The holidays are upon us and that means you’ve got friends and family to entertain at your house. Imagine — it’s the night before Christmas Eve, and all through the house, everyone is stirring to try and clean before your mother-in-law gets here! You open the oven and notice that it is covered in a thick coating of pizza toppings and cheese grease.

You think to yourself, “this is gonna take me hours to scrub down and clean… But wait! It has self-clean! I can just burn the whole thing to a crisp and then come back later and simply wipe it all down.”

Stay Away From the Self-Clean Function!

Hold on, partner! Before you let your oven crank itself up to 900°F (500°C), take a moment to reconsider. Here are some reasons that running your oven’s self-cleaning function could be a bad idea:

If the oven in your Minneapolis home recently stopped working after running the self-cleaning feature, contact us today for a speedy oven repair!

It Could Damage Internal Components

Did you know that running auto-clean on an oven that is not in tip-top shape can actually damage important pieces of hardware inside the oven? Right before a big dinner like Christmas Eve is one of the worst times you can run your oven’s self-cleaning function because if something goes wrong, you might not have enough time for an oven repair before the big night. Our Service Heroes are fast — and they’ll do their best — but, they’re only human.

There are a number of things that can go wrong. Put simply, when your oven gets that hot, certain components can be warped or melted — causing an oven failure. This is especially true for people who use their self-cleaning feature frequently. This feature should only be used a couple times per year, if at all.

It Can Produce Noxious Gases

When your oven cleans itself, it does so by heating up the inside to temperatures of over 900°F (500°C). When your oven gets that hot, it can break down certain food particles in a way that creates carbon monoxide — a very dangerous gas that is undetectable without having a CO detector installed.

Also, if your oven has a Teflon coating, temperatures that hot can produce toxic fumes that, when inhaled, can cause coughing, trouble breathing, sweating, chills, and other flu-like symptoms.

Another thing to consider is excessive smoke. Some sugary foods and spills can cause a lot of smoke when cooked that hot and it could end up setting off your smoke alarm!

If you do decide to use your oven’s self-cleaning feature, make sure to turn on your ventilation hood to remove as many of these harmful gases as possible. We also recommend opening a window or two for extra airflow.

It Might Make Your Oven Even Harder to Clean

Unless you have already done a quick scrub to remove any large chunks of food, extra high temperatures can actually cook some foods further into the surfaces of your oven — turning what is normally just an annoying task into a heavy-duty cleaning job requiring special tools.

It’s a Potential Fire Hazard

Even if you’ve got all of your food chunks cleaned out, there are some oils that can actually catch fire without any sparks or ignition! This is because their flash point (the temperature at which a substance catches fire without ignition) is between 715 and 800 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that if you have a lot of excess oil in your oven, and raising the temperature that high could actually start a dangerous fire inside your oven!

If this does happen, you should be very careful how you proceed. Your instincts will tell you to open the oven so that you can put it out, but by opening the door, you will flood the inside of the oven with new oxygen and you could possibly make the fire much bigger and more dangerous.

We cannot recommend trying to put out a grease fire inside your oven unless you have a functioning fire extinguisher on hand, pointed and ready to put the fire out right away. Otherwise, the best thing to do is to get out of the house and call the fire department immediately!

So What Good is a Self-Cleaning Oven anyways?

Right now you may be asking yourself, why do so many manufacturers put this feature in their ovens if has downsides? The truth is that the manufacturers are aware of the fact that using self-clean can cause all of these problems. However, they continue to implement this feature simply because consumers demand it. An oven with a self-cleaning feature is much easier to sell than one without. In fact, some appliance sellers have claimed that if an oven doesn’t have self-cleaning option, it is impossible to sell.

Can I Ever Use Self-Clean?

All of this information poses the question, “Should anyone ever use the self-cleaning feature on their oven?” It’s a great question that should be asked more frequently. Our honest opinion — if you can avoid it, then avoid it.

That being said, if you’re reading this and thinking. “Hang on, this can’t be right. I use my self-cleaning function all the time and I’ve never had problems!” Well that’s all well and good. Just be sure that every time you run this feature, you understand that there are risks involved.

If you must run your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, then we recommend doing so no more than a couple times per year, and not before a big dinner. Especially if your oven is a bit older. Something you can do to reduce the damage done to your oven is just to not run it for the full time. Instead of doing three or four hours like some ovens recommend, maybe shut it off after one or two hours. This way you are still running the oven hotter than it’s normal operating temperatures, but not for so long and hot that it can damage internal components.

What can I do instead?

Cleaning your oven can be an obnoxious task — especially when you have to do that awkward move where you have to sit on your knees and torque your body over the oven door to reach the back corners. Luckily, there are many ways to make a traditional oven cleaning much easier without the use of the self-cleaning feature. We’ll share a couple of our favorites so that you don’t have to risk calling us for an oven repair.

The Steam Method

This method is the simplest, but it may not be strong enough for thick, oily grime on your oven walls. The idea is to turn your oven into a steam room by putting a pan full of water on the bottom shelf. Run the oven at 250°F — just hot enough to get the water to boil — and allow it to run for an hour or two. After the oven has had a chance to soak in steam, many of the food chunks will loosen enough to wipe away with a scrub brush or sponge. You want to give the oven time to cool before you stick your hand in it, but no so long that all the water dries out again.

The Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

If you have some really stubborn gunk in your oven, this method is a bit more difficult, but yields great results:

  1. Take out any racks or thermometers from your oven.
  2. Mix ½ cup of baking soda with water (2-3 tablespoons) until you have a nice spreadable paste.
  3. With cleaning gloves, spread the paste around the walls of your oven (if your oven is gas powered, do not cover where the gas comes out).
  4. Let the paste sit for 10-12 hours.
  5. Put some vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the surfaces of your oven.
  6. Using a sponge or other abrasive tool, wipe away the paste using the vinegar to clear any stubborn areas.
  7. Clean your oven racks if needed and return them to their positions inside the oven.

The Aluminum Foil Method

This last method is more of a prevention method than an actual cleaning procedure. If you cook a lot of pizza, then the floor of your oven probably looks like a crusty black carpet of burnt toppings and cheese chunks. It may be difficult to motivate yourself to clean your oven when you know it will just have a new layer of junk on the bottom in a week or two.

One way that you can keep your oven clean for much longer is by simply lining the floor of your oven with a piece of aluminum foil — bonus points if you curl the edges up, making a sort of aluminum pan to catch all your pizza droppings. Side note: this may not work if you have an exposed heating element on the bottom of your oven.

 

We hope that this guide to oven cleaning has been thorough and helpful. If you still have questions on oven cleaning best practices — or if your oven is having issues or isn’t working — our integrity-driven Service Heroes are just a phone call away. Contact us today for oven repair or for more tips on oven maintenance!