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Let’s face it: cleaning the oven is definitely one of the least favorite kitchen tasks. You’re confronted with the charred, baked-on residues of meals from the previous month, presenting slimes, crumbs, and stains that you’ll have to clean, chisel, and launch a chemical assault to remove.

Manufacturers invented self-cleaning ovens to prevent us from spending the weekend breathing unpleasant fumes from cleaning chemicals, so this month we’ll look at how they operate, how successful they are, and toss out some alternatives.

How do self-cleaning ovens work?

Depending on the type, self-cleaning ovens operate in a variety of ways. There are three major styles, which are as follows:

  • Catalytic cleaning oven – This kind of oven has a specific catalytic liner on the oven walls. This means that the walls may absorb fat and residue from your cooking before oxidizing it all into dust that can be readily brushed from the bottom of the oven where it will accumulate.
  • Pyrolytic cleaning – For a thorough clean, pyrolytic cleaning is the way to go. This sort of oven, like the catalytic style, produces fine ash that may be wiped away. It incinerates any grease and garbage at very high temperatures while locking the door for safety.
  • Steam cleaning – A quick cleaning program that may be customized; all you need to do is place a little amount of water in the bottom of the oven, shut the door, and let it do the rest. The oven will heat the water, and the steam will make removing tough oil and filth a breeze.

How long does it take an oven to self-clean?

The self-cleaning cycle you choose is determined on the dirt level. High heat self-cleaning ovens take anything from 1.5 to 3 hours to clean, and some models take up to 6 hours. Cycle periods for steam-cleaning ovens are often shorter, lasting less than an hour for cleaning and cooling.

Some oven models, such as this one from Whirlpool, feature changeable self-cleaning settings that enable you to choose a cycle depending on the degree of dirt in your oven, ranging from light to moderate to heavy.

How to prepare your oven for a self-cleaning cycle

To operate and prepare your self-cleaning oven correctly, see your owner’s handbook. To ensure that everything runs well, remove any pots, pans, or aluminum foil from the oven and wipe away any visible dirt or spills before beginning the cleaning procedure.

Additionally, make sure your oven vent is uncovered, and turn on your range hood’s exhaust fan to vent any unpleasant aromas to the outdoors, and/or open any windows to keep the kitchen well-ventilated.

Can you leave the house while the oven is self-cleaning?

Do not leave your oven alone when it is self-cleaning. Staying near by is advised since the oven may reach very high temperatures, which may result in some little smoke or smells.

If you have dogs, make sure the kitchen is adequately aired and put them in a different room while the oven cleans itself, since their senses of smell are more sensitive than ours.

How often should you use the self-clean oven function?

The frequency with which you utilize the self-clean feature is entirely dependent on how often you use your oven and the amount of filth it accumulates over time. In general, the self-clean feature is intended to give a more thorough clean. To minimize excessive smoke and fumes while cleaning, it is advisable to conduct the cleaning cycle before heavy dirt collect.

What’s the difference between a self-clean and steam-clean oven?

Self-cleaning ovens employ high heat to help burn any residue or dirt that has accumulated in the oven and transform it into ashes, while steam-cleaning ovens use water to loosen stuck-on food particles. High heat self-cleaning cycles are generally longer than steam-clean cycles and, as a precaution, need a closed oven door.

Temperatures with steam-clean are often within the regular bake range, or approximately 400 oF or less, and the oven does not lock, albeit it may need a more thorough wash down at the conclusion of the cycle than high heat self-cleaning ovens.

Can you clean a self-cleaning oven manually?

You certainly can. While a self-cleaning or steam-clean oven is designed to make the process of cleaning an oven easier, you are not obligated to utilize this feature to properly clean your oven. In truth, even ovens with self-cleaning capabilities need human cleaning on occasion. In between deep cleanings, wipe off your oven with light soap and water.

How to use a self-cleaning oven

Use these self-cleaning oven instructions to get your oven looking great.

