Can you use oven cleaner in a self cleaning oven?

Whatever the type of oven cleaner you have, be it a store bought solution marketed for self cleaning ovens like the one from Easy off or Carbona, or a mixture of baking soda and lukewarm water that you carefully sat down and put together yourself, it’s best to not put it in a self-cleaning oven.

That’ll be defeating the purpose of the self-cleaning feature in the first place. And besides, most professional oven cleaners are known to contain harsh chemicals (even though the claim is otherwise on the packaging) and promote abrasive cleaning methods that break down specific elements in an oven’s cavity and cause the appliance to run a bit inefficiently.


Why you shouldn’t put oven cleaner in a self-cleaning oven

Self-cleaning ovens are ovens that shoulder most of the oven cleaning responsibility for you.

They’re perfectly engineered with extra thermodynamic controls to get rid of all the grime, gunk, grease, and fossilized sugars that accumulate overtime from regular oven activities, especially those that result in a huge amount of spillage and drip i.e. high heat turkey or pizza stuffed with too much cheese than the number of stars in the universe.

Self-cleaning ovens are able to achieve their cleaning effects by either of the three methods mentioned below:

  1. Blasting the enamel coated interior of an oven with heated air (at 400 to 500 degrees Celsius) which reduces any food residue left on the walls and corners into ash that is easily scooped out using wet sponge or rag,
  2. Spraying the cavity of the oven with a jet of hot steam obtained by boiling water at the base of the oven at a much lower temperature than the first instance,
  3. And lastly, by using normal cooking temperature to achieve the same reduction effect as in the first case, but this time, using oxidation catalysts as the coatings inside of the oven.

The first instance of self-cleaning method is referred to as the pyrolytic cleaning method, and it involves the use of heat and acid resistant porcelain enamel to coat the interior of the oven.

This coating is also called Vitreous enamel and it can be damaged with the use of oven cleaning solutions and methods that are abrasive or tough on it, for example, the use of solutions that contain harsh chemicals or scouring agents i.e. lye (sodium hydroxide) or powder abrasives, or the use of wet scouring pumice, pads, wire brushes, metal scrapers or other abrasive tools (as promoted by many oven cleaning brands) to clean the interior manually, often over a long period of time and not at the instant, because the enamel coating is usually hard, durable and scratch and chemically resistant to a good deal of degree.

When damaged, the oven’s self-cleaning abilities becomes faulty unless a new coating is applied to replace the previously worn out one. This can affect the overall heating quality of the oven since the central component harmonizing the heating effect of the oven (the coating) is now damaged.

In the second case of self-cleaning method which uses steam at a much lower temperature, the same enamel coating is often used (especially if the feature is built into a pyrolytic oven), but using a different approach that employs steam generated from boiling water at a much lower temperature than pyrolytic cleaning to remove oven soils and stains.

The method is called oven steam cleaning, and as expected, the cavity too can be damaged when oven cleaning solutions and methods that are not approved by relevant authorities such as the Vitreous Enamel Association Care Cleaner Scheme (in the UK) are used for cleaning. Or, simply, cleaners and methods that are abrasive and harsh are used on it.

For the third case, it’s called the catalytic oven cleaning method, and it uses catalytic liners that usually fare well with simple cleaning solutions like baking soda and water, with a gentle scrub, but can react with harsh chemicals and break down overtime.

So overall, it seems that the main problem with using oven cleaners on a self-cleaning oven is the possibility of breakdown of the enamel or catalytic coating that usually follows up after prolonged usage, because the formulations in most cleaning solutions do not harmonize well with these.

But not all oven cleaners are created equally. Ever since their introduction in the mid 19th century, oven cleaners have undergone thorough reappraisal in their formulations in order to dilute their causticity, toxicity and harshness so they may prove safe for the environment, for use by humans, and also for application on modern ranges including continuous and self cleaning varieties, and that has led to the birth of many reliable brands that now offer cleaning solutions that are so gentle, they can readily be applied to the interior of self-cleaning ovens without any cause for alarm.

Nowadays, the market is dominated by these type of oven cleaners than it is by traditional oven cleaners that normally caused unwanted damage to the interior coatings of self cleaning ovens.

Some of these are usually marketed as “oven cleaners for self-cleaning ovens”, but the best of them are those that have been formally approved by relevant authorities such as the Vitreous Enamel Association Care Cleaner Scheme in the UK. These have undergone thorough testing and are marked with a batch to indicate their safety and approval.


How to use an oven cleaner in a self-cleaning oven

First, the advice is to never use an oven cleaner in a self-cleaning oven especially when the self-cleaning feature is fully functional.

