You guys know how when you’re late with your tax return, you get fined, right?
And you know how if you never, ever do taxes, you get thrown in jail?
Well, if the government required us to clean our ovens once a year, too, I wouldn’t just owe fees. I’d be in prison. For life.
I’m 36 years old. Would you like to know how many times I’ve cleaned an oven? Never.
One of the main reasons is that before I became the crunchy mess I am today, I thought there was no other way to clean an oven but with chemical-laden, noxious, toxic store-bought oven cleaner. And the thought of filling the place I cooked with chemicals like that just grossed me out. More than a slightly smoky oven, apparently.
In my life I’ve been guilty of the following:
- Paying people, several times, to clean my oven when I moved out of a place
- Opening windows and hoping that eventually I’d just burn off whatever was stuck to the bottom of the oven
- Pretending my cookies didn’t taste like charred cheese
- Taking advantage of the fact that an apartment complex would rather refund a deposit than make a stink about a dirty oven
- Eating takeout for a year straight, so I didn’t dirty an oven
These are my sins. Judge me lightly, please.
I can’t get out of it this time, though. How crunchy would that be? Seeings as I’m in my final throes of moving/cleaning agony, I tackled the oven today using a slightly modified version of recipe #3 from Tipnut.com.
Just to be clear, before I tell you what and how I did it, there are a lot of things going against me at the moment. First, I’ve never cleaned an oven before. Secondly, this oven wasn’t sparkling clean when we moved in. Third, it’s exponentially dirtier now than it was two years ago. And lastly, the racks won’t pull out.
Explain this to me. Why won’t my racks pull out? They’ve been stuck since I moved in, and I’ve pulled and pulled several times, lifting and jamming and tilting and smushing. But they won’t pull out.
Look, and tell me if you can figure out what law of physics I need to break to get them out:
There are those little grooves, but they don’t dip in and under them. They just get stuck and won’t move.
So, anyway. Racks are still in there, and I have to clean around, under, and over them. No biggie.
Nontoxic Homemade Oven Cleaner
When you’re going to clean your oven, and you have a half-inch layer of charred junk on the bottom, it’s best to take a look, first, at what you’re dealing with.
I grabbed a flashlight and went in (with a rope tied around my waist and to the cabinet behind me, so I didn’t get lost).
I found pepperoni.
This is a no-no, using a paint scraper on your oven, but with a thick layer of burned stuff, I felt safe using one to lift up the pepperoni. I can assure you, no oven bottoms were harmed in the making of this picture.
After the pepperoni was retrieved and given proper burial in a trash bag, I put together my cleaning solution.
Homemade Oven Cleaner Recipe
- 1 Tbsp borax
- 1/2 c. vinegar
- 1/8 c. dish soap
- 1 c. boiling water
Combine everything in a spray bottle and shake well. Sprinkle the inside of your oven with baking soda. Spray a thick layer of the oven cleaner all around your oven. Thick, thick layer. Sprinkle with baking soda. Leave overnight, and scrub out in the morning with a hot, wet rag.
Because I forgot to put baking soda in the first picture of the post, it’s making a special picturesque cameo. It’s the star.
Gaze at it adoringly:
So, again, after you’ve combined everything (except the baking soda) together in your spray bottle, you go to town, spraying and spraying.
And marveling at the way the liquid turns black as soon as it touches the bottom of your oven.
Eventually, you look at the oven door and realize it’s a streaky mess, too, so you spray it on your oven door (and leave it open all night, too).
That’s as far as I’ve gotten now.
The oven in my old apartment is standing open, full of baking soda, borax, dish soap, and vinegar.
Here is what it looks like at the moment:
Will it work?
Will this be the successful experience of a lifetime?
Or will I lose everything and have to buy my landlord a new oven?
Find out tomorrow.
I’ll be posting an update on whether or not this worked, as well as the lucky winner of the Eco-Dent and Beauty Without Cruelty Pretty Mouth Giveaway.
You still have time to enter! (Depending on when you read this …) The entry time is over at 10:00 p.m. MST Wednesday, April 6th. So HURRY!
What’s Your Oven-Cleaning Routine?
How often do you clean your oven?
Have you found a crunchy way to do it?
Lemme know your secrets. Especially if this doesn’t work. I’m straight-up stressing out at the moment.
Hi there! I absolutely love your blog. The oil cleansing method is what originally brought me here, as I’m sure you’ve heard a thousand times over, and I now have your site saved in my bookmarks.
