Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How to Clean your Stovetop and Oven, the Simple, Safe, Frugal Way

August 25th, 2009 · 47 Comments · Cleaning, Frugality, What to Buy

My mother, bless her heart, has always been an excellent homemaker and had all sorts of nifty little tricks.  One of her sayings was always that you weren’t finished baking until you had cleaned up, and the dishes weren’t done until you had wiped down the counters and the stove.

My college roommates weren’t as lucky as I was to have grown up with such habits.  They were second nature to me but foreign practices to the poor roommates.  My husband-to-be benefited from listening to me complain about my roommates and the dirty kitchen, because he knew what to avoid doing so he didn’t push my buttons when we finally shared a kitchen! He’s always been a dear about cleaning the stovetop when he does the dishes, even though it does extend the time in the kitchen before evening leisure.

How to Clean an Oven, Naturally

bakingsoda

I’ve never used oven cleaner in my life
.  I’m a little afraid of it; it seems like it’s a pretty toxic substance.  People who have self-cleaning ovens say it’s the greatest, and I guess that just uses high heat to knock out the gunk, but it still uses energy and isn’t something I would want to do regularly. Since we’re focusing on conserving energy in the kitchen this week, let’s explore an alternative that just takes a little human fuel instead of fossil fuel. (It’s worth a click over here to my comprehensive list of natural, homemade cleaners, too.)

Here’s what I do when I have a spill in the oven:

  • Immediately, while it’s still warm, and preferably before it’s baked on (as soon as you smell the problem, even if your food isn’t done yet), sprinkle a generous layer of salt on the oven floor. I keep plain old cheap salt around just for this, even though I use real salt in cooking/baking nowadays.
  • If you can, before the oven cools down all the way, get the oven mitts on (or just be really careful!) and reach in with a rag and scrub as hard as you can. No, this isn’t very scientific or tricky, but it works to get the bulk of the gunk out.
  • Later, when you can take the oven racks out and really get in there, use more salt, baking soda, maybe vinegar and water spray to scrub out the remainder. You might not get every last spot out, but I guarantee you won’t have a burning smell in your kitchen the next time you turn the oven on. (If you have my 3 favorite natural cleaning bottles under your kitchen sink ready to go, this step is easy.)
  • As an added bonus, the last step can be a real marriage builder if you put on your “skinny jeans” and call your husband to the kitchen saying, “Dear, I made a real mess in the stove and I have something I think you need to see.” Then reach waaayyyy back in the oven and clean it well until he figures out what you mean! ;)
  • If you have serious baked-on nastiness, try making a paste of baking soda and water and spreading it on the problem areas.  Wait at least 30 minutes before tackling with a plastic scraper, like the kind you’d use to wash a non-stick pan or baking stone.  (I had help from Miss Thrifty for that tip.)
  • Orange-based cleaners are also pretty helpful in getting stains off that baking soda and salt alone can’t handle. They are often more natural, but I can’t vouch for the ingredients of any particular brand.

Of course, the best way to keep a clean oven is to avoid spills in the first place, but when a baking potato without foil explodes (yes, this has really happened to me – twice!) you just have to deal with what you’re given!


To try to avoid the spills:pieinoven

  • Don’t cover the entire bottom of the oven with aluminum foil. It hinders the heat moving around the oven.
  • Do put a cookie sheet on the shelf under or immediately under something (like a very-full pie) that you think might try to sabotage your beautiful oven by spilling over.
  • Be wise about the size of casserole dishes you choose for juicy main dishes.
  • Poke all your potatoes if you bake them without foil.
    photo source

If you’re tempted to use a nasty, toxic oven cleaner, just remember – your spill will all bake off eventually, and it doesn’t hurt anything or even smell THAT bad to have something in the bottom of the oven.

Keeping a Clean Stovetop

safe natural ways to clean your stovetop

Photo source

So many people have dried on, cooked on food and drippings under their burners, and it’s definitely one of those problems that snowballs as you allow it to go unaddressed. When we keep up on the simple habit of wiping everything down after each meal, our stovetop stays fairly (very?) clean. A friend visiting my mother, in fact, commented on how great her cooking surface looked. My mom told her that it’s not really that difficult. This is all you need to do:

  1. Wipe everything down with your washcloth and soapy water when you do the dishes.
  2. Take the burners apart and get under them (gas or electric!) whenever you drip or let a pot overflow (for me, usually that’s every meal!).
  3. When something is cooked on or stained, use baking soda as an abrasive. I keep some in an old Parmesan cheese shaker under the sink for easy access. Just shake on and scrub with the wet cloth. It might take a little elbow grease, but baking soda won’t scratch your surfaces or harm your family with icky chemicals. Plus, it’s super cheap.
  4. If you have removable burners or drip trays, don’t be afraid to soak them in your dishwater. Adding a little baking soda can help release tough, baked on food. Mine go right in the dishwasher when I need a few extra items to make a full load.

