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How to Clean a Very Dirty Oven without Harsh Chemicals

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We had to move around for my hubby’s job, and decided to rent out our house in town.  It had a brand new kitchen and appliances.  It has gone through two tenants in the last 5 years, and although they kept the place fairly neat and tidy, they did not keep the oven clean.

All the appliances were supplied with this house when it was rented.  I always gave the house a quick inspection when we were there for other work or to talk to the tenants, but I must admit I never opened the oven door.  The kitchen appeared to be clean and the stove top, but that changed when we moved in.

how to clean a very dirty oven

Earlier this year we gave our tenant notice that we would be moving back to the area and wanted to take over the house as our own again.  His moving out was progressing, but he was not the best at packing, and left a lot of junk for us to deal with.  When he was officially out we started the process of cleaning and steaming the carpets for our things.  The kitchen didn’t look too bad, so we wiped out the cabinets and washed the floor and cleaned the refrigerator, but then we opened the oven door and then I quickly closed it!

Our tenant loved to cook and bake but not to clean.  It looked like there were layers of grease and grime, and on further inspection the stove burners had baked on grime too.  I tried to boil the kettle and instantly set off the smoke alarm for the spills burning on the heated element.  I can see why he had been so upset by the positioning of the new smoke detector; he must have been setting it off constantly.

This stove is a good one and only 5 years old, so I figured it was worth tackling, but I don’t do well with harsh chemical cleaners, so I found a process that worked well and maybe this will work well for you too.  I fit this process in around cleaning other parts of the house.

Steam Bath Your Oven

This had to be the best advice I have ever received.  I had done this in the microwave but never in the oven and it works well.  This is the process:

Take the racks out of the oven except for the cleanest one if possible and place in the center of the oven.  They can be cleaned separately.

Clean your oven of loose crud by vacuuming.  I started off by trying to sweep it out but that was going to be painstaking, so I got out the vacuum and basically vacuumed out any dried loose crud so I could really see what I was dealing with.

Next was to fill a metal roasting pan with very hot water and add ½ cup of white vinegar to it.  Then turn the oven to 350 degrees.  I stayed in the kitchen just in case something smoked but it didn’t once I had vacuumed up the dried loose bits that were laying on the burners and the bottom. 

I left it like this for a couple of hours, and then turned off the oven.  When it was cooled, I removed the metal roasting pan, and then took a scrubber cloth to the side walls and was really surprised by how much came off.  The vinegar steam loosened the baked on grime. If you have a lot of layers of grime, you could do the steam bath a second time or move on to the baking soda step.

how to clean a very dirty oven

Baking Soda Paste

Once I had removed as much as possible of the grime from the steam bath, there were still a few hardened bits on the bottom and the walls, so I then created a paste of baking soda and water until it made a thick paste and then with a old paint brush, I brushed it on the caked on grime and let it dry. 

I let it dry overnight, but I think a couple of hours would do it.  I then wiped the bits that would come off and sprayed the other bits still covered with baking soda paste with white vinegar I keep in a spray bottle.  That will react and foam up and then I was able to scrub the rest off (sometimes a putty knife used gently will lift that last layer).

Take a clean sponge and basically rinse the walls and the bottom so that it now sparkles. 

This may sound like a long process, but even with the harsh chemical cleaners, they recommend leaving it in the oven overnight and many tell you to redo this for a couple of days, so really this less caustic way doesn’t take that much time.  

how to clean a very dirty oven
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda - Net Wt 1 lb - (Pack Of 2)
Amazon Price: $5.99 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 29, 2015)

Cleaning the Oven Racks with Dishwasher Soap

These are awkward because of their shape, but if you can find a couple of old towels and line the bottom of your bathtub, you can then quickly vacuum or scrub off any loose bits, and then lay them on the towels in the tub.

Draw hot water to cover them and add ½ cup of dishwasher detergent, this can be powder or liquid.  Pour it under the running water so it will mix well and leave for a few hours if you can or even overnight.

Take a scrubbing brush to the racks holding them down on the towel and wearing rubber gloves, you will be amazed at how much comes off.

how to clean a very dirty oven
Regency Spillmat Oven Liner 16 x 23 Inch Heavy Weight
Amazon Price: $2.55 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 29, 2015)

Getting Proactive

If this has been a full day or two journey to clean a very dirty oven, then this would be a great time to invest in some proactive practices.  I like to line the bottom of the oven with foil, but you can also purchase liners designed for ovens.  This makes spills easier to clean.  Stopping it from baking on your oven floor is the best way to keep it clean.

how to clean oven racks
Frigidaire 316067902 Oven Rack
Amazon Price: $32.49 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 29, 2015)

Replacement Oven Racks - When Beyond Cleaning

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, those rack just won’t come clean, or they have rusted or broken and don’t hold well in the oven, so you can purchase replacement oven racks online.  Just find your oven make and model and skip the cleaning just throw them out.  Starting fresh sometimes is the best way.

How to clean a very dirty oven

Burner Drip Pans

These are not always easy to get clean and shiny again.  You can line them with tin foil as well or simply replace them.  This can make your stove look brand new again and save you the cleaning time.  You can even get new burners if yours have crusted on grime and food and tend to smoke the house!

If you are trying to bring a stove and very dirty oven back to life, whether you are renting or got a good deal on a used one or maybe yours just got behind on the cleaning schedule, you could treat yourself to some new parts, such as the racks, drip trays and drip pan, and then put the effort into the oven itself. 

The steam bath worked wonders for my very dirty oven, and now it feels like it is mine again. 

how to clean a very dirty oven
 
HomeRight C800880 SteamMachine Steamer for Steam Cleaning and Wallpaper Removal
Amazon Price: $150.00 $68.50 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 29, 2015)

When You Need the Super Heavy Guns - Steam Machine

If you have a lot of cleaning to do in this oven and you have other cleaning jobs around the house, you could invest in one of these home steamers.  This is another great option for cleaning the stove.  It does cost more than vinegar and baking soda, but might be worth the investment as you can see in the video below.

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Comments

Sep 29, 2015 4:43pm
HLesley
Cleaning a filthy oven can be very daunting. Thanks for the great tips. I swear by baking soda for so many things around the house.
Sep 30, 2015 6:32am
Sookie
I use baking soda a lot around the house now. It is much cheaper as well as easier on the health.
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