The reasons are outlined in details in the earlier section. Choosing to clean an oven manually, with elbow grease from your part, is an unnecessary dimension of problem to impose on oneself which can easily be avoided with the push of a button and the turn of a dial.

If the ashy smell exuded by the baking process is the cause of the inessential recourse, then pack up some chips (alongside the pet birds and dogs, cause they may get high after a brief period of whiffing) and isolate yourself in a well-ventilated room until the 2 hours cleaning session is over. That should do right?

If your problem is totally the opposite, that you’re not getting any good cleaning from the self-cleaning feature on the range, then you’re probably not doing something right, or you’re not fully aware of how the self-cleaning feature on your oven works. We have a block of information below to check you on that.

If your fear is that you haven’t used the self-cleaning functionality for a while now and therefore you’re shit scared of burning down the entire apartment when you opt for your first experiment, please and please, get over this silly thought and hop onto the range like a third battalion officer. You’re completely safe, so far you’re doing everything right according to the manufacturers instructions.

Now, the only time i’ll ever side with you to use an oven cleaner on a self-cleaning oven is when, for some reason, the self-cleaning feature on the appliance is malfunctioning, or dead (and it didn’t struck your head to use the warranty option instantly). In that case, feel free to use the steps below for an all cavity shine.

  1. First, make sure you’re using an oven cleaner marketed for self cleaning ovens, that is safe. The best of them usually have the badge from recognized and respective authorities governing such areas. One such authority in the United Kingdom is the VEA (as mentioned above), and one example of a reliable brand is Astonish oven and cookware cleaner. If the oven cleaners available in your region do not receive anything like a safety badge to indicate quality, the next course of action would be solutions from reliable brands that claim it works for your specific type of range i.e. convection or conventional oven, such as the one from Easy off or Goo Gone.
  2. Use the solution as directed by the manufacturer. Make sure to get any remaining residue out of the oven when polishing it off after the cleaning process. You don’t want that in your food. You can do that by baking the oven for straight 15 minutes at 35oF.

How to get the best cleaning experience with a self-cleaning function

For those pinning their preference of oven cleaners over self-cleaning functionality on the fact that the latter doesn’t work as effective as the former, i can guarantee that you’re not following the steps correctly, or your range is way past it’s use by date; ( i didn’t just say that did i?), otherwise, there’s no reason why any gunk or stain as tough as a fossilized sugar won’t carbonize and turn into powdery ash.

Here are some tips to check in order to guarantee a squeaky clean oven cavity using the self-cleaning approach.

  1. First, make sure to apply all cleanliness habits to ensure that your oven doesn’t get too dirty that the self-cleaning feature can’t handle. This includes: cleaning out dirt, drips and gunk as they form (making sure to only do so when the oven is cold), and baking drip-prone items like turkey or pizza on a cookie sheet or over a layer of aluminum foil lined on preceding rack below, not directly at the bottom of the oven.
  2. Before turning on the self-cleaning feature on your range, start by scraping off any large residue of food and gunk from the oven. This is key, as it simplifies the cleaning process by a mile. Taking out the bigger gunk’s will also ensure that you cut down on the amount of ash odor you’re receiving around the house, which, apparently (why do i find using the word a bit odd? – Oh yes, it’s Mr. apparently on YouTube, got it!), is one of the biggest perks of the self-cleaning feature. While scraping the interior, ensure that you use wooden or plastic scrappers ONLY, especially on the coatings and also on the glass frame on the door which is prone to shattering due to weak points created by scratches.
  3. Next, run the feature as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Return back to the oven and wipe off the interior using a damp cloth or sponge. And voila, a sparkling oven cavity!
  5. Now i have to admit something to you. You won’t necessarily get that cleaning effect on the glass component of the door and some areas around it (for some reason), but wiping off the dirty remnants shouldn’t be a big problem especially after considering the fact that they have been subjected to 3 hours on bake mode. Use a mild detergent or baking soda plus water to clean these elements and avoid scratching like the plague. Also, avoid working these solutions onto the fiberglass gasket around the oven door to avoid damaging the oven’s seal. You can also use water plus lemon juice mixture for the cleaning.
  6. Use these same solutions for cleaning the exterior of the oven, or use an oven cleaner: whichever you end up using, it’s completely safe there.

In conclusion

While there are a handful of oven cleaners marketed as “safe to use in a self cleaning oven” out there in the market, it’s best to stick with the self cleaning functionality on your oven and rely on it to do all the cleaning work. It’s the safest alternative there is.

Oven cleaners may contain harmful chemicals that can cause damage to the inside coating of an oven on the long run, and the methods they often promote for cleaning may also end up bruising away some elements of the coating.

In any case that you find the need to use an oven cleaner on a self cleaning oven a necessity, make sure to use those that have been approved by relevant authorities.

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