Cleaning the oven is not a task most of us look forward to. That is why self-cleaning ovens are, to many, a godsend to their lives. Some people even consider using an oven cleaner in self-cleaning ovens in a bid to make the cleaning process even more effective, although it isn’t generally recommended.

You should not use an oven cleaner in a self-cleaning oven because the heat will act on the cleaner, releasing toxic fumes. Commercial oven cleaners can damage the interior surfaces of some self-cleaning ovens. You can use an organic DIY oven cleaner to remove gunk while the stove is off.

Read on to learn more about the effect of oven cleaners on self-cleaning ovens and everything else you need to know about the topic.

Why Is It a Bad Idea to Use an Oven Cleaner in a Self-Cleaning Oven?

It can be enticing to use an oven cleaner in tandem with your stove’s self-cleaning cycle in the name of leaving no stones unturned in ensuring a spotless oven. After all, logic suggests that using an oven cleaner in a self-cleaning oven is akin to adding detergent to a washing machine. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in self-cleaning stoves.

Oven cleaners are specially formulated to help remove stubborn gunk by forming a paste over food residue – making it much easier to clean.

To achieve those degrading properties, oven cleaners contain caustic chemicals, such as sodium and potassium hydroxide (lye) and butoxydiglycol. These chemicals are hazardous to your health, whether touched or inhaled, explaining why you are advised to use gloves and goggles when handling an oven cleaner.

As such, firing up the self-cleaning cycle with the oven cleaner inside will result in the production of toxic fumes that will harm any living being inside your home. That means you will have to evacuate the house for the entire period the oven is self-cleaning, not to mention having to carefully wipe every spot in the oven to remove any traces of the poisonous gasses.

Moreover, some self-cleaning ovens cannot handle the caustic effect of oven cleaners on their surfaces. Catalytic (continuously cleaning) ovens are susceptible to the corrosive effects of commercial oven cleaning solutions, rusting over time and inhibiting their ability to self-clean properly.

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How Does a Self-Cleaning Oven Work?

Understandably, you might have doubts about the efficacy or thoroughness of a self-cleaning stove, which is why you might consider adding an oven cleaner into the equation.

Self-cleaning ovens are remarkably effective at dealing with hardened food debris. They self-clean using either high heat or steam.

High-heat self-cleaning ovens achieve their objective by subjecting the stove’s interior to ultra-high temperatures, which disintegrates any organic matter inside the oven, making cleaning much easier. Therefore, all you have to do after the self-clean cycle, which can take up to 5 hours, is to simply wipe off the ash with a damp cloth.

On the other hand, self-cleaning ovens that utilize steam require you to pour a cup of water at the bottom of the stove. Once you initiate the self-clean cycle, the oven will raise its core temperature to about 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 degrees Celsius), turning the water into steam that softens the hardened food particles to make them easy to remove. This process usually takes around 30 minutes.

High-heat self-cleaning stoves typically do a better job at cleaning than their steam-based counterparts. That is because they distribute heat evenly inside the stove, ensuring the effective disintegration of food debris in all nooks and crannies.

Steam-based units only do a thorough job at the base of the oven since that is where the steam is produced, meaning there’s always the chance you’ll have to deal with stubborn gunk on the upper sides of the stove.

The Issue With Self-Cleaning Ovens

Self-cleaning ovens might save you some elbow grease; however, there are a few (potential) downsides to allowing them to self-clean. Depending on how you feel about their downsides, you might even decide to clean these units manually.

Self-Cleaning Ovens Are Energy Guzzlers

For starters, self-cleaning ovens can and will do a number on your energy bill. High-heat units require several hours (2-6) to complete one self-clean cycle. Imagine the energy consumed by a machine that has to generate temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit (537 degrees Celsius) for several hours to do a job!

Steam-based self-cleaners might not be as energy-intensive as high-heat ovens but will still run up a pretty bill.

