Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Clean Non-Toxic Oven

I finally cleaned my oven after about five years--I am just not that into cleaning.  I had help.  It was a few weeks ago and I wanted to make a video about cleaning the oven without toxic commercial cleaners.  So my co-worker Rachel and I cleaned the oven after finally settling on a recipe to try.  There are others that might work as well, but this worked great--so I'm going with it.  We mixed about a cup of baking soda with enough white vinegar to make a paste to stick on the ceiling and walls of the oven.

First, Rachel scraped out the oven with a wooden spatula to get ride of the crusty stuff that had accumulated there.  A wooden or plastic tool will not scratch oven surfaces like metal might.  Then she mixed a cup of baking soda and about a quarter cup of white vinegar.  I thought there might be a lava overflow when she did this on camera, but she chose just the right size bowl.

I think mixing baking soda (a base chemical) with vinegar (an acid) only makes sense when you use the chemical reaction as part of the cleaning process.  These ingredients quickly kind of cancel each other out unless you get them onto the surface as soon as possible so the reaction is still occurring.

Rachel took a pastry brush and painted the interior of the oven.  She had to get back to work, so I cleaned the oven after a couple hours with a green scrubby and water.  It worked great.  There was all kinds of black goo that came off--cooked on grease.  I cleaned the oven racks separately in the sink.

So after about several years of not cleaning the oven--it was clean, without using the very toxic commercial cleaner.

Unfortunately, this week I had a hankering for crispy baked chicken wings.  The recipe said to dunk the wings into seasoned olive oil and place them on a rack over a pan.  They tasted fantastic.  They were so crispy and good, but I did not need all that oil that ended up all over my clean oven.  It also stunk up my apartment as the stove vent does not send air outside, it just circulates the air through a filter.  Everything smelled like baked chicken wings and I was breathing the odor in my sleep.

So I was back to square one, and I just finished cleaning the oven again.  This time I put a pillow on the floor for my poor knees while I slaved away on the oven.  While I had my head stuck in the oven, I was thinking that people without the self-cleaning ovens have to do the same thing--only they stick their heads into an enclosed space with toxic fumes.

What's Wrong with Commercial Oven Cleaners?

This label reads, “DANGER:  CORROSIVE. CONTAINS SODIUM HYDROXIDE (LYE).  WILL BURN EYES AND SKIN.  HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED.  Avoid contact with eyes, skin, mucous membranes and clothing.  DO NOT ingest.  Use only with adequate ventilation.  Avoid breathing spray mist.  Wear long rubber gloves when using.   

The U.S. EPA also recommends wearing an apron and protective goggles when using commercial oven cleaners.  They further recommend having plenty of fresh air as well as ventilation in the room.  Difficult to do if you have your head in the oven!

The ingredients are not provided on the label, but on-line they are listed as:

2-Ethanol, (2-butoxyethoxy), Petroleum gases, liquefied and sweetened; Sodium hydroxide, and 2-amino-Ethanol 

Why Not Just Use the Self-Cleaning Function on Ovens?

There are pros and cons to buying an oven with the self-cleaning function.  They are much more well insulated and the doors have better seals so they may be more energy efficient if you don't use the self-cleaning function too often.  However, they can be more expensive to repair (due to hidden elements) and typically, you are not supposed to leave the racks in the oven for cleaning as the high heat (around 900 degrees F) can damage a finish on the metal racks.  You also might still have to clean the oven after using the self-cleaning function to at least remove the ash.

Well, I'm going to be more conscious about what I bake now, and I don't anticipate cleaning the oven again for a very long time.


  1. Been looking for something like this. As a landlord of a few properties I've always used two fantastic cleaning companies, oven cleaning kent and oven cleaning birmingham, but at home I fancied trying something myself and seeing how it went. Thanks for the advice!

  2. hey everyone I wanted to share some tips I have. I personally use a handful of professional cleaners because I have MS, but I find I can keep things tidier for longer and need to call them in less if I always make sure that I try to keep everything wiped down as soon as any mess is made. It's not always easy but makes it worthwhile in the long run. If anyone has a disability like me I'd give the pros a try. If you check before hand you can see if they use harsh chemicals or not which is a clincher for me. The ones I use are oven cleaner sheffield and oven cleaner birmingham but I found them with Google places results so give it a go and good luck.