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To ensure your oven continues working optimally and to help it last longer, keep the interior clean and free of spills. How often you clean your oven depends on how frequently you use it and if you tend to bake, broil or roast foods that drip or splatter.
A rule of thumb if you cook routinely is to clean your oven monthly, and if there are any obvious spills to clean them up right away once the oven has cooled. If you don’t, baked-on spills can become difficult to clean and even permanent. And because regular use will eventually lead to a buildup of grease and grime, it’s best to clean your oven regularly to avoid buildup that can eventually corrode the interior.
The good news is that today’s ovens typically have technological advances over ovens of yesteryear, making them easier than ever to keep clean. Many models are self-cleaning or have a continuous-clean mode. While these will assist you in keeping the oven clean, they don’t do all the dirty work: You’ll still need to wipe out your oven, though it won’t take as much elbow grease if you routinely clean it.
How to Clean Continuous-clean Ovens
Continuous-clean ovens are coated with a special chemical surface that inhibits food from sticking and getting baked on. To keep this type of oven clean, when it’s completely cool, routinely wipe the entire interior surface of the oven and the racks with water and a little dish soap, then rinse any residue with a clean, soap-free sponge. Since this surface can easily scratch, be sure to use a sponge without an abrasive surface. (Abrasive surfaces can damage the coating.)
For any major spills that won’t come up with this routine cleaning, when the oven is slightly warm and the spill still soft, spray on a non-abrasive household cleaner and allow to sit for about 20 minutes, then scrub the spill with a nylon brush or pad meant for gentle surfaces. Use a clean sponge to wipe up any residue. (Note: Do not use oven cleaners, scouring powders or other abrasive cleaners, or metal brushes, steel wool or heavy-duty scouring pads, as these will damage the surface.)
How to Clean Self-cleaning Ovens
This type of oven has a self-cleaning mode that heats the oven to a very high temperature to burn off excess grease and grime. Make sure the oven is empty and remove any racks or pieces that aren’t permanently affixed. If your oven has a storage drawer, remove any items inside the drawer. Using a sponge and a dilute mix of water and dish soap, clean the interior of the oven, wiping out any crumbs from the bottom. Remove any soapy residue with a clean damp sponge. Close the oven door and engage the manual lock if your oven has one. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, start the cleaning cycle and do not interrupt it during the cleaning process, which can take between 2 and 5 hours depending on the model. Once the process is completed and the oven is completely cool, wipe out any ashes that remain in the interior surface with a clean, damp sponge.
Remember to keep kids and pets away from the oven during the self-cleaning process because the oven gets very hot! Also, do not use oven cleaners in this type of oven, as it may damage the interior surface.
How to Clean Ovens Without Cleaning Modes
If you have an older oven or a regular model that doesn’t have a continuous clean or self-cleaning mode, then regularly wipe out the interior when the oven is cool to remove crumbs or grease that have accumulated. Clean up spills with a hot, wet sponge or rag; for tough spills, sprinkle them with baking soda and scrub with a gentle scouring pad or plastic scrub brush. If the spill persists after this method, or if the oven has significant buildup, try using an oven cleaner following the manufacturer’s instructions. (Note: Be sure to wear protective gloves and open the window when using oven cleaner as it’s very caustic.)
Tips for Keeping Your Oven Clean
As always, the best way to keep your oven clean is to prevent spills from happening in the first place and adhering to the surface. For casseroles, pies or other uncovered dishes that may have liquids that can bubble up and spill over, place a sheet of foil under the pan or put the pan on a cookie sheet. (When using foil on the bottom of the oven, be sure not to cover any vents or heating elements, or the oven won’t heat properly.) Making sure not to overfill the baking dish will also help prevent spills. When spills do happen, clean them up before using the oven again to help prevent them from baking on and hardening.
Photo: Corbis Images
Diana Murphy is the managing editor of Home Sweet Solutions and former editor of Kitchen and Bath Portfolio and Country Living Special Interest Publications.