Friday, January 09, 2009

An Asthmatic's Guide to Natural Oven Cleaning, and No, It Didn't Take All Night

We've done the carpet, darlings, and I've shared a bit of my wisdom for natural cleaning. Now it's time to move on to the hard stuff. If you have a self-cleaning oven, this post isn't for you.

I admit to you that before tonight, I've never cleaned the oven in this apartment. I've lived here for 8 1/2 years. I cleaned the oven at the last apartment I lived in using Easy-Off or some other foul cleaner. And honestly? Don't do it. Don't use those chemicals. They're vile and they stink and you'll get light-headed and sick from them even if you don't have asthma. And as I found out then, I'd rather have a dirty oven for 8 years than brave a chemical oven cleaner again. My lungs just plain can't take it.

So tonight, newly inspired by Kim & Aggie, I decided to look online for a natural oven-cleaning method. I went to a couple sites and some form of baking soda and vinegar was indicated. I made this up as I went keeping in mind what I know works for cleaning. Here's what I did; it got the oven relatively clean. It didn't get off some kind of burnt-into-the-enamel stain that probably got there the first time I cooked. Five solid minutes of scratching with steel wool didn't even mark it. But overall, it did an awfully darn good job of cleaning it up.

Time: about 20 min.

You'll need: a broom and dustpan, white vinegar, baking soda, dish washing liquid, tinfoil, a plastic dish for mixing, a tablespoon measure, a nylon scrubber, and steel wool (if you're so inclined). And some paper towels.


To begin, slide out your oven drawer and put it away from where you'll be working. You might want to put a flattened trash bag or newspapers underneath the door so that if crumbs fall out, they won't get in the drawer or on the floor. Get the pets and kids out of the room just for safety's sake - it is an electric appliance, after all, and stoves are very top-heavy. Make sure the thing is off, cool, and unplug it if you can (once the drawer is out it's not actually very heavy to move a stove). Otherwise work very carefully.

Next, you're going to need to clear out all the bits of burnt food that are hibernating in the bottom. (There was a black - no exaggeration - black tortilla chip in the bottom of my oven!) Fold a big piece of tinfoil in half and crumple it in a ball. Use it to scratch away at all the burnt food, which will shred up nicely. Sweep it into the dustpan with the broom. Your oven will look more or less like this:


Now, measure out 7 T of baking soda and three drops of dish liquid into your container:

add the vinegar

And add 3 or 4 T of vinegar. You're looking to make a paste, so add accordingly.

This mixture will foam at first - baking soda and vinegar is the original scrubbing bubbles duo. That's just carbon dioxide gas being released, and won't hurt you or your lungs.

Stir into a fairly goopy paste, and then smear it on the bottom of the oven (you can also do the sides and back but I didn't need to):


Take your nylon scrubber or another ball of tinfoil and go to work. You're looking to scratch up any burnt-on food, and you'll be able to easily tell when you've hit enamel. Don't be afraid to scrub. The enamel can take it. Keep your knees bent and the small of your back straight while you do this.

Next, I dribbled a bit more vinegar onto the mix wherever it was too dry and pasty, and kept scrubbing. This is where you start to see a vile brown liquid full of stuff that was once coating your oven. Ick!


(The crumbs on the bottom of the door came off the tinfoil, which is why I decided to add more vinegar.)

Use paper towels to wipe up the mess and check yourself - is it still dirty? Keep working with the foil or scrubber, or switch to steel wool.

Then you'll use wet paper towels to get all the residue up. It will take a few swipes, but just keep going. And pretty soon, your oven will look like this:


Which is not half bad for no chemicals, at all! I'm very pleased with it.

Now, honestly: If your husband wants to get you a self-cleaning oven sometime for your birthday, anniversary, or Valentine's Day, TAKE IT. TAKE IT AND DO NOT COMPLAIN. Think of all the years you'll save 20 minutes of elbow-grease. Think of being an old lady and trying to stoop and scrub. Think of how much time your beloved will save you from working.

And take the dang thing. It *is* romantic - flowers die, but a good oven will last 20 years. 20 years of no oven-cleaning. That is my idea of romance. :o)


Blogger Beverly said...

Thanks again for another helpful post. Since we got the little dog I've been afraid to clean the oven...I can't put her outside unsupervised, and I'm afraid of what the chemicals would do to her. You rock the tips!

8:38 PM  
Blogger KathyMarie said...

Excellent how-to! Thanks for the illustrated tip! I clean counters with vinegar (and baking soda, if they need it), but haven't yet tackled my oven.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Dandy said...

I'm going to try that... it's gotta be way better than breathing al those fumes from the store bought stuff!

10:21 AM  
Blogger KnittySue said...

Thanks so much ...I don't clean the oven due to having a hard time breathing when I use the oven cleaners. Mine isn't too bad right now but I'll give this a try before it's too bad. lungs thank you.

4:43 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I'm gonna try this. I hate Easy Off. It smells disgusting.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

That looks amazing. I'm all for natural cleaners.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous hippy chick said...

My way which cleaned a very grubby oven, which also tackled that built on enamel gunk was - make up a baking soda and water paste, apply this to the oven with a sponge. Warm up oven, turn off oven at wall switch. Spray straight white vinegar onto soda areas, add planty to do it's job. Let this work it's magic for half an hour, sizzling and fizzing away. Wipe all surfaces clean with a clean sponge, may require a metal scrub on bottom and glass door, but otherwise really efficient cleaning.

5:59 AM  
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3:34 AM  
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5:30 AM  
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