Honestly? We'd rather be using it than cleaning it, too. But since building grime and telltale smoke both signal something must be done, we've come up with the best way to clean your oven. It's safe and nontoxic from top to bottom, too!
Bonus: A few smart tricks to build in more time between deep cleans.
Heat Things Up
Make the job ahead easier by using the oven's greatest skill to your advantage. "Place a pan of water in the oven, and turn it up to 225 degrees for at least 15 minutes," says Kris Koenig, CEO of Natura Clean. When it's cool enough, add some dishwashing soap to the pan of water, then use it and a nylon sponge or nonscratch wool pad to scrub the loosened-up muck, and entire oven interior.
Target the Tough Spots
If baked-on food remains on the oven floor, sprinkle it with baking soda. For the sides of the oven, first mix the baking soda with water to form a paste that you can paint onto the problem areas. "Spray it with white distilled vinegar, and watch the mixture foam as it works," says Leslie Reichert, aka The Cleaning Coach. For maximum effect, let the solution sit overnight. Remove it all the next day with a warm, wet rag.
How to Clean the Oven Racks
Soak them in hot, soapy water in your bathtub or a similar large container overnight. (If you use the tub, lay down towels first, to prevent damaging it.) Scrub with a brush or abrasive pad, then rinse clean.
How to Clean the Oven Window
The trick to cleaning the inside of the oven window, according to Grant Pettegrew of Certain Service Housekeeping, is to use a razor blade. Coat the window in all-purpose spray cleaner, let it sit, then carefully scrape away pesky burn marks and food debris.
Oven Cleaning Maintenance and Prevention Tips
"When a pie or casserole bubbles over in the oven, put a handful of salt on top of the spill and continue with your baking," says author Donna Chandler in The Hints Book Almanac. "It won't smoke or smell, and it will bake into a crust that will be much easier to clean, once cooled."
Keep It Up
Clean spills and dribbles as soon as the oven's cool enough to do so. MyClean COO Kenny Schultz recommends working a quick oven scrub-down, with baking soda and water, into your regular cleaning routine, too.
When you're baking -- drip-prone foods, especially -- line the bottom oven rack with tin foil. Consider keeping it there long-term, and just trading it out when necessary.
Cleaning Self-Cleaning Ovens
An oven that cleans itself is brilliant in theory, but such convenience does come with some drawbacks that you should be aware of. Self-cleaning ovens work by using extremely high temperatures to incinerate interior grime. Since this is clearly a potential fire hazard, leaving home isn't recommended. However, that incineration creates potentially toxic fumes. Inhaling them isn't recommended, either.
If you choose to use the self-clean feature, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Remove all pans, grates, and drawers, and as much of the solid spills and grease as you can, before cleaning. Banish pets and people with respiratory issues from the home, and ventilate well.