10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Cleaning Ovens

6 min read

Thinking about getting a self-cleaning oven? Here’s what you need to know about them before you make that purchase.

10. You Need to Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions

Know The Rules
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It’s important to read the owner’s manual before using your oven’s self-cleaning cycle. That way you’ll know what precautions to take before cleaning your oven and what things are considered a normal part of the cleaning process. For example, it’s completely normal to see hot air or steam escaping from the vents during the cleaning cycle.

With that said, it’s also important to consult your owner’s manual so you know which type of self-cleaning oven you have. There are two main types (traditional high temperature and steam), and they both have different cleaning methods.

9. Self-Cleaning Ovens Can Be Very Dangerous

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When cleaning them, that is. According to the North Iowa Municipal Electric Cooperative Association, Dr. Tom Greiner, one of the leading experts on carbon monoxide poisoning, says that your self-cleaning oven “can produce enough carbon monoxide to be of concern.” That’s because the food you spill in the oven gets burned during the cleaning cycle, and this action produces carbon monoxide. Therefore, Greiner suggests removing as much of the food as possible before turning on the self-cleaning feature. You should also turn on exhaust fans and open windows to get rid of as much carbon monoxide as possible.

TIP: If anyone in your household suffers from asthma or some other respiratory condition, the individual(s) may need to leave home during the cleaning cycle. That’s because the Teflon coating inside the oven produce fumes during the cleaning cycle that can cause symptoms such as coughing, sweating, and difficulty breathing.

8. You’ll Need to Take Your Pets Outside

Woman Walking Dog
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Some animals are affected by the fumes that come from your oven’s self-cleaning feature as well, so you’ll need to take them outside prior to cleaning your oven. This is especially true if you have pet birds. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, PetEducation.com says that birds that are exposed to the fumes from a self-cleaning oven are highly susceptible to a respiratory condition known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) toxicosis, also called Teflon toxicity. That’s because birds have highly efficient respiratory tracts. And, when exposed to these fumes, their respiratory tracts quickly deliver toxins through their bodies, resulting in death.

Death can also result from cookware that’s coated with PTFE. If you suspect your bird has been exposed to these fumes, here are some signs you can look for: wheezing, difficulty breathing, weakness, uncoordination, anxiety, or seizures.

7. You’ll Need to Remove Anything That Can be Removed from Your Oven

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This includes pans, cookware, bakeware, foil, and, yes, even the racks, which can warp and discolor due to the extreme heat created during the self-cleaning cycle. The racks can also be hard to slide in and out if you don’t remove them prior to cleaning. Plus, leaving them in during cleaning can damage the rack guides of the porcelain oven cavity due to expansion and contraction. To clean the racks, simply remove them from the oven and wash them with a soapy scouring pad.

By the way, you’ll also need to remove any plastic items from the stovetop. You don’t want that stuff melting. Also, remove all items from the storage drawer.

6. How Often You Need to Clean it Depends on Your Usage

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What you cook and how often you cook determines how often you’ll need to use your oven’s self-cleaning feature. “It is important to keep your oven free of food buildup and/or grease for best performance. Baked-on soils can make smells drift onto other foods and could cause excess smoking in the range while cooking. Soil buildup could also make unpleasant odors come from your range when the door is opened even while not cooking,” Joann Green, co-owner of Automatic Appliance Service Inc. in Framingham, Massachusetts, told Reader’s Digest.

TIP: It’s not necessary to use the cleaning cycle every time there’s a spill. Manually cleaning your oven on a regular basis will help keep spills and odors at bay.

5. You Should Never Leave Your Oven Unattended During the Cleaning Cycle

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Family-owned electronics and appliance retailer P.C. Richard & Son says that you should never leave your oven unattended during the cleaning cycle. “You should plan to be in your home for the entire duration of the cleaning cycle to keep an eye on it and make sure everything is operating as planned.” With that said, you should probably set aside at least two hours to be at home since most self-cleaning ovens will take anywhere from two and a half to four hours to fully clean.

4. Don’t Use the Self-Cleaning Feature Before a Big Get-Together

Dinner Party
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If you’re preparing for a dinner party, holiday meal or the like, Green says that you should avoid cleaning your oven right before preparing said meal. That’s because the self-cleaning cycle “can be hard on some oven components and may cause some type of failure to occur. We receive many calls for oven repair after a self-clean cycle,” Green told Reader’s Digest.

FYI, oven manufacturers know that using the self-cleaning feature can be hard on certain oven components and can cause them to fail prematurely, but they continue to make them that way anyhow. Just a little something for you to think about the next time you consider purchasing a self-cleaning oven.

3. The Self-Cleaning Cycle Can be Smelly

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Not only do you have to worry about dangerous fumes, but depending on how soiled your oven is, you may have to deal with offensive smells as well. “The traditional self-clean with a high-temperature burn is typically adjustable in time from 2 to 4.5 hours depending on the soil level in your range, [and] this type of cleaning can be smelly,” Green told Reader’s Digest. That’s because temperatures can get as high as 900-1,000°F to burn off the food residue. If your oven has it, use the steam clean option instead. It’ll clean your oven with less smell, and the cycle won’t take nearly as long either.

2. You’ll Need to Make Sure the Door is Completely Closed

Oven Racks
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Not because of the dangerous fumes, but because if the door isn’t closed completely, the self-cleaning cycle won’t start.

IMPORTANT: Once the door is closed, the door will automatically lock six seconds after the cycle has begun. This is for safety reasons. The door will not unlock until the oven cools. The cool-down time is often included in the cycle time. Once the cycle is complete, your oven, depending on the brand and model, will likely display the word “End,” and the word “Locked” will disappear.

1. Using the Self-Cleaning Feature May Not Always be Enough

Not Enough
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Have you ever put dishes in the dishwasher only to have them come out still looking and feeling greasy? Well, the same thing can happen when you use a self-cleaning oven. That’s where a little elbow grease (no pun intended) can come in handy. Okay, we must pause here and say that when manually cleaning your self-cleaning oven, you must absolutely NEVER use foreign cleansers such as Easy-Off and the like. Instead, use natural products like lemons, vinegar or baking soda to clean your oven. A scrub pad soaked in warm water and dish soap can be used as well.


Have you ever had problems when using your oven’s self-cleaning feature? Tell us about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading!