How to Use a Self-Cleaning Oven

I was scared of using my self-cleaning oven.

But I was even more scared of someone seeing the inside of it.

When I created the Kitchen Cleaning Checklist last week, I knew it was time to take the leap and figure out how to use a self-cleaning oven.

It was easy.  Not magic, but easy. First of all, I would advise that you read over your oven’s instruction manual.  I had no idea where mine was, so I didn’t.  But I did remember my own mother using hers, so I went for it.

Yes, it’s a little scary.  Yes, I warned my kids that the oven was cleaning itself and not to get too close.

Basically, it works like this: The oven gets crazy-hot and burns up all of the dirtiness. My oven, my mother’s oven, and I would hope ALL ovens . . . require that the oven is locked in order for the cleaning feature to be used.  It then stays locked (it won’t LET you unlock it) until it has cooled down after cleaning.

That picture above was my oven before I cleaned it.

Totally embarrassing.

After three hours on the clean cycle, and about 45 minutes of cooling time, it looked like this:

Yes.  Those are ashes.

Here was the inside of the door prior to cleaning:

And after self-cleaning:

BIG difference.  But not quite done.

After it was cooled completely (FINE, after a few days . . . ), I used an egg-turner to move all the ashes together and then wiped out the oven.

It didn’t take much effort to wipe it out.

And I do believe it was worth it:

Quite a big difference, don’t you think?

The good:

Very little effort is required. I just turned on the clean feature, locked it and three hours later it was done.

Oven Cleaner is known for being one of the most horrible chemical cleaners out there.  Using the self-cleaning feature meant I didn’t have to use any chemicals.

Although I rarely thought about the state of my oven unless a guest used it . . . I’m amazed at how striking the difference is.

The bad:

That kind of heat is scary. I probably wouldn’t want to leave the house while it was going.  (And again, read your instruction manual!)

Although there isn’t a chemical smell, you can definitely smell the burning off of the what-used-to-be-food. Might be difficult for someone with breathing issues.

How do you clean your oven?  How often?



Daily in December daily checklist update: It’s Tuesday and I was gone ALL day.  I didn’t feel like doing ANY of my checklist tonight, but did clean the kitchen, start the dishwasher, swept the kitchen, checked bathrooms for clutter, closed the cabinet door and did a mini-pick-up.  Mini is in comparison to a 5 minute one, so not much.


Vistaprint has some great personalized freebies that would be perfect for Christmas presents. Get a free photo calendar, mug, etc. and just pay the shipping.  The sooner you order, the cheaper shipping you can use.  (And yes, that’s my affiliate link!)


  1. leigh7911 says:

    We – my husband, actually – have used the self-cleaning on our oven a few times. It’s still a horrible mess, ’cause we never clean out the ashes afterwards. I think I need to just break down and do a really good scrubbing. Sigh.

  2. Just a little tip: use your vaccum to sweep the ashes away. Quick and easy!

    I have a gas self-cleaning oven now. That scares me! I haven’t used it yet.

  3. Here’s one little tip that I do on my, say annual, or less frequently oven cleaning…
    I scoop out the BIG chunks of food in the oven BEFORE I turn the self cleaning on. It doesn’t seem as long to clean that way.
    I guess I have a 2nd tip. I try to choose a FAIR weather day. Not too hot, so that much heat won’t make us uncomfortably warm. Not too cold, so that if it start stinking so bad, I can open a window or door.
    Hmm… maybe that’s why it takes me a year or more to get to the perfect weather day!
    OK, while I am on a roll, I use ‘throw away’ rags to wipe out the ashes. I don’t like to waste paper towels and I can’t seem to get a ‘good’ rag clean after swiping out the oven ashes, so I use ‘throw away’ rags.

  4. I just did mine too! I do it when the smell of burning food on the bottom is worse to me than the smell of the oven cleaning itself. I always razor out the bottom only with a scraping razor thingy and use wet paper towels to swipe all that yuck straight into the garbage can. Less smoke and stink and less ash to clean out, sometimes you can actually get away with not even wiping out the ash at all. I started this when I had actual flames from all the cheese on the bottom and SMOKE for like 2 hours of the cycle. And of course, you can’t open the door and fix this problem!