What about you?  What’s the worst thing that ever made a mess in your oven?  Do you have other tips to get the gunk off?

Other posts you may enjoy:

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Definitely check out the Natural Housecleaning Carnival at Passionate Homemaking!

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47 Comments so far ↓

  • Mary Przybyla

    I dumped salt on a smoking overflow in the oven and it stopped the burning/smoking. I forgot about the salted mess before using the oven again and by the time I checked to make sure my oven was empty, I let it go with no problems. After repeated oven uses, the debris was still there, but flakier and ready to scoop up. The remaining stuff wiped up easily. Lazy worked for me! (I don’t store things in my oven and often don’t check if it’s empty before turning it on even though I know it’s a good practice. )

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    I love when lazy works! :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Linda Reply:

    The twice exploding potato in the oven baking thing: did you pierce the potato with a fork before baking? That is supposed to let the steam out a bit so that kind of thing doesn’t happen. :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • meatlessmama

    Great post, I use baking soda and lemon juice. Works great, non-toxic and smells wonderful!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lauren

    Thanks for the tips! I, like you, don’t want to resort to oven cleaner – something that smells that badly cannot be good to breathe in.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Shannon

    ROFLMBO!!
    I’ll have to come back and read the rest of your post later. After reading the part about the skinny jeans, I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.

    So I guess I’ll need to consult my NFP chart to see when it’s ok to clean my oven!

    Thanks Katie! I needed that, I’m gonna be laughing about that all day ;)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Tee hee…I’m so glad somebody out there shares my sense of humor! :) I didn’t know if talking about behinds in tight jeans would go over well, you know? Fabulous. Glad to make your day, my dear!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sarah @ Mum In Bloom Reply:

    Yup, I can’t stop laughing either. I actually had to read it twice to get it ;o)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Stefani Reply:

    Humor? I thought that was part of the instructions. I gave it a try, and it definitely worked. My advice is to wait for the added help until you’re nearly done cleaning the oven ;)
    My husband said, “Best oven cleaning instructions. Ever.”

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Connie

    Oh, my momma was the same way about the kitchen sink, counters and stove top. You weren’t finished with the dishes until all those things were done! It did pose a small problem for me at college. I think my roommates thought I was either a super neat freak or that they were total slobs. It was really neither. I was just the way I was raised to clean the kitchen!
    Many blessings!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Natural Housecleaning Carnival – Passionate Homemaking

    [...] Homemade “Clorox” Wipes (Emily) 2. Washing Windows (Amy) 3. How To Clean Your Stovetop & Oven the Simple, Safe & Frugal Way (Katie) 4. Elbow Grease: The Most Natural Cleaner of All (Meghan) 5. Frugal & Natural Laundry [...]

  • Stacey Kirasic

    Just recently discovered you Katie & am enjoying reading through your posts.
    Love the skinny jeans tip, this might make cleaning the oven much more enjoyable!
    Have you any tips for the wire racks? Mine are very much in need of attention.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Stacey: First, I would try the same baking soda paste and wait/elbow grease that I’d use on the walls. Then, if that didn’t make enough impact, since the racks can come out, you could soak them in your bathtub with baking soda infused water. I’d probably use steel wool just like I would on a tough pot. I hope that helps! Let me know if you have success. Glad you found items of interest here at KS. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Ooh, I wanted to post this article that includes a recommendation on using ammonia to clean the oven. Just let it sit!

    NOW, I’m going to get the toddler up. :>)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Lenetta,
    Yes, cheap and easy…but ammonia has some pretty noxious fumes. I wonder if that’s the active ingredient in oven cleaner anyway? Sorry to burst your bubble!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Ellen Reply:

    Thanks again, Katie…Just found you yesterday and have already found several useful tips. I started early yesterday morning cleaning our oven…fans going full blast,front door open,door to garage open…all due to the “fume free” oven cleaner!!….Now the only thing left is the door..which I’ll clean with baking soda,salt,and vinegar….AFTER I put the half used can of oven cleaner in the trash(actually a box we have for toxic chemical disposal).
    God Bless
    Ellen

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lucy

    Thanks for the advice with cleaning the fresh spills but, what happens if you don’t know those tips at the time of the spill, allowed the oil spill to sink in when cooling and now, nothing seems to be cleaning or removing the oil stain??!!

    Made yorkshire puddings which, I must have overfilled as oil spilled out on the bottom of the oven. Was smoked out so thankgoodness rest of dinner was ready so just dumped the yorkshires and ate (too much…..couldn’t handle cleaning oven after such a big meal).

    Now though, the oil seems to have settled into the metal/material and, even though i’ve cleaned it to the point that no smudge is coming off when wiped, I’ve dismantled the oven etc, everytime oven is put on, it’s smoking within 5 minutes.

