Fix-It Friday: How To Clean A Dirty Oven… No Chemicals Required

Fix-It FridayFood & DrinksHome Improvement 11 Comments

“Hi Norma – I REALLY need to clean my oven so my Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t taste like everything else I’ve made in it of late. It’s seven years old and not self-cleaning. I’ve avoided doing it because I don’t want to set-off a cloud of noxious chemicals in my kitchen for a whole day. Is there a non-toxic way to clean a non-self cleaning oven? Thanks so much!” – WYSK Reader Nina

NV: Hi Nina! What… you don’t want your Thanksgiving turkey to be infused with baked-on grease flavor and every other thing you’ve made for the past umpteen weeks? Great question that I’m sure many of us can relate to!

The advantages of traditional oven cleaners are power and speed. God we love to get cleaning over with quickly! But for many of us, the disadvantages outweigh the good, namely, corrosive chemicals and caustic fumes. When going a natural and safe route, we have to provide the power. (Got elbow grease?) But like I’ll soon show you, we can work smarter, not harder. As for the speed, no lighting fast fix here, although time will work on your side – so have patience.

How To Clean A Dirty Oven

Soak The Grates

  • Remove all of the grates.
  • Fill a utility tub or bathtub with HOT water and a non-toxic cleaner like Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner. Let them soak, the longer the better – over night if you can. (Careful not to scratch your tub!)
  • Remove them and scrub off residue with a heavy duty scrubbing pad or fine steel wool.
  • For extra scrubbing make a paste made from baking soda and lemon juice and have at it.

Simple GreenGive Your Oven A Steam Bath

  • Remove the grates and wipe or vacuum out any loose debris.
  • Put back a grate on the bottom rack and place a large metal baking dish filled with water and about 1/2 cup of white vinegar.
  • Heat at 350° and let the water bubble, steam, and do its thing.
  • Turn off the oven, then carefully spray the inner surfaces with a water/vinegar solution (don’t burn yourself!).
  • Close the door and let it stand at least 30 minutes.
  • Once cooled enough to work, wipe it down. If stubborn spots persist, scrub with a paste of baking soda and lemon or vinegar.
  • If you want to get fancy, try Simple Green Heavy Duty BBQ and Grill Cleaner – it’s recommended for use in ovens too.

Bonus Info & Tips

  • The sooner a spill is cleaned, the easier it is to get rid of.
  • Put foil or a cookie sheet under stuff that can bubble over—prevention is the best remedy.
  • Self-cleaning ovens that use pyrolytic cleaning (heat) create a lot of smoke and odor. It’s also a feature notorious for malfunctioning. I personally never use it.
  • Steam cleaning ovens are a newer oven feature that clean in less time with no smoke and odor but are not quite as effective as pyrolytic ones.
  • Regarding microwave ovens, don’t use any cleaners inside the unit. Bring a cup of water to boil in it, then wipe it down.

In a nutshell, hot water, steam, a few natural ingredients and soak time can make your stinky ole oven fresh as a daisy… which makes me wanna go take a bath.

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.


  • Margaret

    Hi Norma, This question and answer about cleaning an oven reminded me of an oven issue that I have. My oven has a large glass window in the door. I was told that the window is sealed, yet awhile ago while I was steaming lobsters, the pot boiled over and some foamy water went trough the vent holes that are at the top of the outside of the door. Now I have a gray water line right down through the two glass panels, and I really hate looking at that line inside the glass. Is there any way I can remove the glass panel and clean inside of it? Or is the glass really sealed so that I would I have to have a new glass panel inserted? Thanks so much.