As for this DIY – (I saw someone already mention) the safety of borax is such a grey area. I read your response to that comment, and it does provide some clarity. I know that the EWG still has it as an F rating though. Would you say their site a reliable source? Genuinely asking because I’m unsure if they’re considered credible.
Wow this is an amazing article you have gone to great detail, this is defiantly something we’re are going to share with our clients. Many of them cannot deal with the cleaning of their appliances including ovens. The steps here are clear and explained well.
dear crunchy betty , today is 11-2-15 on an older post dated 4-5-11 in household i see your stove racks are stuck in oven when you posted pics of natural oven cleaners . if you still have the stove and stuck racks , i noticed that the racks are in upside down and possibly also backwards. the heavier horizontal center bar on the rack is a support for the vertical thinner bars on top of the rack so pans can slide out easily . also i noticed the rack is stuck at the back of the oven where there is a little v on the rack where it is pressing on the back side of the stove . put butter or something slippery on the side of the stove racks and tap the bottom back end of the rack upward and gently with a small hammer until loosened . hope this works madeleine
Dorothy - Licensed BBQ Cleaner
Unfortunately it’s impossible to clean these things without some serious scrubbing. But yes, products like vinegar, baking soda and borax help a lot to loosen up all the dirt and grime, which is stuck to the sides of the oven or on the grill grates. The key here is time – you need to leave the solution to work for at least half an hour, in order to get the result you need.
I put in a 9×12 glass baking dish with ammonia – straight up – no chaser, overnight. Close the oven door. I usually sleep somewhere else with this operation. Stuff wipes right off in the morning.
My motto has always been “When it’s time to clean the oven, it’s time to move.” But I’m 53 and tired of moving so I may give this consideration since I have lived here 9 years lol.
The paint scraper idea works a treat!!! thank you!!!
The Orrell Cleaning Difference
Pumice stone works great on oven racks as well as nasty baked on stuff on the oven sides and floors. Wet and scrub! Non toxic as well.
This worked pretty well for me today. Thank you.
It looks like your racks are inserted upside down.
Hey there Crunchy Betty – OEC’s Living Green newsletter linked to this article. It’s dated 2011 and you said you’d post your results the next day. Think you could write an update? I’d love to hear your results.
I think the reason your oven racks are stuck could be that they are in upside down. Someone might have jammed them in this way, and maybe that’s why. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure the side where the ‘rod’ part going in the opposite direction is not flush should be on the bottom. Hope you got them out, and also that your homemade oven cleaner worked. 🙂
“Do not run the self-cleaning cycle on ovens when birds are around. Self-cleaning ovens are lined with PTFE (Teflon) and reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit during the self-cleaning cycle and emit gasses into the air that kill birds rather quickly.”
If you’ve read “Slow Death by Rubber Duck”, you understand how dangerous teflon is.
So much for self-cleaning. My fiance and I aborted the procedure because we were choking last time I tried to run it. Trying to find something non toxic, as I suffered through Stage 4 ovarian cancer last year and beat it.
No more chemicals for me. How to convince neighbors not to use lawn chemicals?
Did it work???? It is now December 19, 2013, and I need to clean my oven tonight. Did Betty’s recipe work???
I use this recipe for cleaning ovens every time we relocate, and it works!!!!!!! Every time! I just leave the solution soaking into the oven over night and viola! CLEAN! I just have to wipe out the the dried baking soda out and debris and I’m done!
I think the racks are in there backward.
Thanks for the cleaning ideas, by the way 🙂
Im trying your oven cleaner and I found you very amusing. Lol. Im going to tie myself off and get right in there. Wish me luck !!! Lol
first of all….the oven racks. lift up from the back about an inch or so, tilt up.
Yep, they are in upside down. I looked at mine to be sure. I have an idea, tie on a good size rope on both sides of the rack so you can put on both sides instead of wedging it in worse (but I’m not sure that’s possible), put a board across the door (2×4) so as not to bend the metal and then use a crow bar to get it out. I thought about using a come along…. lol… but decided that was a little overboard. So let me know if you get them out.
I HAD a self cleaning oven until the door quit locking. So now it won’t clean. So I scraped the piled high charred food off the bottom (I bake pies so it was BAD) and will mix up the solution today and let you know how it goes.
I love the part about goggles and rope… just like going caving or spelunking.
Bird Lady USA
Ok this did NOT work. Now I am left with a mess of baking soda that I need to try and et out of the oven and still have to find a way to et grease out of oven. Grrrr. Waste of time.
