Problems With The Self-Cleaning Oven—How It's Supposed To Work So Your Oven Lasts

If you've had problems with your oven's self-cleaning cycle, you're not alone. Many consumers report multiple issues, from melted racks all the way to the oven not working at all afterwards. There are a few hidden obstacles to cleaning your oven, but they're pretty easy to overcome if you know what to do and what not to do. Here's how to use the self-cleaning feature the right way so that your oven lasts for years to come.

The Potential Problems

Other than the fact that the term "self-cleaning" is really a misnomer—you still have to jump in there and apply a little elbow grease—bear in mind that not all ovens are created equal, and the first step to cleaning yours correctly involves checking the owner's manual.

Having said that, there are still a few tips that ring true across the board.

First of all, when your oven is in self-cleaning mode, the internal temperature gets extremely hot, usually close to 1,000 degrees, for a grand total of two to four hours. This reduces any caked-on food to ash that can be wiped away afterwards, and it's much higher than temps you use to cook with, which creates a burden on the oven.

Compounding the issue is newer ovens have heating elements that are hidden underneath the floor and ceiling of the oven. Because these elements are buried, the heat doesn't ventilate as easily, allowing the internal temperature to build up even more.

When this happens, fuses and control panels tend to blow out, and subsequently, the heating elements end up needing to be replaced. And as you might imagine, when the heating elements are hidden, they can be much more difficult and costly to repair.

Now, this may not happen the first time you use it as it tends to be a more common occurrence after multiple cleaning cycles, as shown in this class action lawsuit against a popular manufacturer. 

Another problem, which is much less serious, is that some people don't think about removing their racks before starting the cleaning cycle, or they might leave them in on purpose in order to get them clean. In the end, the warp or the finish comes off, making them difficult to slide in and out of the oven.

The Best Remedies

Oven manufacturers know that consumers demand self-cleaning ovens, but as evidenced in the above lawsuit, they have yet to perfect the process. As a result, repair professionals have come up with a few recommendations on how to get the most life out of your oven while still keeping it clean and you can click for more info.

Use foil and skip the cleaning cycle. If your elements are hidden in the floor, putting down a heavy layer of foil is pretty easy. And in theory, all you'll need to do is change out the foil and clean with soap and water when it becomes dirty, eliminating the need for the self-cleaning cycle altogether.

Run the cleaning cycle for one hour instead of four. Although your owner's manual might suggest a longer cleaning cycle, many professionals say that you really only need to run it for an hour. This can reduce the likelihood that the intense heat will burn out the fuse or heating elements, yet it's still long enough to turn food into ash that can be wiped away.

Remove the racks. Better to be safe than sorry. Remove the racks before turning on that self-cleaning cycle and wash them by hand instead. Stay away from harsh chemical cleaners that could remove the finish.

If you do accidentally leave the racks in the oven while it's cleaning, and you notice that they don't slide in and out of the oven as easily, you can try rubbing some vegetable oil on the rack as a stand-in lubricant. If possible, stick with one that has a high smoke point like corn or peanut oil. That way you won't have to worry about smoke coming from your oven after applying it.

Oven Cleaner Or Not?

Most manufacturers—and pretty much everyone else who cares about not being exposed to toxic fumes—now recommend staying away from oven cleaners altogether. Many of them have gotten with the program and removed the harmful chemicals which are not only bad for you and the environment but also your pets. But there are still many on the market that contain them as active ingredients.

At the end of the day, they're just not needed to get your oven clean. A soft damp cloth combined with old fashioned scrubbing is the best way to get that oven clean and good as new.