The Mystery of When to Use the "Self-Clean" Setting on Your Oven is Over!

Image via: www.istockphoto.com com For the housekeeper, it sounds like a dream come true: A self-cleaning oven. This feature, which has been around since the early 1960s for gas and electric ovens, can be difficult to understand and even spark debate when put into practice. As there will

Self-Cleaning Ovens 101: If and When to Use The Cleaning Feature

Image via: www.istockphoto.com com

For the housekeeper, it sounds like a dream come true: A self-cleaning oven. This feature, which has been around since the early 1960s for gas and electric ovens, can be difficult to understand and even spark debate when put into practice. As there will always be some manual cleaning involved, the term is also somewhat misleading. In addition, the feature is not meant to supplant actual cleaning efforts.

To help you decide if this time-saving feature is right for you, we've laid out the pros and cons, from the perspective of both those who love it and those who have abandoned it.

Explain the mechanics of a self-cleaning oven.

Self-Cleaning Ovens 101: If and When to Use The Cleaning Feature

Image source: iStockPhoto com

Self-cleaning ovens release (and, in the case of high-heat ovens, burn up) baked-on food residue by flooding the oven with either high heat or steam. This eliminates the need for expensive, chemical-laden commercial cleaners and the hassle of getting down on hands and knees to scrub stubborn dirt and grime. The oven's smooth, heat-resistant enamel coating can be easily cleaned by starting a self-clean cycle and letting it run its course. Afterward, simply wipe away any remaining debris with a damp rag.

  • Self-cleaning cycles are typically started in high-heat models by closing the door and selecting a "self-clean" mode. Modern ovens typically have a two- to six-hour cycle where the door locks and the oven heats to between 800 and 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, thereby incinerating any leftover food. When the timer goes off and the oven has cooled down, the door will open by itself.
  • Pouring about a cup of distilled water onto the oven floor, closing the door, and selecting the "steam clean" setting will typically start the self-clean cycle of a steam-based model. For the duration of the cycle—anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour—the oven door is propped open and the temperature inside the oven rises to about 250 degrees Fahrenheit, creating steam that helps loosen and soften any leftover food.

Steam is no match for high heat when cleaning off stubborn dirt.

Food doesn't tend to stick to the walls or ceiling of high-temperature self-cleaning ovens because the heat is distributed uniformly throughout the cooking chamber. While steam-based self-clean cycles are effective at removing food debris from the oven floor and lower sidewalls, the steam tends to condense at the bottom of the oven (where the water is poured), so you may still need to scrub the ceiling and upper sidewalls by hand.

Self Cleaning Oven Beware of fumes

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Careful, there might be fumes and the oven might break.

Both high-heat and steam self-cleaning ovens, during the cleaning cycle, can release harmful byproducts such as carbon monoxide from the oven vent. Due to the high operating temperature, high-heat models often produce more of the harmful exhaust gases. These odors come from both the food particles and the enamel coating on the oven's interior. Toxic fumes from the stove can be irritating to humans and animals alike, especially those with respiratory issues.

A thermal fuse or heating element can be shortened or burned out by an overheated oven. DIY repairs for common problems like blown fuses or heating elements shouldn't cost more than $30 in parts the first time around, but constant maintenance can add up.

In addition to the cost of replacement parts, the self-clean function adds an additional cost:

Keeping the oven at its highest setting for an extended period of time uses a lot of energy (and money). While a single high-heat self-clean cycle can use up to 8 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy, or about as much as a traditional oven would in a month's time, a steam self-clean cycle typically uses less than 3 kWh.

Preparation is the key to success.