I had a similar experience, though it was a lot of scrubbing and then wiping down and wiping down to get the grease and the baking soda out. This was just the baking soda and water method, though.
how much baking soda?
cleaning company London
The most important thing is that it is home made…So we can use it…Because it cannot be harmful.
Ok, I tried this today. I DID NOT leave it on overnight…it was not possible. My oven does require cleaning and I had some time today, and I want to know how much work this will be in the future so here is what I learned:
1) If your oven is not too dirty, you can get by leaving the stuff sit for 4 hours.
2) DO NOT go crazy with the baking soda! You will have to mop this stuff up later. All soda must be wet for this to work properly, or else you have to clean dry chunky soda off the walls of your oven, and you just make work for yourself. I used the whole recipe of cleaner for my oven since I was going back and trying to soak down small piles of soda.
3) A few drops of dish soap is enough; the 1/8th cup I used was too much, and it required a lot of rinsing.
4) It does not do as good a job on the back of the oven (or at least the back of my oven). I used a green scrubbie for the sides and the few black spots on the bottom, but the back of my oven has lots of splatter and i am not sure if more than 4 hours would have helped. The rest of the oven looks pretty good considering the stuff did not sit overnight.
5) I am very pleased with the results, and so very, very, happy that I was not breathing in those awful fumes today while wiping the oven out. Thank you for the recipe!!!
There are no instructions for the racks. I have read about using a rag soaked in ammonia and throwing the whole thing into a garbage bag overnight (leave this outside), but I have no ammonia, and I am not sure about that smell or its toxicity vs. oven cleaner, so I hope someone has another solution before they start to bother me and try something crazy to clean them…
Ur oven racks are in upside down that’s y they won’t come out
They are upside down..if up pry upwards enough in the center of the rack, or push down enough they should bend slightly(yet temporarily) and should come out. Albeit, they wont be coming out the right way..I found out that they could come out this way when I place two 20+ pound turkeys on the same rack for Thanksgiving one year and the both of them, along with the rack ended up in the bottom of the oven. Needless to say there was smoke from all those dripping spilled in the bottom of my brand new oven, but thanks to the hidden burner, there was no real fire. Seriously, we opened the doors and it looked like hiroshima over my house. Dinner was saved and a fabulous new way to cook turkey was adopted at my house as one of the two ended up on the bbq grill:) Anyways, as I said, they will bow under pressure and dislodge, but they may need to be hot as well. Good Luck!:)
Just came across your post and I’m going to try this on my stove top! It’s got caked on cooked on goo from years of me not cleaning it properly. Can’t wait to see if it works!
Your racks were installed upside-down! That might have something to do with why they won’t come out 🙂
One word….CitraSolv….cured ALL of my oven cleaning ills, without the overnight wait (I used this method in the past), without scrubbing (just wipe down with a damp sponge (repeat if it’s really bad), & leaves the house smelling like an orange grove. It’s all natural…got mine at Good Earth Health Food Store…totally worth the $$ & a little goes a long way.
I used the self cleaning heat in my oven once every winter. It really heats up the house though! I don’t like to leave the house when I know my oven is getting to a thousand hundred degrees so doing it in the winter is a must. Usually right after Christmas. The first two times I did it, it did STINK. But now it doesn’t. Maybe the “new” oven smells are gone?
I like the idea of having a non-toxic cleaner for during the summer. Plus if you have an oven with the Heat self cleaning there are two rules that I’ve heard of. One: NEVER use toxic chemicals in your oven. I guess the heat will later make them worse and kill you. 2. Do the cycle without the wracks in… I guess they aren’t rated to a thousand hundred degrees. (Or how ever hot it really gets.)
I dont have a cleaning story, but I do have advice so you dont HAVE To clean your oven often, like, maybe once a year, and it’s doesn’t get nasty.
Most of the gunk in the oven that has to be cleaned is on the bottom, so, line the bottom of the oven with Aluminum foil (yeah I had to sound it out like the Brits say it to spell it right). Then, if you have a spasmatic fire alarm, like mine, that goes off if you sneeze hard, you just change out the tin foil (I gave up) when ever it gets dirty. Balling up tin foil (which you can recycle) when your oven gets dirty and replacing it is a LOT less time consuming then scrubbing the heck out of it when you remember (or your fire alarm reminds you)!
Obviously this wont happen with the sides or the doors, but since you are removing the gunk on a normal basis you shouldn’t have that much build up from the burn off – I dont have anything on them after 2 years.