    Thanks Nony! Just did dishes, cleaned all the counters and now a quick pick up and floor tidy!! Still reading backwards, I haven’t been this hooked on serial blog reading since 2009 with a certain ranch lady’s romance story posts!

  5. We did ours just before Thanksgiving.

    Did have an appliance repairman tell me a few years ago to not do it the day before a holiday (we did ours the week before), because if something goes wrong with the oven, it will during the cleaning cycle, and then no oven for a holiday meal – that or a horrible repair bill.

    We always turn on our vent and we ended up opening the windows. I have asthma, and I have to make myself scarce while it’s going, because the smell does get to me, but my husband takes care of it.

  6. OK…maybe I’ll get up the nerve to clean my oven. I must admit…I’ve never cleaned an oven before. It wouldn’t be nearly so embarrassing if I could tell you that I was in my early 20′s and newly married. Unfortunately, I am 35 and have been married for 15 years!
    I guess every time my oven gets unbearably dirty, we move! But we’ve been in our current house for 6 years and don’t have any plans to move anytime soon…so I guess I need to break down and clean my oven.
    Thank you so much for putting simple directions on here. I asked my mother-in-law how to clean an oven and she replied “Well, isn’t yours self-cleaning?” Of course it is…too bad I don’t know what that means… So your post today was extremely helpful! Thanks for keeping it real! :)

    • That made me laugh! And yes, that’s why I posted it. In my brain, it couldn’t possibly be that easy, so I might as well put it off another year!

  7. I am also scared of the high temp. that the self cleaning feature uses. I used shaklee’s scour off heavy duty paste to clean my oven. It did a great job of getting the baked on food off. And it smells like cherries. I like that it is non-toxic and no chemicals. I don’t think it took longer that 20 minutes to clean my oven. The best tip for keeping your oven clean would have to be to wipe it after each use when it is still warm not hot. (Like that would ever happen at my house).

  8. Has anyone ever spilled oil into the bottom of the oven. I think it was canola oil I was using and it spilled out of the 9×13 casserole dish. It now has a very black spot there. I am scared to try the self cleaning thing b/c it might catch on fire. What do you think?

  9. Mine catches fire every time. I love it when my husband runs into the other room from the kitchen and says, “Sherri, the oven is on fire!!!” And I just nod absent-mindedly and say, “Mhmm, yeah it’s supposed to be” and then I hear my young son say, “Cool!”

  10. Maybe this will give me courage to try running mine again. I finally got up the courage to try mine for the first time last spring and the smell was so awful that I finally shut it off. I don’t think there was that big of a mess inside it – but it wasn’t good. We all ended up with headaches. I don’t know if it is worth it. But I think I read somewhere that you can’t clean it with regular oven cleaner so what do you do?

  11. My oven isn’t self-cleaning. So, I hadn’t cleaned it in the nearly 6 years we have lived here. Okay, fine, I never cleaned any of the previous ovens I had, either. As in REALLY cleaned them.

    So, I broke down and got the oven cleaning chemical spay that is so awful for the environment. But now that my oven doesn’t look like charcoal inside and I’m not worried about dinner catching fire, maybe I can keep up on it. We’ll see.

  12. My oven is 30 years old which means it’s not self cleaning. I’ve used the horribly smelling foam thing in the past, but I’ve heard good things about baking soda paste, that you can make yourself (like the one in here: , the tough stain remover recipe on the bottom especially interests me).

    I think I’ve cleaned the oven two times in the two years we’ve lived in this apartment, which come to think of it is quite remarkable.

  13. I clean the oven, um….when I move? I don’t know what I’ll do when we buy a house and plan to live in it, like, forever. Actually, until this last move, that would’ve been more honest as “The oven gets cleaned when we move” because the husband or the roommate has always drawn that straw in the “hurry, we REALLY need that cleaning deposit back” cleaning spree. This last time, after living in a house for three years, not cleaning the oven once, I finally bought the awful earth-killing spray foam and the rubber gloves and went to town, and I could not believe how simple it was. Just spray it in, leave it overnight and wipe out. I actually had a quiet little tantrum while I wiped it out, because if I had any idea it was that simple, I would never have volunteered to clean all the windows in exchange for not touching the oven every single time I’d moved in the last ten years!

