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Best and Safest Way to Clean a super dirty Oven

burgeoningfoodie Jul 9, 2010 12:54 PM

Hello Chowhounds,

I've just moved into a place that is pretty fabulous. I'm subletting and the only major problem is that the oven is a nightmare.

I mean I've never seen something so utterly dirty. It is an electric oven and has no self cleaning feature. There are charred bits/chunks all over the bottom, I can't tell if anything is caked on the racks and the door has caked on blackish/brown gunk I can only believe is grease.

So my question is waht is the best way to thoroughly (though I'm not looking forward to it) clean this oven. What products are not super expensive (especially since I'm subletting) and aren't going to possibly catch fire or leave lingering fumes. Beyond that, what do I do after the initially scrubbing? I've heard about bar keepers friend but I thikn that is for dishes only.

Suggestions? Let me know how long said detergent needs to sit and how much elbow grease (with what type of pad) will I need.

  1. m
    moskaluk Dec 28, 2010 11:00 AM

    A fast easy way to get the burnt on brown spatters from the window it is to use a new, single edged razor blade. We the window with water and scrape. Then touch up with wet paper towel or cloth. It doesn't take much effort and you will be rewarded with a window that looks new.

    It's too bad that the bumpy inner oven enamel won't clean as easily.

    1. b
      burgeoningfoodie Jul 21, 2010 04:07 AM

      Okay so I used Easy Off and that did a good job. I tried my best not to spray the elements directly, but I also misted the whole oven afterwords with water and wiped it down. So now the oven looks clean, but I hope when I go to preheat it nothing will catch fire. For anyone that used Easy Off, how long did it take before the fumes disappeared? Also in this electric oven on the upper left side, there is a thin metal rod that comes into the oven from the top and parallels the tracks for oven racks. Does anyone have a clue as to what this may be?

      5 Replies
      1. re: burgeoningfoodie
        pdxgastro Jul 22, 2010 05:58 PM

        I think it's the thermostat.

        1. re: pdxgastro
          burgeoningfoodie Jul 23, 2010 05:52 AM

          Oh cause when I was wiping down it came loose. It didn't break off but one end detached from what looks like a little metal holder.

          1. re: burgeoningfoodie
            greygarious Jul 23, 2010 11:33 AM

            Same thing in my oven - I first noticed it kind of hanging there quite a few years back. It hasn't been a problem, knock wood.

            1. re: burgeoningfoodie
              Iceni Mar 1, 2014 03:41 PM

              Could it perhaps be part of a rotisserie?

          2. re: burgeoningfoodie
            SanityRemoved Jul 22, 2010 06:27 PM

            If the fumes smell is in the oven try a few more wipe downs with a damp sponge or paper towel with extra attention to the areas where the cleaner can get trapped, rinsing frequently, then fire up the empty oven to 475 - 500 for a half hour. Repeat after oven has cooled if necessary. Lots of fresh air for the kitchen.

          3. c
            CarmenR Jul 18, 2010 07:27 PM

            Does anyone know how to deal with this with a GAS oven? I really don't know how mine works except I assume it doesn't have a constant pilot light (I have to push the knob and it "clicks" to light so I assume there's no old-school pilot light?)
            I just don't want to burn the house down. I fully expect to have to use some sort of insanely noxious fume-filled oven cleaner, mine is reeeeeally nasty due to two previous tenants and no cleaning.

            1. g
              gryphonskeeper Jul 16, 2010 04:55 PM

              My sons oven was so gross... so so so gross. So before he moved I bought some EZ off fumeless. It worked beautifully!

              3 Replies
              1. re: gryphonskeeper
                c oliver Jul 17, 2010 07:21 PM

                Hopefully it was a gift to him. Do NOT tell me that YOU cleaned HIS oven. Oh, wait. Is he still in middle school :

                1. re: c oliver
                  gryphonskeeper Jul 18, 2010 07:17 PM

                  He is 21, and NO he cleaned it. I only paid for the can $7!

                2. re: gryphonskeeper
                  Iceni Mar 1, 2014 03:51 PM

                  I'd like to use that too, but my toaster manual says not to use caustic or commercial cleaners.

