should be cleaning your oven every 3 months[3]. This will prevent any food spills or burnt food bits from becoming practically permanently stuck and will keep away unwanted smoke. To save yourself from more frequent deep cleans, do a quick clean out after each use. Once the oven has cooled do a quick wipe with a rag to remove any debris or charred bits to prevent any foul smokey flavors to your next meal. 

If you use your oven only a few times a month, or year even, you can get away with a deep clean just once or twice a year. Again, make sure to always do a quick clean after each use to remove any burnt food, that can be carcinogenic, as well as potentially cause an oven fire. 

How to clean your oven

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How to clean the inside of your oven: 

The first thing you will want to do is read your oven’s manual for any special care instructions. There might be certain areas of the oven that cannot be cleaned, for example, the elements. Some oven models restrict the cleaning of the elements as it may cause damage. Once you know the do’s and don’ts of your oven, you can follow the cleaning steps that are suitable for your oven. 

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Cleaning the inside of your oven manually:

Your oven’s self-cleaning process can take time. So make sure to set aside at least half of your day so you won’t need to use the oven for cooking. With the oven off and cool, remove the oven racks and pans and soak them in hot soapy water in the sink, or if your sink isn’t big enough, in the bathtub. Use a rag, or even a vacuum to remove any visible debris from the oven, like chunks of burnt food or other debris. To really scrub the inside of your oven you can use a store-bought oven cleaning spray or make a DIY with 2 cups of baking soda and 3/4 of a cup of warm water [2]. Spread this paste on the inside of the door, walls, top, and bottom of the oven being careful to avoid elements. You can let this soak for several hours as the baking soda works to loosen any stuck-on grime. Clean up the paste after several hours with a damp sponge or cloth. Once your oven is sparkling clean, leave your oven door ajar to allow it to dry fully. 

Using your oven’s self-cleaning cycle:

If your oven has a self-cleaning function, this can take up to several hours, but it will save you some elbow grease. The self-cleaning cycle “works by blasting its own interior with either super high heat or steam to essentially burn off any burnt-on food remnants”[2]. Make sure to turn on your hood fan when running a self-cleaning cycle, and remove all the racks and trays to soak while the process works its magic. 

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Cleaning the door of your oven:

The inside of the glass door of your oven may take some extra work to make it shine again. You can use a mix of baking soda and a few drops of water to make a paste to clean your glass door. You can let the paste sit for several minutes in your turned-off oven, and wipe it away with a damp cloth. Alternatively, you can use warm soapy water or glass cleaner to clean the glass door of your oven. 

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Cleaning the exterior of your oven:

You can use a multipurpose cleaner, or warm soapy water to clean the outside of your oven depending on how soiled it is. If the frame of your oven is stainless steel, you can also use a stainless steel cleaning spray or wipes. If there is caked-on oil or some other sort of sticky mess on your stove knobs, you can remove these and soak them in hot soapy water to make the job easier as well. Hand wearing yellow rubber gloves cleaning inside of oven door with glass cleaner

Cleaning your oven at least once a year will not only make your food taste better, but it will keep your family safe. With the oven accounting for the majority of household cooking fires, it’s a shame not more people know how to protect themselves and their homes by just simply cleaning their oven more often. Burnt food in the oven will continue to burn every time you use the oven. This can produce harmful carcinogenic smoke that can spread throughout your home whenever you open the oven door. This smoke can cause respiratory issues when inhaled, ruin the flavor of your food, and cause a nasty lingering smell in your home. Since your oven doesn’t have to be cleaned on even a monthly basis like many other items in the home, this is all the more reason not to slack on this cleaning task. Your meals will taste even better if you stick to cleaning your oven at least once or twice a year. 

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Article Sources:

  1. AM&M Appliances. “Is Your Dirty Oven Secretly Killing You
  2. Home Made Simple. “How To Clean An Oven (Inside And Out)
  3. Mashed. “You Should Be Cleaning Your Oven More Often Than You Think
  4. National Fire Protection Association. “Home cooking fires