  14. I have always had self cleaning ovens except my first in1979. I love the self cleaning ovens.I just bought my 5th oven and it is self cleaning.It’s only a few weeks old so I haven’t cleaned it yet. I have never had one catch on fire but have read online about it. There is a smell but I turn the vent on and to me it’s not so bad. I noticed in your pictures that your oven racks are in the oven.All my manuals have said to take out the racks when using the self cleaning option. If the racks are left in the oven it can cause the racks not to slide as good.

  15. I’ve never used my self cleaning feature. I’m going to give it a try but after reading all this I’ll wait until I have 3 hours at home and do it while the kids are at school. Now to find the manual for the oven!

    • Elaine in Ark says:

      If you can’t find your appliance manual, just google the manufacturer’s name and kind of appliance. If you have the model number of your appliance, put that in, too. There will be several pages to choose from, so get a cup of coffee and browse through them until you find the right one.

      I downloaded the manuals for my microwave, stove, and dishwasher when I moved into my house. I’ve never cleaned my self-cleaning oven, though, and it’s been 5 years. I wipe it out from time to time and consider that a job well done.

  16. Follow up post: No kidding… we woke up to a frigid house this morning and discovered our furnace is broken. Everyone else scurried out the door to work or school and I am left here waiting for the furnace guy. I cannot feel my fingers as I type! And then… Nony to the rescue! As I checked the temperature in the house (in the 50′s), I realized now is the PERFECT time to self-clean my oven. And I’m hoping that my oven isn’t as efficient as it claims to be and leaks a little of that heat!

    Whether or not I remember to clean out the ashes is another issue altogether!

  17. And the thermometer if you have one! or you’ll have to buy another.

    The first time I self-cleaned the oven, there was so much smoke that I had to pin up a sheet to the doorway that doesn’t have a door in it!

  18. Okay, maybe this is a bit crazy of me (or probably something I learned from my Grandma) but I always line the bottom of my oven with aluminum foil and then if anything spills over, I just replace the aluminum foil. I have lived in my house for 5 years and had to clean the oven once because stuff had splattered on to the door…it is a self cleaning oven but I never have ash because there isn’t anything on the bottom of the oven to burn away.

    • My oven & my box of foil both say to never line the bottom of the oven with them. Also, I know from experience that if you do it in a gas oven it will melt to the floor.

  19. I finally tried the self-cleaning feature a couple years ago and fell in love with it. Of course I haven’t used it since, haha, but it will be awesome when I’m ready to do it. It does heat up scarily hot. I was worried about the things in the neighboring cabinets because they were very warm. Now if only I had a self-cleaning feature on the stove top to use after canning season…

  20. Though we are total slobs in most everything else, we actually do (self-)clean our oven a couple times a year. It just gets nasty really quickly, probably because we cook in it aaaalll the time, and oil drips down.

  21. just installed the new stove w/self-cleaning oven in late october when we completed our kitchen remodel. had to clean it last week. i have a liner in the bottom and the stuff on the liner was literally like tar! yuck!! but it came off the liner fairly easily. it does smoke quite a bit, but i put on the exhaust fan and open a window on the opposite side of the kitchen for fresh air intake. i’m in florida so i can actually open my windows in the middle of february. i know, crazy, right?! :)

  22. Has no one else ever done this:

    I was a newly-wed in our first apartment learning how to cook. I found this garlic bread recipe and made it with spaghetti. It turned out fabulous. That time.

    The next time I made the garlic bread, however, I was so disappointed with the results that I stuck the pan and leftover loaf back into the oven to dispose of later.

    A few days later I decided to try out the whole self-cleaning oven thing. I flipped the lock closed and turned it on then walked away. Very quickly the apartment filled with the worst-smelling smoke . . .

    I managed to turn the contraption off before it did the “full cleaning.” I aired out the apartment and never tried cleaning the oven again.

    Thankfully we only lived there for about seven months. :-)

  23. Oh boy smoke smoke and more smoke plus flames which kinda freaked me out but it came out clean

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