How to Clean an Oven

Smell something smoky? Check your oven. Spills and splatters from long-gone casseroles could be to blame. Roll up your sleeves and follow this step-by-step guide to get your oven clean again.

By Gretchen Heber and Marisa Villarreal and Donna Boyle Schwartz | Updated Feb 18, 2022 4:26 PM

how to clean an oven

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You’ve put off the task for months, hoping the little spills and splatters inside the oven would vanish on their own. Eventually, those of us who don’t have self-cleaning ovens—which maintain themselves by heating to an extremely high temperature that burns away residue—have to rid the oven’s interior of the burnt-on remnants of past meals. With the right supplies at hand, however, cleaning an oven is not as onerous a task as it might seem.

Before You Begin

Online and on store shelves, you’ll find a wide range of supplies available to help you clean your oven, which is a straightforward task with only a handful of steps. Many of these oven-cleaning products are chemical-based, while others solutions are more natural. In your pantry, however, you may find the most natural cleanser of all: baking soda, which, while highly effective, does require a little more elbow grease than some commercial products. Vinegar, too, may come in handy as you clean your oven. Whichever method you choose, be sure to set aside a significant chunk of time for both active scrubbing and downtime when your oven will be out of service as it “soaks.”

5 Simple Steps to Getting an Oven Clean

After giving these guidelines a quick read and assembling your cleaning products of choice, you’re ready to begin the steps necessary for the best way to clean an oven. Put on some upbeat music, don your rubber gloves, and get started!

STEP 1: Remove and clean your oven racks.

how to clean an oven

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Remove the oven racks; these most likely need to be cleaned, too. The best way to clean oven racks is to give them a long soak in hot, soapy water (liquid dish soap or a crumbled dishwasher tablet ought to suffice). Can’t fit your oven racks in the kitchen sink? Try soaking them in the bathtub, but be sure to line the tub with an old towel to prevent the metal racks from chipping or scratching the delicate finish on your tub.

STEP 2: Scrape off baked-on residue.

Within the oven itself, use a wooden spoon to gently scrape away residue. You’ll want to have the best oven cleaner for baked-on grease handy for this job. The sides of the oven may be messy, too, but most of your effort is likely to be spent on clearing ashy chunks off the bottom of the oven chamber. Most baked-on spills and splatters can be removed this way, but you’re not finished yet!

RELATED: Solved! What to Do When Your Oven Is Smoking

STEP 3: Apply your oven cleaner of choice. 

how to clean an oven

Photo: istockphoto.com

For a homemade oven cleaner, mix baking soda with just enough water to create a thick paste (a good ratio of baking soda to water is roughly 2-to-1) or use a store-bought heavy-duty oven cleaner. Apply the cleaning agent to every surface inside the oven, including the inside of the oven door. Let the cleaner for several hours or overnight, allowing the solution to penetrate deeply. (If you’re using store-bought oven cleaner, be sure your kitchen is well ventilated—the odor can be pretty powerful.)

STEP 4: Soak and scrub your oven.

Once 6 or 8 hours have passed, lay old newspapers or paper towels on the floor in front of the oven. Next, using a slightly moist sponge, wipe out as much of the paste as possible. Lots of grease and ash should come out along with the paste. Continue wiping, rinsing the sponge as necessary, until no more paste remains in the oven. If the chamber still seems dirty, you may want to repeat the process, reapplying the baking soda and letting it sit before attacking the oven with a sponge again.

STEP 5: Clean the oven door.

how to clean an oven

Photo: istockphoto.com

Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water, then use it to spray down the glass portion of the oven door. Wipe away the moisture with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

How to Keep Your Oven Clean

If you’re like many people, you put off oven cleaning until the inside of the oven resembles the grease trap at an all-you-can-eat fried-food restaurant. Don’t be like most people. Using these oven-cleaning hacks, set a regular date with your oven to give it the cleansing it deserves—once a week is ideal if you can manage it. More frequent cleanings are less arduous than biennial washings, and your scrubbing arm will thank you.

  • Get in the habit of checking the oven for spills after each use (but wait until it’s cooled down before cleaning)
  • Remove and soak the racks weekly
  • Keep plenty of baking soda on hand for frequent cleanups

Final Thoughts 

If wondering about how to clean an oven has kept you from actually embarking on the task, well, that excuse is gone. You now know all the steps necessary to accomplish this cleaning chore, and once all’s said and done you’ll really love your beautifully clean appliance. Perhaps you’ll even be inspired to cook up that elegant chateaubriand you’ve always thought about, or at least some oatmeal cookies!

FAQs About Oven Cleaning

how to clean an oven

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A few questions about how to clean an oven still skulking about in the back of your head? No worries! Check out these last few bits of information, and then, really, it’ll be time to get to work!

Q. How do you clean a really dirty oven?

To clean a really dirty oven, follow the steps above, allowing plenty of time for the oven to “soak.”

Q. How do I clean my oven naturally?

A good natural oven cleaner is baking soda and vinegar; this cleaning solution may require a little more scrubbing effort on your part, however.

Q. How do I get the brown stains off my glass oven door?

Make a paste of baking soda and vinegar. Spread a layer on the open door and let it sit for 25–30 minutes. Wipe off with paper towels, and then use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the door down thoroughly.