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I've had a couple spills in my otherwise clean oven lately. I'd like to clean it before it gets out of hand but I'm not too comfortable with the idea of the toxic commercial oven cleaners. Are there any frugal and safe methods for cleaning an oven?
Baking Soda and Salt Paste
A really easy and economical way of cleaning one's oven without the problems of the canned stuff is to simply mix equal amounts of baking soda and salt and then adding enough water to make a paste out of it. I usually will use about 1 cup of each and then just gradually add the water until it becomes pasty. Then you close the oven door and bake as you would with the canned stuff. When it cools down, you simply use a damp sponge or cloth and wipe everything down. It really does work!
Baking Soda and Vinegar Paste
In response to this reader's question, the time honored baking soda, dampened to a paste (I like to use a combination of white vinegar and a squeeze or two of non-toxic dish liquid) and left to sit over night (note: initially the vinegar and soda will bubble up, soft scrubbing) and then wiped away.
You do have to rinse quite thoroughly, but it does work. Also effective is salt and lemon juice. An excellent source for this and other natural cleansers is the book "Clean and Green" by Annie Berthold-Bond (Ceres Press).
Bowl of Ammonia
Pour appx a cup of ammonia into a plastic bowl (I recycle Cool Whip containers for this purpose). Let sit overnight in the oven. Remove the container the next morning and you will find that most spills are easily removed with a paper towel. You may save the ammonia for future use.
Just Water and Time
I can't guarantee that this will work for all spills, but I've used it once or twice on simple spills and it worked well for me. The idea is that water is a great solvent, if you're not in a hurry. Soak some sponges and put them on the spill if it's on the floor of the oven or not too high on the sides, and just let the wet sponges sit for a number of hours. Then wipe away the layer that's liquified.
Clean the sponges, and do it again. If you're not in a hurry to clean it up at one swipe, this won't use any chemicals at all. If you soak the sponge(s) in soapy water, the process should be quicker. Just don't let the sponges dry out while they're sitting on the spill or it won't do any good at all.
Check Owner's Manual First
Before using ANYTHING to clean your oven, get out your Use and Care guide (or call the manufacturer for a new one)! There are several types of ovens (standard, continuous and self cleaning) out there and you could ruin your oven by using cleaners that are wrong for your type of oven. After learning what kind of oven you have, you can determine the best way to clean it.
I used to work at Whirlpool Corp and you wouldn't believe how many people ruin their ovens by not reading the guide first. If a person has anything but a standard cleaning oven they will probably mess it up.
Elbow Grease and Prevention
Elbow grease, any powder/bleach cleanser, a sponge and those scrubby sponges.(You can buy a package of the green scrubbing things without the sponges at most dollar stores).
Soak up water with the sponge, put some on the harden food drips, clean everywhere else while waiting for it to finish soaking, then start with the elbow grease, This is like an hour's job.
An ounce of prevention goes a long ways, putting a sheet of foil under the coil is good, it is supposed to affect the heating temperature/baking success... but not by much.
Jen, one very sloppy cook/baker
Simple Green Works
Use Simple Green. This product is environmentally safe, does not smell of chemicals, and best of all is a great cleaner for many different things. On my oven I spray it on full strength and let sit a while (depending on how bad the mess is) then I use a non abrasive steel wool type pad and scrub lightly, then just wipe the oven clean. Simple Green is a great cleaner for many different things used either full strength or diluted and directions are on the bottle.
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Let Oven Clean Itself
My oven has an auto-clean button that I use when my oven gets dirty. I think what it is doing is turning the temperature up to 500 degrees for 3 hours to incinerate every molecule in the oven. Afterwards, there is a fine dust on the bottom and the shelves that I just clean with a damp sponge. Frugal, safe, and non-toxic.
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