Step 1: Prepare the oven for self-cleaning

First, remove everything from your oven (including the racks). Because the oven will reach very high temperatures, any residue left on the racks might generate additional smoke and harm the racks in the intense heat. Check that there is nothing on the stovetop or in the storage drawer on ranges. Wipe the inside and frame with a moist cloth, being careful not to get the gasket (the inner seal of the oven door) wet.

Step 2: Select a self-clean option

Choose a cleaning setting based on the instructions for your self-cleaning oven. Some ovens, such as Whirlpool® Self-Cleaning Ovens, feature mild, moderate, or heavy dirt settings. A mild cleaning setting may last around 2 hours, and a moderate or heavy dirt setting may take approximately 3 or 4 hours.

Step 3: Start the self-clean cycle

The door must be closed before the self-cleaning cycle can begin. Following that, your oven will lock and heat to a very high temperature. In a process known as pyrolytic cleaning, the intense heat converts stuck-on food and oil to ash. Your oven will remain closed, with a fan running until it cools. A Whirlpool® Range cycle may take 2.5-4.5 hours, but a wall oven cycle can take 2-4 hours or more.

Even though self-cleaning ovens have additional insulation to aid with heat, children should be kept away from them, and no one should touch the oven while it cleans. Burns may occur if these guidelines are not followed.

Step 4: Wipe the oven down

If using a high-heat cycle, your oven will unlock once the self-cleaning is complete and the oven has cooled down. While the oven won’t unlock until it has reached cooking temperatures, you should wait until the oven is completely cooled down before wiping it clean. A special enamel coating helps you wipe away the ash at the end of the cycle. This can provide a helpful alternative to manual cleaning. Heavily soiled ovens may require a longer cycle or a second cleaning cycle in order to improve cleaning.

Are there any downsides to having a self-cleaning oven?

While there are certainly several reasons why you would desire a self-cleaning oven, you should be aware of the possible drawbacks. There are plenty, but it doesn’t mean you’ll always come across them – a lot depends on the unique make and model, as well as the sort of cleaning function.

  • High temperatures – As previously said, certain models utilize very high temperatures to clean, and although the door should always be secured, this may be a safety worry for parents.
  • Smoke danger – If you do not utilize the cleaning function on a regular basis, or if the seal surrounding the over door breaks even slightly, you may be at risk of smoke evaporating from the device. This might set off smoke alarms and isn’t good for anybody.
  • Toxic to pets – While not every oven poses this danger, it has been argued that the gases emitted by a self-cleaning oven might make pets unwell. This is especially dangerous for birds, who need a lot of oxygen but would substitute it with polytetrafluoroethylene if your oven emits fumes.

How to maintain a clean oven between self-cleanings

Though self-cleaning is certainly handy, your best chance for keeping your oven in excellent working order is to give it some TLC in between more extensive cleaning sessions. If you really want to keep on top of things, Forte recommends wiping it down once a month or whenever it starts to appear filthy. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Spills should be cleaned up as away using a moist sponge or brush. Wait until the oven is entirely cold before wiping off the glass, walls, and racks to prevent burns and accidentally breaking any untempered glass.
  • Racks that are clean: Remove the oven racks for more efficient and pleasant cleaning. Then, one at a time, wash each rack in warm, sudsy water using a premium oven cleaner. Rinse, let to dry, and reposition.
  • Clean the door: Use warm, sudsy water and a sponge to clean the exterior of your oven, just as you would the inside. Use a glass or grease-cutting multi-purpose cleaner like Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner to remove streaks and spots off glass, then scrub with a scouring pad, rinse with a clean cloth or sponge, and let dry.


The self-cleaning function was not intended to take the place of manual cleaning. Wipe out wet food or liquids from the inner door glass, sidewalls, floor, and ceiling using a damp towel after using the oven.

Clean the inside and racks of your self-cleaning oven on a monthly basis, just as you would a standard oven, ideally using safe, natural agents. “Equal parts water, white vinegar, and baking soda should do the work,” adds Shimek.

In self-cleaning ovens, never use abrasive cleaning instruments (such as steel wool) or chemical cleansers, since they may quickly harm the internal enamel layer.