Also – if you dont like using the tin foil, you can use a removable pizza stone. It not only can be removed to wash it (maybe even in the dish washer or just soaked forever) but it will also help your oven cook more evenly.
Hope this helps the hopeless out there who hate cleaning their oven!
I just came across your site and am loving it! I had to laugh hysterically at this post because, like you, I’m 35 and have never cleaned an oven. For exactly the same reasons as you – plus I’m lazy. I’ve lived in this house for 8 years, plus the lady who lived here before used the oven to write a cake cookbook, plus the oven is original to the house which means it’s from the 1960’s. I’ll definitely have to try this recipe since I have all the ingredients on hand.
i like to use a combo of baking soda + lemon juice…mix it up til it makes a good paste, spread it on the gunk in the oven and let it set for a while. might have to repeat a few times, but it cleans really well and doesn’t have a horrible smell. just be careful to watch the bubbling up when you first mix them together… 🙂
just found your blog and love it…it’s great to know what you can do with stuff you already know is good for your body.
Great idea, just did the lemon/bkg soda mix. One hour scrubbing got me 90% there on a VERY dirty oven. WARNING though, if the mixture sits on your oven door and is thin enough to seep through(as mine was), it can discolor the middle part of your oven door. Reaction of the acid on the metal I suppose. Just keep a close eye that it doesn’t accumulate enough liquid to run through. Awesome method, much safer than chem, especially with little kids in the house!
Wetting the baking soda with lemon juice is the same as wetting the baking soda with water but you get a chemical reaction first and the lemon juice ends up not doing anything except becoming higher in ph. So a waste of lemon juice and you probably have to use more baking soda.
Sorry but this is not Non-toxic as borax is highly toxic : O
Actually, borax (sodium borate) isn’t acutely toxic. Boric acid, however, can be (and the two are often confused). I’ve researched online and torn my library apart to find out the truth about whether or not borax is acutely toxic (and it seems that the only place it really is, is on a handful of websites), long before I ever started using it for anything. Finally, I decided to use the most authoritative source on whether or not borax is “highly toxic,” and the MSDS (material safety data sheet) plainly states it is not acutely toxic, though it can be dangerous at high levels. It lists it with a health hazard rating of 1, which is the same as baking soda and salt. So, with proper handling and judicious use (just like with baking soda or salt, even), for me, it’s fine. A much safer, and natural, alternative to other cleaners out there.
Here’s the MSDS on salt: http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927593
baking soda: http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927258
and borax: http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9924967
Just in case it’s helpful for next time, I was able to find this thing like a pumice stone, called a “kitchen stone.” You use it in a little water, and it’s made out of some sort of recycled stuff that scrubs and wears away, but is safe and rinses off cleanly… I had GREAT results with it on our old apt’s oven. 🙂 There’s also a “bathroom stone,” made by the same people; I assume something’s different about its composition, from the kitchen stone, since they’re marketed separately… but anyway, we used that together with a pumice stone, depending on which would fit better in what sort of angles we were trying to reach, and it did a rockin’ job scrubbing the years of mineral deposits off our toilet. Stuff no other cleaner we felt safe using really touched.
And aha! I just found the company name that makes those recycled-whatever “stones” (Google is back on speaking terms with me tonight): they’re by “Earthstone,” (and the “kitchenstone” and “bathroomstone” product names are actually one word each). Anyway, in our experience, they work GREAT. 🙂 Have fun! 🙂
I’ve heard of them before, but I haven’t actually seen them “in the flesh.” They could be the same but by labeling them differently, you wouldn’t be using the stone in the toilet, and then having someone coming up behind you and using the same stone in the kitchen.
Ooooh… you share my secret shame! I have a self-cleaning doohickey on my oven but I’ve only used it once (stinks up the place bad). Can’t wait to see the results of your experiment (or is that what you’re cleaning out of the oven?).
Hard to tell from the photo but it’s possible that your oven racks were shoved in backwards and got stuck. Not by you of course! Former tenants!
Ok…duh. You figured out the oven rack thing already. This is what happens when I open a tab in the morning and don’t get around to commenting until evening… and don’t reload the page first. 😛 I’m glad that part of your oven ordeal has worked out well. 🙂
I’m with you! I’ve never cleaned an oven! And not just because I was afraid of the chemicals…more just because I’m lazy. Anyhow, I do realize that I need to start cleaning my oven myself and I really hope this works…because I don’t want to use anything gross! Can’t wait to hear about it tomorrow!