Needless to say, if you are an energy-conscious individual, self-cleaning ovens might not be up your alley.

Self-Cleaning Stoves Produce Noxious Gasses During Operation

As you can imagine, breaking down gunk by subjecting it to heat until it turns to ash will produce fumes as a by-product of combustion. These fumes can be incredibly nauseating, so you are advised to leave the room during a self-clean cycle. That means you cannot use your kitchen for a couple of hours.

Moreover, self-cleaning stoves sometimes release carbon monoxide (CO), which can be incredibly dangerous in high doses. Carbon monoxide is often released from an oven if it’s not clean, and the gas is produced from bits of food and debris that haven’t been wiped off.

As such, you need to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home if you have a self-cleaning oven to avoid becoming another statistic of CO poisoning.

Self-Cleaning Ovens Break Down Regularly

Blown-out fuses and burnt-out heating elements are to be expected when using a self-cleaning oven; it is inevitable. The high temperatures inside the oven’s confined space can obliterate just about anything. Sure, the porcelain enamel coating allows the oven’s internal surface to endure high heat; however, the same cannot be said for the heating elements and fuses that often contain plastic parts.

Moreover, operating at such a high level for several hours is another reason a self-cleaning oven’s fuse and heating elements are likely to burn out.

Over time, the repairs needed to correct those faults can leave a sizable dent in your pocket.

So, why do self-cleaning oven manufacturers continue to produce these units despite their inherent flaws? It’s simple; it is because of you (the consumer). Consumers want appliances that make their lives easier.

Considering that self-cleaning stoves have been in production since the 1960s – their faults notwithstanding – it can be dicey for a manufacturer to stop producing these appliances without hurting their brand. As such, the best they can do is to keep looking for solutions to circumvent those flaws.

Can You Manually Clean a Self-Cleaning Oven?

Given the potential downsides to allowing an oven to self-clean, you might wonder whether it is plausible to clean these units yourself.

The good news is that you can manually clean a self-cleaning stove without damaging the unit. However, I recommend using an organic DIY oven cleaner instead of a commercial one. The internal surfaces of some self-cleaning ovens are susceptible to the corrosive effects of commercial oven cleaners.

DIY cleaners don’t contain unnecessary chemicals, so these are often preferred over commercial cleaners. Here’s an example of a good DIY cleaner:

  1. Make a paste using a ¾ cup of baking soda and a ¼ cup of water. Add in some vinegar to create a chemical reaction with the baking soda so it fizzes slightly.
  2. Remove the racks and apply it all over the oven’s inside, and then leave it for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. The following day, you will find that scraping everything off will be a piece of cake, thanks to how the mildly abrasive baking soda dissolves organic matter.

Tips for Avoiding a Mess When Using a Self-Cleaning Oven

Ideally, you should only use your oven’s self-clean feature once every 3-4 months. Doing that will allow you to avoid the high energy costs of a self-clean cycle and lower the chances of your machine breaking down.

As you can imagine, avoiding spills and other messes when cooking will ensure you don’t have to use the self-clean feature, as manual cleaning will be much easier.

The following tips should help you in that regard:

  • Cover your food using aluminum foil when cooking
  • Place the food inside a lidded container before cooking
  • Use a roasting tray or bag where applicable, such as when cooking meats and vegetables

Employing the tips above will allow you to prevent the all-too-common spills that occur when preparing large or greasy meals.


Self-cleaning ovens are life savers, since they allow you the freedom to cook your favorite dishes without worrying about the dreaded clean-up process.

However, do not use commercial oven cleaners in a self-cleaning oven. These products are not designed to be used in these units, and using them can damage the oven. Additionally, the fumes emanating from the cleaner being vaporized by the oven’s ultra-high temperatures can be toxic to the home’s inhabitants.

Allow the oven to self-clean as per the manufacturer’s instructions. If you must use an oven cleaner, then use an organic DIY cleaner.

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