                3. greygarious Jul 16, 2010 10:12 AM

                  I may be tarred and feathered for this, but I have a dirty oven and I don't care. Spattered walls and bubbled-over fruit burned onto the bottom of the oven do not affect its function or the flavor of subsequent foods prepared in it AT ALL. The most that happens is some smoking, mostly while the run-over food is cooking. I'll wipe out the bottom afterwards but that is it. No scrubbing or chemicals. Combination lazy and not wanting to poison the groundwater. The pans and utensils I cook with need to be clean, but I don't stress about surfaces that food never touches.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious
                    burgeoningfoodie Jul 16, 2010 11:29 AM

                    YEah but some grime is not the same as.. the oven I've inherited looks like a charcoal grill with ashes.

                    1. re: greygarious
                      kmcarr Jul 16, 2010 01:29 PM

                      Spattered walls and bubbled-over fruit burned onto the bottom of the oven do not affect its function ... AT ALL.
                      Actually, it does affect the function. The three mechanisms which transfer heat to your food are conduction (direct contact with heat source), convection (heated air or liquid moving from heat source to your food) and radiant heating (excited photons emitted by heat source or other hot objects then absorbed by your food). The carbonized crust will reduce the radiant efficiency of the walls/floor/ceiling of your oven. All things being equal it will take longer to cook something in a dirty oven than a clean one. Significantly longer???, well that's another question.

                      1. re: kmcarr
                        lifeabundant May 22, 2011 08:39 PM

                        @kmcarr ... I agree (love your facts!).

                      2. re: greygarious
                        tobycat Jul 17, 2010 04:31 PM

                        Where there is smoke, there's fire. I've had my lazy spills ignite, and you don't want that, trust me.

                        1. re: greygarious
                          Iceni Mar 1, 2014 03:50 PM

                          I like your style. I feel like that too, but feel compelled to clean the blasted thing before my daughter comes round.

                        2. b
                          beevod Jul 10, 2010 08:28 AM

                          1. Hire maid. 2. Go to movies.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: beevod
                            coney with everything Jul 15, 2010 06:00 AM

                            beevod FTW!

                            1. re: coney with everything
                              burgeoningfoodie Jul 15, 2010 06:51 AM

                              *LOL* Yes that would be the easiest route, but probably not the cheapest.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                coney with everything Jul 16, 2010 07:42 AM

                                I wonder if steam wouldn't help loosen things...fill a roasting pan or such with water and put it in the oven at the highest temp. Let it go for an hour, don't let the pan burn dry, then try the other cleaners.

                                Before I had a self cleaning oven (ah technology, so wonderful) I used the fume-free Easy Off and it did work pretty well but I didn't let the oven get too bad either.

                                1. re: coney with everything
                                  serah Dec 29, 2010 03:11 AM

                                  Steam works wonders on my oven (although it doesn't get as dirty as the OP's sounds). Stick in a big roasting pan of water, turn on to a low-medium heat and leave for an hour. A lot of stuff will just wipe off. You can add the juice of a lemon to help with the cleaning power.

                          2. v
                            vafarmwife Jul 10, 2010 01:37 AM

                            Go to a Dollar General or Family Dollar and get a product called Mean Green Cleaner/Degreaser. It comes in spray bottle or in 5 gallon refill size. Spray in it oven and let it sit. You may have to wipe and spray several times depending on the severity of the oven. It isn't caustic and doesn't have a real chemically smell. If you can't find the Mean Green, get a product called Awesome Cleaner. I like it just as well. This stuff works as my husband uses it to remove oil and grease from farm equipment and I use them to clean my oven as well.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: vafarmwife
                              burgeoningfoodie Jul 16, 2010 07:08 AM

                              So I tried out Mean Green yesterday. After three rounds of spray, sit for 15, and remove. It only got about 1/3 of the gunk off and did better in some places than others. I shoudl say I used it on the oven door. May go with the ammonia or Oven Off approach next. I know the latter has the crazy fumes.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                mpjmph Jul 16, 2010 11:20 AM

                                I just used "fume free" east off last weekend. It definitely wasn't fume free, but it wasn't overwhelming, and better than a cup of ammonia in a warm oven overnight (which is going to make your kitchen/entire home smell like ammonia). The spray itself had a pleasant lemon scent, and there was a slight chemical smell the first time I heated the oven after cleaning.