    Please advice if you can as really don’t want to be telling my partner we need to buy a new oven!

    Thank u

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Lucy,
    This sounds like a toughie! I haven’t had experience with anything like this, but I would try the salt still, and maybe the self-cleaning oven thing (super high heat until the smoking is gone). Sometimes manual extraction works – with a plastic scraper tool. Hope something other than “new oven” works for you!
    Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Liza Jane Reply:

    Try very hot water and dish soap. I like Dawn. Made to deal with grease.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rita @ Creatively Domestic

    What great tips! I came through Tip Junkie, and I just found the wonders of baking soda to clean my smooth top stove recently, but putting it in a shaker is a great idea.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tonniece

    LOL………. LOVE the “Skinny Jeans” tip. So does the hubster. Thanks for the chuckle.

    Oh and as for the “other” great tips, I too have a mom that believed in the power of baking soda, vinagar, and salt. They were a household staple then and to this day (thank goodness for moms).

    Great post, thanks for shareing

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Young Wife

    Hello! I found you through Tip Junkie. Great advice. My oven is filthy!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mel

    A layer of baking soda on a wet sponge spread on the inside of your fireplaces glass doors works wonders as well. Just spread it on wait 10-20 minutes and wipe off. Of course you would do this when the glass is cold, not while fireplace is in use… Sit back, and enjoy.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Hannah

    HOW do I clean behind the turners (I don’t know what you call
    them — the things that adjust the flames on the stovetop) and behind
    the oven door handles? I’ve tried a toothbrush, but there’s not enough
    room to get it in there!! What fits in there — it’s like 1/4 of an
    inch. How do I get to the grease behind them?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Hannah,
    My turners come off, so that helps a lot! I use a wooden skewer (like for kebobs) to get into some tough spots doing dishes – maybe that would help. Good luck! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Hannah

    Thanks Katie!! Great idea! Maybe I’ll wrap them in some cotton soaked with cleaner, too. Never thought of this.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lenetta @ Nettacow

    I have been realizing how badly my oven needs cleaning, so I linked to this on my weekly roundup hopefully as motivation. :>)

    There was also an incident with a casserole in a foil-lined pan and the hook that acts as the lock for my self cleaning oven. You know how things go in slow motion sometimes? The hook grabbed the foil as I attempted to put the pan in the oven. It actually held the casserole vertically for a few seconds while I frantically tried to figure out what to do. It then fell onto my hot oven door – food side down, of course. Sigh…
    .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..Link Roundup – Will The Sun Ever Shine Again? Edition =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Ohhhhhhhh, painful episode! Gaaaahhhhh!

    [Reply to this comment]

    shalom Reply:

    I have a better use for that oven door hook than to attach foil to it :)
    Sometimes when making buttermilk, etc I need a little more warmth than room temp (in cooler weather), so I put the container in the oven and turn the oven light on. However, DH is blind & rather than expecting him to remember I have something in the oven I lock the door. It prevents the oven from being turned on. It would also keep kids out of the oven.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Expat Mom

    My kids always stick stuff in the cold oven, so I HAVE to check! Once I melted a plastic magnetic letter that my youngest had stuck in the very back.
    .-= Expat Mom´s last blog ..Excuse Me While I Freak Out a Little =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rebecca

    The only time our oven gets bad is when bacon fats manages to escape the foil.

    Our stovetop, on the other hand, gets bad because I only started learning to cook a few years ago and still do some very stupid things. Two examples that come to mind… the time that I turned on the wrong burner and melted the bottoms of a couple of plastic appliances onto our glass stovetop. I learned from that to store nothing on the stove, even if I’m not using the entire stove. =P
    The other is one we are still struggling with. I was making marshmallows the other day, wasn’t paying attention, and added my bloom to my base while it was still on the heat. It exploded in foam, bubbles and smoke. The marshmallows ended up fine, but we still haven’t managed to get that layer of burnt gunk off of that burner. We’ve used vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, olive oil, a razor blade, and a spoon. If I could find the stovetop cleaner I’d try that, but until then we will just keep working on it. For now cover it with a baking soda paste, let sit, and scrape it with a spoon to keep from scratching the surface. Awful. :(

    [Reply to this comment]

    Donette Reply:

    I helped my Grandma get a spill of burned on homemade jam off her glass cooktop. We put a rag over the spill. Got some water boiling and poured it over the rag. The rag helps the hot water to sit right on the spill. Ring out the rag and repeat the process every hour with new boiling water. It took a few times but really worked.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Cindy B

