How to clean an oven: quickly and like a pro

Fed up with cooking smells and caked-on food? Find out how to clean an oven like a pro. Our simple step-by-step guide will give you sparkling results...

how to clean an oven - Woman cleaning an oven with spray
(Image credit: Getty)

Is your oven looking a little bit grimey? Have tough stains that just don't seem to want to away or burnt bits of food that cling to your wire racks? There’s a good chance you're not cleaning it right. Or maybe you're not cleaning it at all? Let's face it, cleaning the oven is one of those spring cleaning jobs that everyone dreads, especially since it entails a lot more than just pressing the Self-Clean function. While we're on the subject, cleaning an oven once a year won't really cut it: ideally, aim for at least twice a year, more if you can find the time. Right after a major holiday feast, or the New Year is a great time to start. 

Knowing how to clean an oven is something we should all know how to do, and armed with the right tools, removing sticky burnt-on food and grease is, dare we say, relatively hassle-free. 

Follow our simple tips for cleaning an oven, and yours will be spotless in no time.

Then check out our kitchen cleaning hacks for more handy tips. Once you're done, check out our other cleaning buys, how-tos and hacks to keep your home sparkling clean.

You will need:

Safety first: When using a professional oven cleaner always be aware of the recommended safety precautions on the product and read the instructions thoroughly before use. Always wear rubber gloves and make sure your oven is switched off and cool before you start.

1. Use the oven's self-cleaning function

Does your oven have one? If you're not sure – maybe you inherited from your home's previous owner – check in the manual (or online if you don't have it). If your oven self-cleans, you start the cleaning process following the manufacturer's instructions. 

That doesn't mean that you don't have to be involved, though. The self-clean function usually means heating your oven to very high temperatures that reduces the burnt on food to ash, that you then have to clean out of the bottom of the oven. Still there's a lot less elbow grease involved. Hot tip? Save this chore for a nice day so you can open the windows – there's usually a fair amount of smoke.

2. Clear the oven of obvious food particles

Self-cleaning functions aside, you can start cleaning your oven the old-fashioned way. First, change into old clothes as oven cleaning can get rather messy and put on rubber gloves. 

Then, remove any obvious bits of food you can see lying on the oven floor and stuck to the shelves.

Quick trick? A damp sponge on a handle or a body brush is good for this. Place a cookie sheet on the floor beneath the oven to catch the burnt food. You can then just flip it into the trash can and pop the cookie sheet into the dishwasher.

On that subject, find out how to clean a dishwasher, too.

3. Remove the oven's shelves

Remove all oven racks and leave them to soak in a sink (or the bathtub if your sink is too small) full of warm, soapy water. The combination of hot water and dish liquid will help break down any burnt-on food or grease residue. You may need to let it soak for a few hours or overnight. 

Quick trick? If you are short on time, place the shelves in a resealable plastic bag, spray all over with oven cleaner, seal the bag and leave the cleaner to work its magic for 30 minutes.

4. How to clean an oven with baking soda and vinegar

If you're looking for a natural alternative, it's back to our old friend, baking soda. Sprinkle it generously over the oven's surfaces (you might need to dampen them first to get it to stick), then spray white vinegar over the top. Leave for 30 minutes. Use our guides to cleaning with baking soda and vinegar to find lots more useful tips.

Prefer the old school method? if you're relying on a regular oven cleaning product then spray this all around your oven, onto the ceiling, right at the back and in all corners. Leave the solution to soften any stubborn burnt-on food, follow the time recommendations on your product — usually at least 30 minutes, but often a few hours. 

5. Cleaning oven racks

Once you have soaked your racks use a scourer to scrub them clean. Turn them halfway through to make sure that they are spotless on both sides. Rinse with warm water and set aside to dry.

Quick trick? Make use of some good old Brillo Pads to remove anything really caked on.

