Oven Cleaner

4 Oct
Pizza inside an oven

All ovens should be this sparkling - photo courtesy of Whirlpool

Hello World! I’m alive and (finally) back at it! So I know I’ve hinted a time or two that Rob and I were moving. Well, we moved! And the new house is FANTASTIC. It’s window-filled and bright and spacious and graced with lots of fruit trees. Sigh.

But that isn’t to say that it’s perfect.  In fact, parts of it were quite a mess when we got here. Now, I’ve never moved into an empty house before (our last home was Rob’s before I came along), so I have absolutely ZERO frame of reference on this. I just know that whenever I moved into an apartment, it was clean-ish. This house, not so much. I mean, most of the stuff was gone, but there were some glaring messes. Like inside the oven. I don’t know how long it had been since that oven was cleaned, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say A VERY LONG TIME. Like, years. We turned on the oven, and everything smelled like burning. We turned off the oven, and it smelled like grease. Eeeeee-ew.

Anyway, I really shouldn’t complain, because PERFECT CHALLENGE OPPORTUNITY!  Exactly what is the best way to get an oven clean? I know ovens have those self-cleaning mechanisms, but I’ve never used one and they frankly scare me a bit. (800 degrees is really, really hot, and I don’t entirely trust smoke detectors). So, removing that as a cleaning option, which would be the better choice: a can of spray stuff, or washing soda with some steel wool and a little elbow grease?

Challenge: Oven Cleaner

The Easy Off Fume-Free spray foam includes water, butoxydiglycol, ethanolamine, paraffin wax, magnesium aluminum silicate, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, fragrance and propellants (isobutene and propane).

My homemade oven cleaner was a combination of washing soda, water and steel wool. (Side note: Washing Soda has become my go-to cleaning product lately. It makes dishes ungreasy, it cleans stains off kitchen counters, it’s part of my laundry soap… this stuff is AWESOME).

For photography purposes, I’ll show just the oven door, because it was challenging to get the inside of the oven to photograph well. But please know – I cleaned the whole dang thing. I promise!

oven door with washing soda

Washing soda reporting for scrubbing duty!

To test the cleaners, I used each product on one-half of the oven – door glass, oven insides, and oven racks.

The left half was the DIY half (plus one of the two backing racks), and I started there. I didn’t actually combine the washing soda and water – I wiped off as much excess gunk from the oven as possible (which was a disturbing amount of gunk, honestly, and it was pretty darn gross) and then sprinkled the washing soda directly over the wet-ish surfaces. Then I scrubbed with steel wool – my theory is that the washing soda works as much as a scrubbing agent as a cleaner. Then I rinsed and repeated. Until… clean! (Or, as close as I can get to clean.)

Spray on foam on oven door

Cleaning foam, reporting for duty!

To test the spray, I simply sprayed it on the right half of the oven (there may have been some rogue spray that got to the left side, but that part was already as clean as it was going to get with the soda solution). Then I closed the oven door, and walked away for two hours, as the instructions recommended.

After two hours, I grabbed myself some paper towels, and went to town on wiping up the gunk (ugh) and then rinsing with water.

Et Voila! Oven cleaned and experiment completed. (Results below.)

Time and Cost Comparison

I purchased one box of washing soda a long while ago for about $3. I’d like to tell you exactly how much I used, but I really didn’t keep track. I sprinkled some on; scrubbed it around; and when it looked like I needed more, I added more. For cost purposes, we’ll assume I used 1/8th of the box (I probably used a little less, but who really knows?), which would work out to $0.37 worth of cleaning product. To get half the left half of the oven and one baking rack clean, it took me probably 40 minutes of scrubbing and rinsing – not easy work.

The Easy Off cost $3.59 at the grocery store. I used a small portion of what was in the can – we’ll assume 1/6th, which makes the cost about $0.59. It took about a minute to spray over the oven, and then two hours to just sit there. (I spent the two hours catching up on email and watching True Blood.) When the time was up, I wiped down-slash-scooped out the oven (ugh), which took about 15 minutes. Then I spent another 5 minutes spraying down the oven rack in the sink. Total: 20 minutes of work.

Ingredient Comparison

Washing soda is made of sodium carbonate, which naturally occurs in places like Wyoming and in the ash of burned seaweed.

Easy Off is made with petroleum, chemical cleaners, foaming agents, natural abrasive/thickening agents and lemon fragrance.

Effectiveness Comparison

Final halves - for comparison

Oven door ready for inspection.

There were three different types of surfaces to be cleaned (window glass, porcelain oven interior and metal oven racks), and I’m not going to lie, I was surprised at the results. I totally expected the spray foam to beat the pants off my soda-and-elbow-grease method. But as you can see, the washing soda kicked a whole lot of ass on the window glass. I even went so far as to follow up the spray with washing soda to get a better clean – it’s super effective.

On the oven interior, it was a draw – both worked pretty darn well.  And when it came to the oven racks, the spray stuff was by far more effective at getting into the nooks and crannies than the soda and I were. So, overall, each method has one point in its favor, and the third was a draw. Hmmm…

PITA Factor

7 for the DIY, 4 for the spray. Either way you have to scrape gross glop out of the oven, and then wash down the inside of your oven with lots of water. It creates a mess, it smells greasy (even with the lemon-fragranced spray) and the gunk can stain your clothing. It’s not fun. The DIY also involves a great deal of serious scrubbing, which is why it gets the higher PITA rating.

DIY or Buy?

Ooof. I guess it depends a little bit on what you want to clean. If all you need cleaned are the oven racks, then the spray is more effective and less work. But for overall oven cleaning, I’m going to say go with washing soda. Yes, it’s more work and more of a PITA. But you aren’t putting chemicals in your oven (you know – WHERE YOUR FOOD GOES) and your window glass will be much, much cleaner.

So here’s my question:  How often do you clean your oven? And do you use the in-oven-super-hot-burn-it-all-away feature?


3 Responses to “Oven Cleaner”

  1. Anne 10/04/2011 at 8:36 am #

    There’s an oven in Mpls that could use some similar love. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Hannah 10/04/2011 at 1:23 pm #

    I do the automatic hot oven setting; it’s not perfect, but it’s effortless. (Warning–if you do decide to do it, give it way more time than you expect to cool off and release the lock, or you might find yourself with a bowl full of brownie batter and an oven that won’t let you bake it.)

  3. oven cleaner medway 09/28/2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Loving the left/right before/after photos Amanda! Thanks for the great post 🙂

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