Just like every other room in your home, a kitchen gets dirty and needs to be cleaned. But unlike every other room, the kitchen gets its mess from food, not just dust. The kitchen is full of appliances that are difficult to clean but unfortunately are often the dirtiest. Food spills, grease, and burnt goo in your oven can cause problems while preparing dinner. Not only can they cause smells and smoke, but they can actually interfere with the food that’s supposed to be cooking in there.

Thankfully, there’s a solution, particularly when it comes to oven cleaning. Most modern kitchens have self-cleaning oven options that may sound too good to be true. While it’s not quite completely hands-off, using your self-cleaning oven to do most of the hard labor for you does take away a lot of the dirty work. They can also keep you safe from dangerous fumes found in traditional oven cleaners. If you’re not sure how to use a self-cleaning oven, how they work, or why we use them, read on to learn everything you need to know about self-cleaning ovens.

How Does a Self-cleaning Oven Work?

So how does a self-cleaning oven work? It’s usually one of two ways. The first is the most common and traditional: high temperature. This process burns the mess away. What makes ovens so difficult to clean is that the mess and grime are literally baked onto the surface of the oven. It’s usually not as simple as a quick wipe or even a thorough scrub. With a traditional self-cleaning oven, the temperature is raised to almost 1000 degrees for anywhere from one to four hours. This will burn away the mess and turn it into ash. Then the clean up is as simple as a quick wipe to get the remnants out.

The second method is through steam. This method is much faster than the traditional pyrolytic ovens and doesn’t leave your house smelling of a campfire or radiating with heat. Instead of burning off the grime, water is placed in the bottom of the oven and the high temperatures create enough steam to loosen the mess. Unfortunately, however, steam won’t work on every spill. For those tough to get messes, the longer pyrolytic method is still preferable.

Many modern ovens offer both self-cleaning options. If you need a quick clean, steam is your best bet. For those thorough cleanings or tough messes, you may need to set aside time to do the full, high-temperature self-clean.

How to Clean a Self-cleaning Oven with the Pyrolytic Option

Now that you know your cleaning options, it’s time to get to work on cleaning the oven. The first thing you should know about how to clean a self-cleaning oven is to always read your owner’s manual instructions. Ovens can be dangerous and the self-cleaning settings use a lot of power that could mess with your home’s electrical set up. A quick readthrough of your owner’s manual will help you handle it in the safest way possible.

1. Empty the Oven

No matter which method you use, the first thing to do is to empty the oven. Remove all the oven racks and any dishware you might have in there. Make sure everything is removed from above or below the oven as well. Temperatures will get so high that items close by may melt or burn. You’ll also need to remove any big food particles. Anything that a quick wipe with a wet rag will pick up should be removed from the oven first.

2. Set Aside Time and Monitor

Even with the steam option, a self-cleaning cycle is lengthy. Make sure that you clean your oven at a time when you can be home but don’t need to be in the kitchen. In case there is smoke, you need to be there to aerate the room. Make sure that your oven vent is working, open a window, or turn on a fan to get the smoke out of the house.

3. Protect Pets and Children

The burning of food particles into ash may release a lot of carbon monoxide and other dangerous fumes. Those fumes can be harmful to pets and humans alike. Make sure that you move any living creatures to another room of the house where there is plenty of ventilation. Birds are especially susceptible to these dangerous fumes so take extra care of your feathered friends before cleaning your oven.

4. Start the Self-cleaning Process

Once your oven is emptied and your loved ones cleared out, it’s time to clean. Select your cleaning cycle and let her rip. Many ovens will let you select the time range anywhere from one to four hours. Once you’ve selected your time and hit go, let the cleaning cycle run its full course. Lock the oven door if possible or at least make sure that anyone else in your home knows not to open the oven. While the cleaning cycle won’t be disrupted, the extremely high temperatures could blast the opener and cause serious damage.

5. Let the Oven Cool Before Wiping Away Ash

After the full cycle, allow your oven time to cool completely. After it has completely cooled, use a wet rag to wipe away the ashes left on the oven floor. Never use any chemicals with a self-cleaning oven, the fumes from these products are dangerous. There are a few modern products that are self-cleaning oven safe, but they shouldn’t be necessary if you’ve read your owner’s manual and followed the steps above.

How to Clean a Self-cleaning Oven with the Steam Option

If you choose the steam option, the process is very similar: clear out your oven, clean out any large food particles, and remove any items close by. Pour the correct amount of water into the bottom of the oven (your owner’s manual will tell you how much), and turn it on. The cleaning cycle will be much shorter, but you still need to be at home for the entire process and wait for it to cool down completely before wiping clean.

Scrub your oven racks with warm soap and water and let them towel dry. Leave the oven door open while the oven dries as well.  Once everything is cooled and dry, you can reassemble your oven and bask in the cleanliness.

Follow the Directions and Enjoy the Magic of a Self-cleaning Oven

If you are not sure how to use a self-cleaning oven or if your oven has a self-cleaning option, always consult your owner’s manual for instructions. Cleaning your kitchen can be a breeze when you use your self-cleaning oven to do all the heavy lifting.

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