The baked-on and caked-on crud has got to go.
You preheat your oven, just as the recipe to homemade fudgy brownies directs, and just when you start to mix your batter, smoke starts seeping from your oven. You think to yourself, “OMG, did I leave something in there?”. Quickly, you pull the oven door open, only to find icky, grimy residue that has built up along the bottom of your oven burning.
It’s a clear sign that the time has come to deep clean. There’s no way around it, cleaning your oven is a daunting task—but when the time comes, you simply have to accept it, roll up your sleeves, and get to scrubbing. It’s just one of those things. Most ovens manufactured in recent years have a self-cleaning function, but there’s a good chance you don’t know how to use it if you have it (you are so not alone), or you have an older oven with no clean-it-for-you option. In either case, with the right products, rubber gloves, and the exertion some upper-body strength, you can scour your way to an impressively spotless oven. Keep in mind, this is not a quick clean—it would be wise to set aside some time strictly dedicated to the cause.
There are two ways to go about cleaning your oven. You can purchase a chemical spray that will cut through the gunk or you can use a combination few natural products to get the same result. Oven cleaning spray, like Easy-Off, is a powerful cleanser, but has a very strong, harsh odor that can take over your entire home. If you go this route, be sure to open all possible windows, doors, and turn on a ceiling fan to circulate the air. It is also recommended that you wear a mask while you spray and clean for safe breathing. Remove your racks and spray the oven with a thick coat of foam. Close the oven door and let the spray sit for about 2 hours. The baked-on crud should easily wipe away. The spray also works on the racks which you should spray in the sink if yours is large enough or outside on a paper bag, news paper, or a large piece of plastic. A grill brush is the most efficient tool for scraping off the the remaining grime. Using some type of oven spray will definitely help you clean your oven more quickly than going the au naturale route, but just be prepared for the heavy fumes.
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If you want to go with less aggressive, natural cleansers, most likely, the ingredients you need already reside in your pantry. Grab a box of baking soda, white vinegar, and coarse sea salt. You will use these 3 ingredients to form a paste to spread all over the inside surfaces of your oven. This is where the real hard work comes into play. You actually have to scrub, with a moderate amount of strength and power, to get a squeaky clean oven. In spray bottle, combine vinegar and water (1:2 ratio), using about ⅓ cup vinegar and ⅔ cups warm water (you can double this if necessary, depending on the size of your oven). Dampen the inside of your oven with the vinegar solution. In a small bowl combine roughly ½ cup baking soda and ¼ cup coarse sea salt, and sprinkle to mixture throughout the oven. It will react with the vinegar solution and form a paste. Spread the paste evenly over the inside of your oven and allow it to sit overnight with the oven door closed. (If you’re impatient, you can check the grease-fighting progress after 4 hours.) The same paste mixture will work on your racks as well.
The next day, loosen the hardened paste with the remaining spray (make more if you need to) and wipe out your oven. This part can be a little messy. You may need to rinse your rag several times before all the gritty baking soda is removed. (Pull out the vacuum or broom for extra support.) Once all of the baking soda residue is removed, the gunk and grime will also be gone with it, leaving you with a sparkly clean oven.
A good rule of thumb to help keep your oven clean moving forward is to use oven liners for the floor of your oven. It catches everything that bubbles over during baking. And when your liner starts to crust-up with burnt pieces, remove it and replace with a new one. This should help you to have a not-so-deep clean to do the next time it’s time to tackle your oven.