I see your “self-cleaning oven” is a bit different than mine. I take out the racks, wipe down the inside of the door, lock the door, push a button that says “Clean”, turn on the kitchen fan and open a window, and 4 hours later it beeps that its done. Then I just wipe out the inside with a damp cloth. Your self-cleaning oven is different in that yourself cleans it.
Anyways, as for the racks: slide them out as far as they’ll go (gently! you don’t want to jam them) then tilt the end you’re holding up towards you a bit. The edge should go under that divot piece. I don’t think they’re in backwards though.
Ugh. They were in upside down. I figured it out while looking at our “new” oven. I have no idea how whoever shoved them in there made it happen. They’re wedged in but good.
I’m so using that “self-cleaning oven” bit sometime. SO true. You’re lucky to have a real one. Must be nice to be a part of the modern world. Hehe.
I’m a pretty regular baker (and a compulsive cleaner), so I clean my oven every few weeks. I just scrub it well with baking soda, add some vinegar, then leave it for a while to work foamy miracles of cleaning joy. Then I wipe it out with a damp towel.
When I first moved in, there was a lot more scrubbing that happened…
1) I agree with others that your racks may be the wrong size. However, my second point…
2) Your racks are in the oven backwards.
3) You must be psychic, because I have Saturday marked out to clean the oven. It’s supposed to be pretty and I could air out the house and throw the dogs (and myself) outside while the chemicals did nasty, toxic magic. Now I don’t have to use oven cleaner!
Okay, so, our oven now (the “new” one) is almost identical to the old one, and the racks are the same. And I figured it out. They fit just fine, except they’re upside down! I can see how someone got confused (except for the part where they must have HAMMERED those things in), because the little groovies match up when they’re upside down, in terms of shape. But not in terms of functionality. Go figure!
So you’ll like what I have to say tomorrow. As a preview, I cleaned it out today, but I think that it doesn’t need to sit overnight. I started wiping it out last night, just to see how it was coming along, and it did just as well then as it did when I cleaned it thoroughly tonight. Makes for a less lengthy cleaning time for you on Saturday.
Bless you, crunchy lady! I may let it sit overnight anyhow, just in case. I tried cleaning our oven once (it moves with us, you see) with vinegar and baking soda. It just made things worse. Now there’s a baked-on crust of dirty baking soda mess on the floor of the oven, complete with extra grease, and a filmy door. It discouraged me forever more. Oven-cleaning fear… I sharez it.
Your comment made me smile when I saw it this morning, and I really needed a reason to smile today. Thanks, dear. Looking forward to the results!
Looks like you’ve got the wrong size oven racks in there. Not that you care, at this point – it’s the next tenant’s problem! But you might be able to get them out by using a hammer to knock up the back end from below.
Upside down! They’re upside down. I finally figured it out today when I was looking at my “new” oven and how the racks go in. I might try the hammer thing, anyway, just to make it all perfect for the new peeps.
Can’t wait to see how it turns out! My oven needs to be cleaned pretty badly and I have all those things already 😉
My mom once told me if you self-clean the oven with the racks still in they can get stuck. This may be your problem (former tennent?). Not that I would know because I’ve never cleaned an oven myself. I feel this is a safe place to share this fact.
Verrrry interesting. Although I figured it out. Someone had shoved them in upside down and they’re really, firmly stuck like that. Oh well … at least they’re positioned inoffensively. And my new racks pull out just fine! Yay!
My first look at the picture – I noticed the racks were upside down. Not sure how the previous person managed that one! I see you figured it out from the comments. How did you ever manage to not have to reposition a rack for cookin during the time you had that oven!?
Lots of ovens have a self-cleaning setting. Basically it locks the door, heats up as hot as it can for several hours, and burns anything in there to a fine ash that you can just vacuum out. It will make your place smell like you’re burning things, though, so it’s best done on a day you can open the windows. Find the oven’s make and model and look up its manual online for instructions for running the clean cycle.
Ah. Wish mine had that. Alas, it does not. And neither does my new one. Like Nicole said below, my “self-cleaning” option is that I clean it myself. Hehe.
Love this! I cannot wait to see what happens. I have never cleaned an oven either!
Oh I LOVE this one!! I can’t wait to see what happens!! I suffer from the exact same non-oven-cleaning disease that you do. Yay for Betty! Forging new paths and showing the way for all who have an aversion to oven cleaning!!