                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                  vafarmwife Jul 18, 2010 04:42 AM

                                  Wow that must be a really dirty oven if the Mean Green didn't cut it. I would call out the big guns then. My next suggestion would be Blue Wolf Cleaner and Degreaser. It was developed to clean coal mining machinery and parts. If this doesn't cut the grease in the oven, I would buy a new oven.


                              2. pdxgastro Jul 10, 2010 12:03 AM


                                1. s
                                  Sherri Jul 9, 2010 03:28 PM

                                  As a Navy wife, I lived in a lot of other people's houses over the years. Some were spic 'n span when we moved in, others not so much. At one house, I bought a used oven-stove combination that required very serious cleaning.

                                  The first thing I did was to remove all the bits and pieces of cooked on food spills from the oven. I used a putty knife, carefully. All junk or gunk that could be pried or scraped off easily went into the trash. Next, was a complete washing with one of those scrubby pads using detergent (Dawn has worked well for me) and ammonia. Note: I learned the hard way to use the non-scented ammonia! Let some of the soap-ammonia remain on the oven walls and bottom for 30-60 minutes, soak the racks in a sink full of the same detergent-ammonia mix with very hot water.

                                  Scrub, wash and rinse the entire inside of the oven. You'll use a lot of muscle for this. Just before going to bed, turn the oven on to 250 or 300 degrees. After it pre-heats, turn it off. Place a pie pan or other shallow (ovenproof) dish in the oven filled with straight ammonia. Close the oven door (and kitchen door, if possible) and leave the area overnight.

                                  Next morning, wash, scour and scrub the oven walls again. Use a new scrubby pad, the other one will be ready for the trash can. I'm always amazed at how easily the rest of the filth comes off.

                                  NB: I've never used Barkeepers Friend. Its claim-to-fame is being gentle and not scratching. Cleaning a filthy oven doesn't need gentle, it needs power. If you want to use some kind of scrubbing agent, use one of the harsh ones like Comet.

                                  I really don't like oven cleaner and only use it as a last resort. Perhaps it would work on your dirty oven but I cannot speak to this. I should also mention that I do not prize a pristine oven; it need not gleam. I liken this to the wheels on my car - they do not get shined often because I know they're going through mud pretty soon and it seems silly to worry about how clean and shiny they are. Ditto for the oven interior. I certainly don't want it to smoke when I cook and that's the only reason for me to clean mine. I don't need a perefctly clean oven window either. Waste of my time and energy.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Sherri
                                    burgeoningfoodie Jul 15, 2010 05:55 AM

                                    How did you get under the burning elements (I have an electric)? Did you spray on the burning elements as well? I guess the preheating burns the chemicals off without catching fire. I got some of the mean green suggested below, but we'll see how that works and go from there. I don't need perfectly clean, but want something that doesn't look gross or unkept. Thanks for the advice.

                                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                      Sherri Jul 15, 2010 08:10 AM

                                      Most of the electric bottom heating elements that I have seen can be gently lifted an inch or two off the oven floor. Do NOT spray any cleaner - whatever you use - directly on this. Remove any pieces from the element by hand then, just pick it up and clean under the element. By using the oven, the heating elements will eventually self-clean.

                                      1. re: Sherri
                                        burgeoningfoodie Jul 15, 2010 11:08 AM

                                        Right and it's not like I'm going to cook directly on an element anyways :-)

                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                          Shaw Oliver Jul 23, 2010 12:45 PM

                                          If you can remove them (they are often easily removable with a screw or 2) it wll make cleaning much easier. Probably not worth doing for a simple wipe down, but if your oven really is super-crappy dirty, it's worth taking a couple minutes to remove the element. Oh! And be sure to turn off the electicity to your oven before you do this (breaker box).

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