How to Clean an Oven Naturally with Baking Soda and Vinegar

updated Dec 5, 2023
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

You’ve probably heard it before: An oven’s self-cleaning function can be super stinky. So stinky, in fact, I don’t recommend running it, well, ever. Just because there’s a better way. In advance of the holidays, it’s as good a time as any to talk about that better way to clean your oven.

I have a completely safe, natural, and effective method to get the job done — no harsh chemicals and no high-heat auto-cleaning with smoke detector funny business. It takes a little time and some elbow grease, but the payoff is well worth it. Plus, you most likely have everything you need to take on this project already in your cupboards.

Quick Overview

How to Clean an Oven Naturally with Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. Empty the oven.
  2. Make a baking soda paste.
  3. Coat your oven.
  4. Let it sit overnight.
  5. Clean your oven racks.
  6. Wipe out the oven.
  7. Spray a little vinegar.
  8. Do a final wipe-down.
  9. Replace your oven racks.

How to Clean Your Oven Naturally

When I first moved into my house, the oven was coated with a suspicious black, sticky grime. It was as if someone had roasted a dozen whole chickens without using a pan. My first instinct was to run the auto-cleaning setting (which would have been a terrible idea, because our oven is more than 20 years-old). This basically turns up the heat to a point where anything left inside is burnt to a crisp, which you can then wipe out once it cools. It kind of works, but in some cases actually makes everything worse, and in our case set off the smoke detectors — most likely a red flag.

What’s the alternative? You can buy harsh chemicals that will eat through any remaining debris, but the fumes are strong enough to singe off your eyebrows. The accompanying dizziness probably isn’t worth it, either.

Instead, you can clean your oven naturally with a little vinegar, baking soda, and good ol’ elbow grease! Here’s how to do it.

How to Clean an Oven with Baking Soda and Vinegar

What You’ll Need to Clean Your Oven with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Credit: Diana Yen

1. Empty the oven

Remove your oven racks, pizza stone, oven thermometer, and anything else you have inside the oven. Set aside.

Credit: Diana Yen

2. Make a baking soda paste

In a small bowl, mix a 1/2 cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water. Adjust the ratio of both as needed until you have a spreadable paste. For me this took about 3 tablespoons of water to get the desired spreadable consistency.

Credit: Diana Yen

3. Coat your oven

Spread the paste all over the interior surfaces of your oven, steering clear of the heating elements. I used gloves for this portion as my oven was pretty grimy. It helped me really get in there and coat the dirtiest nooks and crannies without having to worry about all that grime under my nails. The baking soda will turn a brownish color as you rub it in; it also might be chunkier in some places than others. That is fine! Just try to coat the whole oven to the best of your abilities, paying extra attention to any particularly greasy areas.

Credit: Diana Yen

4. Let it sit overnight

Allow the baking soda mixture to rest for at least 12 hours, or overnight.

Credit: Diana Yen

5. Clean your oven racks

Meanwhile, clean your oven racks. See the full cleaning tutorial here.

Credit: Diana Yen

6. Wipe out the oven

After 12 hours or overnight, take a damp dish cloth and wipe out as much of the dried baking soda paste as you can. Use a plastic or silicone spatula to help scrape off the paste as needed. I found that the damp cloth was enough for me, but a spatula might come in handy in those hard-to-reach places.

Credit: Diana Yen

7. Spray a little vinegar

Put a little vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz everywhere you still see baking soda residue in your oven. The vinegar will react with the baking soda and gently foam.

Credit: Diana Yen

8. Do a final wipe down

Take your damp cloth and wipe out the remaining foamy vinegar-baking-soda mixture. Repeat until all the baking soda residue is gone. Add more water or vinegar as needed while wiping to really get the oven clean and shiny.

Credit: Diana Yen

9. Replace your oven racks

Replace the oven racks and anything else you keep in your oven, and you’re done!