“Hi Norma – I REALLY need to clean my oven so my Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t taste like everything else I’ve made in it of late. It’s seven years old and not self-cleaning. I’ve avoided doing it because I don’t want to set-off a cloud of noxious chemicals in my kitchen for a whole day. Is there a non-toxic way to clean a non-self cleaning oven? Thanks so much!” – WYSK Reader Nina

NV: Hi Nina! What… you don’t want your Thanksgiving turkey to be infused with baked-on grease flavor and every other thing you’ve made for the past umpteen weeks? Great question that I’m sure many of us can relate to!

The advantages of traditional oven cleaners are power and speed. God we love to get cleaning over with quickly! But for many of us, the disadvantages outweigh the good, namely, corrosive chemicals and caustic fumes. When going a natural and safe route, we have to provide the power. (Got elbow grease?) But like I’ll soon show you, we can work smarter, not harder. As for the speed, no lighting fast fix here, although time will work on your side – so have patience.


How To Clean A Dirty Oven

Soak The Grates

  • Remove all of the grates.
  • Fill a utility tub or bathtub with HOT water and a non-toxic cleaner like Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner. Let them soak, the longer the better – over night if you can. (Careful not to scratch your tub!)
  • Remove them and scrub off residue with a heavy duty scrubbing pad or fine steel wool.
  • For extra scrubbing make a paste made from baking soda and lemon juice and have at it.

Simple GreenGive Your Oven A Steam Bath

  • Remove the grates and wipe or vacuum out any loose debris.
  • Put back a grate on the bottom rack and place a large metal baking dish filled with water and about 1/2 cup of white vinegar.
  • Heat at 350° and let the water bubble, steam, and do its thing.
  • Turn off the oven, then carefully spray the inner surfaces with a water/vinegar solution (don’t burn yourself!).
  • Close the door and let it stand at least 30 minutes.
  • Once cooled enough to work, wipe it down. If stubborn spots persist, scrub with a paste of baking soda and lemon or vinegar.
  • If you want to get fancy, try Simple Green Heavy Duty BBQ and Grill Cleaner – it’s recommended for use in ovens too.

Bonus Info & Tips

  • The sooner a spill is cleaned, the easier it is to get rid of.
  • Put foil or a cookie sheet under stuff that can bubble over—prevention is the best remedy.
  • Self-cleaning ovens that use pyrolytic cleaning (heat) create a lot of smoke and odor. It’s also a feature notorious for malfunctioning. I personally never use it.
  • Steam cleaning ovens are a newer oven feature that clean in less time with no smoke and odor but are not quite as effective as pyrolytic ones.
  • Regarding microwave ovens, don’t use any cleaners inside the unit. Bring a cup of water to boil in it, then wipe it down.

In a nutshell, hot water, steam, a few natural ingredients and soak time can make your stinky ole oven fresh as a daisy… which makes me wanna go take a bath.

Norma sig


Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.

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