Cleaning Your Oven Without Harmful Chemicals


After regular usage, ovens, stove tops and even microwaves tend to get fairly grimy. Built-up grease and charred food accumulate and turn into carbon, causing a strong burning smell when cooking. Not cleaning your oven and Letting it remain coated in carbon can eventually taint your food and even become a fire hazard. Regardless of what type of oven or microwave you have, you can use this simple natural method to clean them and make them look nearly good as new. Cleaning your oven without harmful chemicals is simple and easy.

Why not just use a commercially cleaner?

toxic cleanerSince they are meant for a tough cleaning job, commercial oven cleaners and grease removers are some of the most toxic cleaning products on the market. They contain a whole host of harsh chemicals that are used to eat away at the greasy built-up residue (it’ll eat away at your skin as well). The dangerous fumes not only get into your lungs and linger in your home, but the invisible residue remains in your oven once it has been cleaned and can be cooked into your food. Since they are so strong, many abrasive commercial cleansers will cause discoloration and can damage some surfaces. Then there is also the environmental aspect, as these chemicals enter the ground with disposal. These awful toxic ingredients are completely unnecessaryYou can protect yourself, your family and the environment, by making a simple, inexpensive, eco-friendly cleaning solution at home—using water, natural soap, vinegar or lemon juice, baking soda and if you like, Essential oil for an added pleasant fragrance.

What About Self-Cleaning Ovens?

One would think that all you need to do is press the self-clean button, and not worry about a time consuming, elbow-grease requiring, cleanup, but it turns out that doing so can actually be more toxic than even the harsh commercial oven cleaners. I’m not a fan of the self-cleaning oven option at all. Besides for cases of self-cleaning ovens experiencing problems after using the self-cleaning cycle because the high heat sometimes causes fuses or elements to burn out more quickly. Self-cleaning ovens are lined with Teflon, and when the temperature of the oven is running at the extremely high self-cleaning temperatures, toxic gasses can be emitted into the air. Teflon isn’t the only chemical you need to be worrying about here. Acrolein and Formaldehyde can also be emitted from self-cleaning ovens. As with the Teflon, the gases are released from the insulation around the oven when it gets very hot. Our bodies cannot readily breakdown the chemicals used in making Teflon, nor can it quickly eliminate Formaldehyde and Acrolein. The result is a host of symptoms, including asthma, dry and itchy eyes, headaches, and more, so even if you have a self-cleaning oven, I suggest cleaning your oven without harmful chemicals.

Inexpensive, Multi-Purpose, Natural Cleaners

magic duoBoth baking soda and vinegar are considered to be excellent natural cleaning agents. Both are pure, natural products that are non-toxic and safe to use around children and pets. Though they have many other cleaning uses, they are ideal for cleaning food preparation surfaces or cooking areas, as is lemon juice; Lemons are a natural disinfectant, degreaser and stain remover because of their acidity and as an added bonus, lemons will leave your house with a pleasant scent. Last but not least, water is called the “universal solvent,” because most compounds can be dissolved in it. This means that even by itself plain old water is a good cleaning agent and is perfect for cleaning your oven without harmful chemicals.

Baking soda- Baked on cooking residues are mixtures of organic substances, many of them acids. When the mildly alkaline baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) interacts with the acids in the residues, bubbles of carbon dioxide form right in the surface, which can help dissolve it in water for easy removal. When it is not fully dissolved, baking soda can act as a gentle abrasive that works to scrape away stubborn residues. Since it’s gentle, baking soda is safe and effective as a cleaner for glass, chrome, steel, enamel and plastic. Don’t worry about using too much baking soda. The more you use, the stronger the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the carbon.

Vinegar- Distilled or white vinegar is a mix of acetic acid and water. The low pH of acetic acid makes vinegar an excellent cleaner. Since vinegar is an acid, it’s great for breaking up water mineral deposits. Vinegar can be used to dissolve buildups like lime deposits on drains, in sinks, and on shower heads, and for polishing metal, cleaning mildew from tile, sanitizing your garbage disposal, and more. It is also a disinfectant and can kill germs and bacteria.

What Happens When You Mix Vinegar and Baking soda? Since vinegar is an acid and baking soda is a base, they undergo an acid-base reaction. Generally when an acid and a base are mixed together, the result is that the acid and base neutralize each other to form water and a little amount of salt. In this case, the acetic acid and sodium hydrogen carbonate combine to form water, carbon dioxide (which is responsible for all the bubbles), and sodium acetate.