    If you have stainless steel appliances, cooking oil is a great ‘cleaner’ for the exterior. I actually clean the appliance first with a soapy dish cloth, then after it’s dry (or I dry it with a towel), just put some oil on a lint-free cloth (or, okay, so most the time I use a paper towel – not very green, I confess…) and rub it in well. It may take an application or two, but it’s an easy way to make your appliances shine with something already in your kitchen. I typically use olive oil, but now I have a pretty decent size bottle of canola oil that I need to use since finding out how bad it is for us, and have been using that ;-). If you have an excess of coconut oil, I’m sure that works great too.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rebecca

    If you miss the window when your oven is still warm, you can put a cut lemon into a baking dish and bake it for a while… the lemon oil will get into the air and help make it easier to clean.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Tuesday Twister – Week of 2/23/09 – Beets, Beans, and Arugula Pesto =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Carolina

    Thanks for the tips , I have a self cleaning oven, but like you I am very interesting in an non toxic solution, without wasting electricity, plus I think it is a great way to work out, given our nowadays “static state and motion by automation society” .
    Will follow more homemaking tips via fb.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lindz

    Very helpful article. I mixed baking soda, salt, and vinegar together, let sit, and then scraped off years of gunk w/ a plastic spatula. Thanks again for the help!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lauren

    I am being inspired to do something about the appalling state of my (second hand) oven from these comments – I too have been avoiding oven cleaner.
    But since you asked, I will say that the first time I ever cooked a duck – and the living LAST time I will ever do it without a cover, crispy skin or no! – oven cleaner, open windows (in February) and washing of all surfaces and soft furnishings in the kitchen (thank heavens for closed-off cooking areas sometimes) was not enough to get rid of the smell of burning fat. It returned for weeks every time I warmed up the oven. It STILL comes back if I use the convection fan, since the fat splattered in the fan cover where I can’t get at it.
    Do not try this at home, folks.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah H

    You could also try a teeny, stiff paintbrush, or just baking soda on a wet washcloth, hold the edge taut and slide it in there.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sarah H Reply:

    That was supposed to be for Hannah’s comment.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah H

    Our oven racks are incredibly unstable…you pull them out and they tip (REALLY bad design). My husband was pulling out a pizza and the rack tipped backwards…and the pizza slid cheese side down onto the element. We managed to get it off the element before it caught fire (and I scraped the toppings off the bottom of the oven and we ate them…well, I did. Hubby was too busy feeling crappy about destroying the pizza), but to this day that stuff is on the bottom of the oven. I’ll have to try some of your tips: lemon oil and baking soda, my usual miracle workers, didn’t touch it. At all.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • kiera

    hi just wondering if anyone has some handy tips in how to get the smell of toxic plastic out of my oven i was sorin a plastic dish n there and my son turned on my oven and i have cleaed nceaned it dut it still smells ever so bad :( and i cant afford to replace it but can cook n it either with the smell

    [Reply to this comment]

    Shauna Reply:

    Not sure if it will help, but cider vinegar is usually good for eliminating odors… maybe spray into the cold oven and bake for a bit? It’s worth a try…

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Clean up a Dirty Oven with a few of these Tips | Citygreen at Northshore

    [...] food that has been spilled inside the oven, use a little salt and water combo. Sprinkle coarse salt on the bottom of the oven and use a little [...]

  • Mary

    I made Italian dressing chicken and potatoes and was instructed to use aluminum foil over my chicken….. Needless to say I have a HUGE Italian dressing spill (now baked in) to the bottom of my oven…. Do you think the Baking Soda/Vinegar would help this one? What steps would you take?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Ann-Maree

    I learned a slightly different method earlier this year and it works really well.
    Dare I admit I hadn’t cleaned the oven in about 5 years because I didn’t want to use the toxic cleaners & everything else seemed like too much work?
    The method is: 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a spray bottle of water. Shake well then spray all surfaces in the cold oven. Now you can turn on the oven on for 30 mins or just wait till you next use the oven. Once the oven has cooled, wipe out the oven. For my poor neglected oven several applications were required but it worked and it was easy. (And for a really lazy approach, you can leave the crap there, it’ll break down a little more each time thd oven is used). Now I just keep the spray bottle handy & spray once a fortnight or so!
    My oven racks fit in my dishwasher so I have previously cleaned them in the dishwasher (along with the greasy filter from the range hood!)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lanna

    Another trick I accidentally learned over the years is to put a large pyrex baking dish (9×13, whatever) in the oven on a rack, pour boiling water into it, close the oven door, and let it sit. The seam loosens things up all around the oven, making it easier to wipe down with a damp sponge/rag. I’m cool with using water to clean. :)

    Or I just, ahem, let the inside of the oven age. It’s got character from the apple pie spills and such, means it’s a well-used oven.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • No More Magic Erasers or Scrubbing Frustrations

    […] baking soda with wet cloth to turn your stovetop from embarrassing back to company-ready. More on cleaning your oven naturally when things don’t go as planned in […]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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