Your apartment probably comes with a self-cleaning oven designed with a heat setting that’s used periodically to basically burn off all of the food residue that accumulates over time. While this is pretty effective, in general, even a regularly-cleaned oven will take on a layer of burned-on residue over time. This isn’t a cleaning regimen that you’ll have to perform regularly … it’s really more of a remedial, magic bullet measure for getting off time-accumulated, baked on, greasy, grimy gunk. When an oven reaches that state, you can turn to commercial chemical based cleaners that will fill your apartment’s kitchen with potentially dangerous fumes; or you can try this safe, green and natural alternative that will return your oven to a shiny new state of cleanliness!
- A spray bottle
- Baking Soda
- A clean rag or sponge (or both)
- A small Bowl
Start by removing the oven racks. I generally carry mine to the bathtub where they’ll get a good cleaning before being returned later to the completely clean oven. Keep reading and I’ll give you a bonus tip at the end for getting those gunky racks sparkling, shiny and clean, too!
Next, scoop a few spoons of baking soda into the bowl and add just enough water to make a paste. Spread this paste onto the interior surfaces of the oven and the inside of its door, totally avoiding lights and sensors, and let it sit overnight because it needs some time to do its thing (leave the door open so gravity will work in your favor and the paste won’t slide down off of the door window). I find that actually spreading baking soda paste is kind of a tricky proposition – it helps to dab it on with a damp sponge, instead. The overnight thing is important … this takes time. Eventually, 8-12 hours later, the baking soda paste is going to be all brown and gross from having absorbed the baked on grease, which is exactly what you’re looking for.
The next day—being gentle so as not to scratch the interior of your oven which will just make it harder to keep clean in future—use a wet rag or your trusty sponge to thoroughly remove as much of the dried baking soda paste as possible. This is going to require a few rounds of rinsing/wringing-out of that rag or sponge and changing out the water in your bowl a few times along the way. Keep going until you feel like you’ve removed as much as you can; then use the spray bottle to spritz the surfaces with vinegar, which will foam up the remaining baking soda residue and help you get what’s left.
Bingo – clean, chemical free oven and fume-free apartment!
And now, remember that bonus tip I promised for getting the oven racks clean? This one works really well for crusty grill racks, too! Line the bottom of your bathtub with inexpensive fabric softener sheets (this is a good job for the cheapest ones you can find), place the racks on top of the sheets, drizzle over a half cup of Dawn dishwashing detergent, then fill the tub with enough hot water to cover the racks. Let them sit overnight, and in the morning, the baked-on goo will magically wipe right off! We’re not sure exactly why this works so well; but rumor has it that the anti-static component of the dryer sheets combined with the grease-busting power of the dish detergent is what does the trick. Rinse the racks well with hot water, then dry them thoroughly before returning them to the oven.