Cleaning Your Oven or Other Appliances Without Damaging Them

Before cleaning your oven, stove and microwave surface, be sure they are off and completely cooled. Steam burns can occur from spraying, or wiping a hot surface with a wet cloth or sponge.

(A note about the controls- Only remove the control knobs of the oven and stove top if absolutely necessary, you’re not a technician. Try to first use the natural cleaning solution when they are attached, and you can use a toothbrush and toothpick to get into tight spots. If for whatever reason this isn’t working and you absolutely must, carefully remove the control knobs and let them sit in warm, soapy water for a few minutes. Replace the controls after they are cleaned and turn each one on briefly to ensure they were put back properly.)

What You Will Need for Cleaning Your Oven:

  • making natural cleanerWash cloth.
  • Toothbrush to get into tight spots.
  • A few toothpicks to get into really tiny spots.
  • A plastic spatula to mix and scrape at stubborn spots.
  • A medium glass bowl
  • Scrubber sponge/ scouring pad.
  • Optional: Steel wool or a bristle brush (to only be used VERY carefully on the toughest spots).
  • Optional: Rubber Gloves (You aren’t using harsh chemicals, but this will keep your hands from getting prune-y and protect your fingernails from accidental damage, or you might just want your hands soot free).
  • Optional: Brush.

Ingredients for Cleaning Solution: The amounts can be adjusted as needed.

  • 1/2 cup any natural liquid soap (such as Castile soap).
  • 1 1/2 cup baking soda.
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar.

Water as needed to make a thick paste.

Optional: Instead of vinegar you can use lemon juice.

Optional: 2-4 drops of any aromatic Essential Oil for a pleasant scent.

Instructions for Cleaning Your Oven Interior

  1. cleaning ovenRemove the oven racks:Remove your oven racks and pizza stone (if you have one). Place them in a sink full of warm water mixed with a few drops of natural liquid soap to soak. Add lemon juice or vinegar if needed to tackle greasiness. If your sink isn’t large enough to soak your oven racks, use your bathtub instead.
  2. Make a baking soda paste:In a small bowl, mix baking soda with a few tablespoons of water. Adjust the ratio of both as needed until you have a thick spreadable paste. For me this took about 4 tablespoons of water to get the desired consistency.
  3. Coat your entire oven:Spread the paste all over the interior surfaces of your oven, using a brush or cloth, steering clear of the heating elements. The baking soda will probably turn a brownish color as you rub it in; it also might be chunkier in some places than others. That is fine. Just try to coat the whole oven to the best of your abilities, paying attention to any particularly greasy areas. Pour white, distilled vinegar on top of the baking soda – don’t flood it, use just enough to moisten the baking soda and get it bubbling. You can dilute the vinegar with water if you need to.  Focus on the charred and stained areas, until the carbon is completely saturated. For particularly dirty ovens, increase the ratio of baking powder to water so that you have more of a paste than a liquid.
  4. Let it sit for 6-8 hours or overnight:Let it sit for 6-8 hours (overnight works well) and be amazed at how it foams up slightly. You can actually see the solution working and grime being lifted off of the oven surface.
  5. Cleaning your oven racks:Meanwhile, you can begin cleaning your oven racks. Scrub the oven racks in the soapy water. Rinse them well and dry them off.
  6. Wipe out the oven:After 6-8 hours or overnight, fill a bowl with clean warm water. Dip your sponge or cloth in the water and scrub until you wipe out as much of the dried baking soda as you can. If there are still difficult grease spots, Vinegar is a great degreaser, so try rinsing the sponge in vinegar to maintain its grease cutting abilities during your scrubbing. Use a plastic spatula to help scrape off the paste if needed. Once all the remaining residue is loosened, rinse with a cloth and warm water.
  7. Cleaning your oven window:Mix a little vinegar/lemon juice in a spray bottle with water and use it to clean the window. You can spray the solution and let it sit for 30 minutes. Do not use abrasive pads or steel wool on glass and enamel, or the surfaces will be scratched. Avoid using baking soda and also too much water on the glass. Both can get trapped between the panes and cause discoloration.
  8. Do a final wipe down:Put a little vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz everywhere you still see baking soda residue in your oven. The vinegar will react with the baking soda and gently foam. Take your damp cloth and wipe out the remaining foamy vinegar-baking-soda mixture. Repeat until all the baking soda residue is gone. Add more water or vinegar to your cloth as needed while wiping to really get the oven clean and shiny.
  9. Replace your oven racks:Replace the oven racks and anything else you removed and you’re finished with the interior!
  10. Cleaning your oven exterior- Use a damp washcloth to clean the oven door, handle, buttons, and the sides if you can reach them.