    • Norma

      Hi Margaret!
      Yes, although the glass is sealed within its frame, fluid can run through the vent holes and leave drips between the glass…hate that! I personally would NOT try to disassemble the door to get in between the glass. Doing so will void any warranty, plus the risk of not being able to properly reseal it ain’t worth it.
      Try to use a bottle brush, dryer vent brush, wire hanger, yard stick–anything long and thin–put a sock or wrap cloth around it securing it with duct tape. Spray the cloth with glass cleaner (or vinegar and water). Gently stick your “wand” through the vent holes (look for vents all around the door) and wipe away.
      It’s tricky and you’ll have to get creative–some holes are easier to get through than others. You can also remove the door from the oven right from the hinges and work with it on a flat protected surface–that will make it easier to work on (some screws may need to be loosened to do so).

      Another thing you can do is contact the oven manufacturer and see if they offer a solution for this “between the glass, pain in the a**!” LOL

      Hope that helps! Lemme know how it goes and don’t hesitate if you have any other questions!

      • Margaret

        Thanks, Norma
        I never thought to try and get something very thin down inside, but that makes sense. I will definitely try your suggestions. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thank you.

  • Marty

    I use the pyrolytic cleaning function in our oven from time to time. I take out the grates and put in the burner grates from the gas range top. They come out looking like new.

    When taking something out of the microwave that has steamed the interior up, I wipe it down while it is still hot. It only takes a few seconds and it keeps the interior clean. Don’t forget the top panel inside, we don’t usually see it and it can get rather grody.

  • Carla walker

    Another easy way…..sprinkle the oven with Biocarbonite Soda,pour vinegar over the whole area,let stand for awhile till the surface turns brown….clean off with warm water.

  • Beka

    I just read an article about not boiling vinegar because of the molecules heating up & becoming corrosive. Can you speak to that? I don’t want to damage my oven 🙂

    • Norma

      Hi Beka!
      To my knowledge and in my experience I’ve never seen any damage caused by heating up regular vinegar. When I say “regular” I mean household vinegar, that has a mild 5% or 6% acidity.
      That said, 20% or higher vinegar is another story. This higher percentage is not made for consumption and used for things like aggressive cleaning or killing grass and weeds.
      As for boiling vinegar…I cook with vinegar, heating and boiling it, on a regular. I’ve never seen anything “corrosive” about it, other than a shinier than usual pot when I’m finished! In my oven cleaning tip, any acidic value is even more diluted as the “recipe” calls for only 1/2 cup vinegar added to a baking dish filled with water.
      If you still have concern, contact the oven manufacturer and ask them if what’s described in my tip would damage the oven.
      Hope that helps!

  • Norma

    My dear Laci! Sorry to see this 2 years later, oh my!
    I have asthma too and sometimes the strangest things can trigger it…even a totally non-toxic product like Simple Green.
    I would mix up a 50/50 vinegar and water solution, let soak, then scrub with baking soda.

  • Good tips, but instead of using white vinegar and water, you could put a lemon sliced in halves. This way the oven won’t smell like vinegar and the lemon will to the same job. It could be used for cleaning microwave ovens too.

  • Cleo

    Sorry but I just moved into a new house that has a Kitchen-aid range with “steam clean” cycle and I hate it. I’d take a self-cleaning oven any day over this one. I’ve just spent the last two days running the clean cycle 10 times, yes 10 times. I had only used the oven about 5 times and decided to clean it before our housesitters move in while we are away. It had some grease spots from doing a chicken so it wasn’t like it was exceptionally dirty. I used the scrubber that was provided in between each cycle and quite frankly it required a lot of elbow grease. In my 61 years this is the worst range I’ve ever own. I now have to try and figure out how to clean the roof of the oven .That should be fun considering the broil heating element is there.

  • Arletta Sloan

    Hello. I added my own twist, by making a paste of lemon juice and baking soda to rub onto some permanently (so far) gunked up pans and the oven door. I have a pan of water and vinegar heating at 350 and I just left the racks in to steam clean. But, I realized I have no idea how long it takes the water to come to a steam in a 350 degree oven. Nor can I find that information anywhere.

    I am busy with a whole house cleaning, leading up to an exterminator’s visit, so I haven’t time to watch that particular pot. Any advice on how long it takes?