If you decide to give the self-clean function a try, you can take precautions to lessen the likelihood of any problems occurring during the cleaning cycle. Please observe these precautions for your own safety:

  • Put in a carbon monoxide detector to keep an eye out for potentially deadly vapors when cooking.
  • It's important to clear the oven of any metal shards or pans before starting the self-cleaning cycle. Debris on charred metal grates can catch fire in the high heat of the self-clean cycle, and melted foil can warp the oven's interior lining.
  • It is recommended that you clear the area of any obvious debris before using the feature, as stated by Mr. Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance is a franchised appliance service operating all over the United States. Pick up large pieces of food and rinse the area with water to remove crumbs and clean up spills.
  • Make sure the vent in the oven, either above or below the door, or behind the handle, is exposed before starting the self-clean cycle. To ensure that any lingering odors or gases are vented outside, use the range hood's exhaust fan if your stove has an oven. Ventilate the room by opening windows if you don't have a range hood.
  • Only use the self-cleaning function if the oven is extremely dirty. Actually, Shimek suggests using this function once a year at most. It's best to clean the oven before or after a big event where you'll need it, like the holidays or a family gathering, so that a breakdown won't ruin your plans.
Self Cleaning Oven Instructions

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Cleaning Your Own Oven: Detailed Step-by-Step Guide

Shimek recommends checking the oven's manual before attempting a self-cleaning cycle. You should "always refer to and follow the directions in your appliance's owner's manual," he advises. You can probably find a digital copy online if you can't find your old one.

  • Proceed with the above-mentioned preparations.
  • Approximately one cup of distilled water should be poured onto the oven floor if you have a steam oven.
  • When cleaning a high-temperature oven, if the door doesn't automatically close as part of the cleaning process, close and lock the door.
  • If your oven's self-cleaning cycle is adjustable, you should set it for the least amount of time possible to avoid overheating (which can cause blown fuses and other mechanical issues) and to conserve energy. You may need to choose a longer cleaning period, however, if your oven is particularly dirty.
  • If you are using a high-temperature cleaning oven, be patient and let it cool down completely; this can take several hours. A faster rate of cooling can be expected after a cleaning cycle in a steam-cleaned oven.
  • Depending on the model, some ovens will unlock on their own once the cleaning process is done and the oven has cooled down. If not, you'll have to manually unlock it.
  • You can either use a rag or a vacuum to remove the crumbs from the oven's floor after you've opened the door.

Stick to a regular schedule of manual cleaning.

While convenient, the self-clean function was not intended to be used in place of regular maintenance. After using the oven, dampen a rag with water and use it to wipe down the inside of the door glass, the oven walls, the oven floor, and the oven ceiling to remove any traces of food or liquid.

You should clean your self-cleaning oven once a month just like a regular oven, with safe, natural cleaning products. Shimek suggests a solution of "water, white vinegar, and baking soda in equal parts."

Abrasive cleaning tools (e.g. g Avoid using abrasive (e.g., steel wool) or corrosive (e.g., chemical) cleaners on self-cleaning oven surfaces, as these can scratch the

Self Cleaning Oven FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to cleaning, how effective are self-cleaning ovens?

They do Most gunk in an oven can be burned off or steamed away with these methods. However, there is a trade-off to cleaning: the oven's inner workings may break down afterward, and the cleaning process may produce irritating fumes.

Is it risky to stay home while the oven is being cleaned?

It's best to spend some time outside while the oven is cleaning to avoid exposing yourself or your pets to potentially irritating fumes.

How do I set the self-cleaning function on my oven?

Take out the trays, the heavy items, and the aluminum foil scraps from the oven. One cup of distilled water should be poured onto the floor of the oven if steam cleaning is to be performed. Close the door and turn on the self-cleaning feature if you're using a heat-clean oven. Wait for the oven to cool before wiping it down or vacuuming out any leftover debris.

In what time frame does a self-cleaning oven operate?

Though ovens have a wide range of cleaning times, most take between 30 minutes and 6 hours. Some ovens allow you to set the cleaning time, while others do not.

Concluding Remarks

While it's tempting to jump at the chance to have a spotless oven at the push of a button, there are some drawbacks to think about first. People with respiratory issues may find the fumes irritating, and the high temperatures generated by the self-cleaning cycle may cause oven components to malfunction. Using the self-cleaning function requires little more than some initial setup and final tidying up.

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