Instructions for Cleaning Your Stove Top

The same cleaning technique you used to clean the interior of the oven also works for cleaning the top of the stove. If you have an electric heating flat surfaced cook top, you can still use the same cleaning solution, just make sure that, as with the oven window, you avoid abrasive cleaning tools, as they can damage the stove top surface material and any trims like porcelain enamel. This goes much faster as there is generally less build up on the stove top.

  1. cleaning stove topMake sure the electricity and gas are turned off- This is just an extra safety precaution,
  2. Remove all the pieces you can from the stove top – drip pans, grates, gas burners (do not do this with electric burners).  Place all these items in the sink or the bathtub or a large enough bowl if you’ve got it.
  3. Apply the natural cleaning solution. Apply the mixture and coat the entire surface. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
  4. Scrub off surface and clean. Be sure to use a scrubbing sponge that’s recommended for stove top cleaning especially if yours is glass.
  5. Clean the burner gas ports- If the burner gas ports become plugged with debris, poke them clean with a toothpick, or brush gently with a soft-bristled brush. For pilot-less stoves, check the port and area below the igniter wire and clear it as well. Debris left under the igniter can prevent the gas burner from lighting.
  6. Reassemble the stove- Wipe down any remaining residue.
  7. Reconnect the power (and gas)-  Check to make sure the burners work.

Caring for Your Oven and Stove In-Between Major Cleanings

Cleaning spills as they occur will lessen your cleaning work load later. Wipe your stove top after each use when it has cooled, and clean messy burners. Wash any removable burner grates (if needed) in soapy water when they cool down. Rinse all parts with warm, water and dry. Here are some tips for preventing the residue build-up:

  • salt in ovenCatch oven spills with a baking sheet or aluminum foil.If you’re cooking something messy, place a baking sheet or aluminum foil on the rack below it to catch grease and food spills.
  • Clean up spills right away.When something does bubble over onto your oven floor, you can begin the cleaning process even while your food is still cooking. Sprinkle salt over the affected area, then close the oven door and finish cooking your food. After you remove the food and turn off the oven, wait for it to cool somewhat, but not entirely. Cleaning your oven spills while they are still warm will prevent caking and charring.
  • Use aluminum foil- Cleaning your gas or electric stove is much easier if you use a wide roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil to protect the stove top surface. Remove the drip pans under the burners, and cover each with the foil before you ever use them. Be very careful not to contact heating elements, igniters, or other electrical components. Check periodically and replace as necessary. There are designated liners made for this purpose, but the aluminum foil covers the area better, and is cheaper to replace.

Instructions for Easily Cleaning Your Microwave

  1. cleaning microwaveSoften-up the residue- Use lemon juice and water to pre-soften the residue before cleaning. Fill a small glass bowl or cup about 1/3 full of water, add the juice of two lemons or about 3-4 tablespoons, and place it in the microwave.
  2. Microwave for 3 minutes or so- Microwave on high power for 3 or 4 minutes so the liquid comes to a boil. If the buildup is really bad, you can try leaving it in for a bit longer. The water and lemon juice will boil and the vapors will cling to the grime, loosening it and making it easier to be cleaned off.
  3. Let stand for 5 minutes- Do not open the microwave door immediately. The steam trapped inside will help loosen the gunk. Let it stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Take out the glass tray or turntable- Open the door and carefully remove the bowl with the lemons. Then lift out the glass tray or turntable if your microwave has one, wash it like a dish, dry it off and set it aside.
  5. Wipe the microwave clean- Wipe the inside of the microwave clean starting with the ceiling and the sides. Finish with the bottom, sweeping any crumbs into your hand. Don’t forget the door!
  6. Clean stubborn spots- If you come across stubborn spots that won’t easily wipe away, dip your cloth or sponge in the lemon water and scrub until the spot comes away. You can use the plastic spatula if you need it.
  7. Make sure its dry- Leave the unit to dry after wiping it out with a clean rag.
  8. Clean the exterior of the microwave-Use a slightly damp washcloth to clean the microwave door, handle, buttons, and the sides. Do not go near the back. This step is best done when the appliance has been unplugged.

Final Tip:
If you’re in a rush and can’t wait 6-8 hours before cleaning your oven, use this same pre-softening trick.  Place the lemon juice and water filled bowl in the oven, and bake at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove the dish and let the oven cool, then clean as stated above, minus the 6-8 hour waiting period.

I hope this guide has helped you understand how to save money and better protect your family and the environment from unnecessary toxic chemicals.

Thanks for stopping by Efes Takalot!

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