6. How to clean an oven's interior

Once the cleaning product or baking soda/vinegar has had a chance to work you’ll notice leftover food has started to loosen. Take a sponge and a bowl of warm, soapy water and begin wiping the inside of the oven. Rinse your sponge in the water and repeat this step until the oven is clean. Rinsing the sponge after each round will avoid spreading dirt. 

Time-saving trick? Spread a tea towel or newspaper on the floor before you start this step so you don't have to wash the floor afterward. 

7. How do I get baked on grease off my oven?

If you still have grease residue or burnt-on food inside your oven at this stage don’t worry. Simply sprinkle baking soda on the burnt food and leave it to soften overnight. The following morning you’ll be able to wipe away any stubborn stains using a sponge and warm water.

Quick trick? Raid the fruit bowl for lemons, cut four or five in half, squeeze their juice into a cookie sheet, and put the squeezed lemon halves in the tray, too. Set the oven at 475°F and cook the lemons for 30 minutes. The steam from the lemons will steam clean your oven. Once it's cooled, wipe it out with a sponge and rinse.

8. Use a toothbrush to clean hard to reach areas

To really tackle those hard to reach areas, especially the corners, use an old toothbrush to clean your oven. Soak the bristles with your oven cleaner or use baking soda and scrub vigorously. 

Quick trick? Use a spray bottle filled with clean, warm water to spray into the corners when you're rinsing them of cleaning product. 

Wiping the inside of an oven door wearing rubber gloves

(Image credit: Getty)

9. How to clean your oven's stove top

Baking soda and vinegar will get burnt-on stains off your stovetop, too. Simply sprinkle the baking soda over the stove, then spritz with vinegar. Let this soak in for at least 30 minutes before scrubbing, ensuring the soft sponge you use won't scratch the surface. 

Quick trick? Wipe up spills as they happen. Yeah, you knew we'd say that...

10. Polish the oven's glass door

For the finishing touch you’ll want your glass door to be gleaming. First remove any stuck on food using a glass scraper or scouring pad. To stop puddles on your kitchen floor, place an old towel under the gap between the oven and where the door opens. Now remove all grease with hot water and dish soap or your oven cleaner. Wipe the glass door dry with paper towels removing all cleaning product residue. Never take your door apart. 

Cleaning stainless steel? Follow our guide on how to clean stainless steel for gleaming results for all your kitchen appliances. 

11. How to clean an oven with lemon and baking soda

For this two-step oven cleaning method, you will need baking soda and either two large fresh lemons or a bag of powdered citric acid. 

Step 1: 

Sprinkle the baking soda liberally all over and inside the oven. Add a little bit of water and, while wearing protective gloves, scrub vigorously with a scrubber. Let sit for five to 10 minutes.

Step 2: 

Squeeze the fresh lemons into a large mixing bowl or bucket of warm water. If using citric acid, dissolve about a half a cup of the powder in the water. Start washing off the baking soda with a cloth or old towel. When all the buildup is gone, go over with the lemon water again – this will leave a fresh scent and give that sparkling, streak-free finish.  

How to keep your oven clean (and cut down on elbow grease)

  • Line the base of your oven with foil or an oven sheet before you start cooking. You’ll never need to clean the bottom of the over again!
  • Roast meat and fish in cooking bags or a roasting pan with a lid to stop fat spitting around inside the oven.
  • Always fully remove trays when inspecting food halfway through cook time, to prevent any grease splashing off the side.
  • Leave baking soda on top of stubborn stains overnight to remove.
  • After cooking, put a heat resistant bowl of water inside the oven for 20 minutes on a high temperature. This loosens grease so you can wipe the surfaces easily with paper towels or a wet cloth afterwards.

Ditching the cleaning to buy a new oven?

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Thinking big? Love the farmhouse look? Want a family-sized oven? A range cooker is a fail-safe investment.

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Kaitlin Madden
Kaitlin Madden

Kaitlin Madden Armon is a writer and editor covering all things home. In addition to Real Homes, she's written for Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living, Refinery29, Modern Luxury Interiors, Wayfair, The Design Network, and lots more. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons, and black lab.