Cleaning the Oven That's Never Been Cleaned (And Mostly Succeeding)

Liveblogging The Kitchn Cure Fall 2013

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Before horror (left) and after (right) — so much better, but the door is still gunky.

Day 4 Task: Deep clean

You know things are serious when it's 10:30 at night and your oven is caked in baking soda, your oven racks are soaking in the bathtub, your tea kettle is bubbling with boiling water to pour over your stovetop grates, and your husband is on his hands and knees washing the floor with a sponge because you realized too late you didn't have a mop in the house. (I swear I told him to stop!)

This is what I call deep cleaning, and once I got into it, there was no turning back. I'm doubtful if our previous apartment tenants ever cleaned the oven, but I admit it took me three months and the motivation of The Kitchn Cure to finally tackle it myself. There was a thick cake of grease along the sides of the oven (as you can see in the lefthand side 'before' photo above), and my oven racks were practically black.

There is a self-cleaning button on my oven, but I chose not to use it as I've heard it can damage the oven. So, it was all baking soda and elbow grease for me this time around.

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Even if I've cleaned something one way before, I always do a little research first to see if there are any new cleaning methods or recommendations that pop up. (Old habits die hard.) I'm not so into using strong, chemically cleaners like Easy-Off, so I was looking for a green solution. Kitchn readers overwhelmingly voted for the baking soda and water method in this post, which confirmed what I was planning on doing anyway. In fact, I pretty much followed exactly what Kitchn reader Cityseeds recommended:

Make a paste with baking soda and water and coat the oven. I leave mine overnight. The next evening (I clean after work!) I'll wipe out as much of the dried paste as possible and then use water to wipe out more. Then, spray with vinegar to react with the rest of the baking soda (vinegar + baking soda = carbon dioxide, water, sodium acetate) and wipe that out. Viola! It works better than self cleaning cycles from my own experience!

I poured a little water into a bowl of baking soda, just enough to make a paste (not too much or it will get runny) and coated the inside of my oven with it. Then I left it to sit overnight.

Note: I think this is the key to working with baking soda, especially when you clean the oven. You have to give it time to really work. I think waiting at least 12 hours or overnight is the ticket.

The next morning I scrubbed the interior with a wet sponge, then wiped out most of the (now black and gunky) baking soda paste with a soft cloth. I didn't have a good spritzer on hand to spray the vinegar, so instead I just poured it on my wash cloth and kept wiping the oven interior until all the paste was gone. Suddenly I saw that the interior of my oven was actually gray, not brown, and for the most part looking pretty clean and shiny.

The one part that still has me stumped is the door:

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This is after an overnight baking soda paste, and after vigorous scrubbing with Bon Ami. It definitely took some of the grime off, but these splatters are not budging for the life of me. I think they may be so embedded and burned into the glass that all hope of removing the stains is lost. Do you have any suggestions for me, readers?

Meanwhile, my oven racks:

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They were enjoying a leisurely soak in my bathtub! Again, I researched the best way to clean my blackened oven racks, and I read quite a few recommendations that said to soak them in the bathtub with a little powder dishwashing detergent.

Note: If you decide to do this, you should DEFINITELY put an old towel underneath your racks because they will scratch your tub. I unfortunately did not do this, and despite being very careful, I actually scratched my tub.

I use Ecover dishwashing tablets, which I tried to crumble into the bathtub. (I also put in a spurt of Dawn just for good measure.) I left the racks to soak for probably two hours before I took them out. The water was definitely dirty, and the racks seemed to be a little improved, but I could see they'd require further scrubbing. (I think I expected to pull them out of the tub and they'd be all shiny and brand-new looking. That may have been too optimistic of me, or maybe my dishwasher soap wasn't strong enough?)

All wasn't lost, though — I scrubbed the racks with some Bon Ami and a stiff scrub brush, and finally started to see some silver. By the end, they weren't perfect-looking, but vastly improved!

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Before (left) and after (right)

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After

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Now, about my cast iron stovetop grates:

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The not-so-lovely before

I know that there are a few recommended ways to clean these, one of which is to put them in a bag with ammonia. I wasn't keen on using ammonia, so instead I tried two other methods:

  1. I put one in the dishwasher and ran it on a 'pots and pans' cycle.
  2. I put a few in the sink and poured boiling water over them to cut the grease. Then I squirted Bon Ami on to the surface and let that sit for 15-20 minutes before vigorously scrubbing.

The dishwasher method did seem to get off some grease, but it didn't seem to address the really caked-on stuff. (Which, to be honest, I'm not even sure is food stuff at this point! I think it may be corrosion, but the fact that I can't get rid of it is really bothering me.) I'm not going to give up on the dishwasher method. I think I'll try a different detergent. Have you ever washed your stovetop grates in the dishwasher? What's your experience been?

No, this time the boiling water+Bon Ami+vigorous scrubbing seemed to work best. I was able to get most parts of the grates looking pretty shiny, but there are still some rough spots that won't come off for anything. (You can kind of see them in the photo below.) Really caked-on grease? Rust and corrosion, perhaps? I'm not sure.

I moved on to my stovetop. I let some Method dish soap sit on the surface for a couple minutes, then I wiped it off with a wash cloth. I then scrubbed a few spots with some Bon Ami and was able to get most of the stovetop looking very shiny, but there are still rough spots right around the burners that won't go away. (See below.) Have you experienced this on your gas stove? If you have any thoughts or suggestions on how to deal with it, please share!

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And finally, my floor: it's clean, thanks to my adorable husband who seriously cleaned it with a sponge just so I wouldn't have to put up with a dirty floor for another day. That is love, people.

What are your deep cleaning plans today? Have any favorite cleaners or methods? If you need inspiration, check out this exhaustive list on our readers' favorite kitchen cleaners!

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(Images: Cambria Bold)

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