I Cleaned My Oven with Steamed Water and Vinegar — Here’s How It Went

updated Apr 3, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Lauren Volo

I’m going to be honest: I don’t remember the last time I deep-cleaned my oven. I have lots of excuses: I have two little kids; we don’t use our oven that much; I hate the smell of chemicals in the place I cook my food; I just don’t have time. Plus, when I do use the oven, I usually use pans, so what does it matter if the walls are dirty?

Credit: Ashley Abramson

Well, last night, I was cooking a frozen pizza and realized just how nasty I’d let the oven get. I did my research and looked for the easiest method I could find, one that also doesn’t call for oven-cleaners or the using self-cleaning feature. What’d I find? A steam bath of vinegar and water.

If you’ve ever steamed a bowl of vinegar or lemon juice in your microwave, then you already get the premise of this cleaning trick. Basically, the solution is supposed to get hot enough to create a grease-cutting steam inside the oven, making the grime on the surfaces much easier to wipe off. My thinking: If it saves time and keeps my kitchen from smelling like burning chemicals, I’m in. 

Credit: Ashley Abramson

How I Steam-Cleaned my Oven With Vinegar and Water

  1. I grabbed a deep, metal baking pan. I’ve read you can use glass baking dishes, too, but this is what was clean.
  2. I filled the dish with tap water and 3/4 cup white vinegar. Many of the suggestions I read varied between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of vinegar, so I chose the middle. 
  3. I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees, which seemed to be the general recommendation across the internet, then put the solution in the oven.
  4. I waited for the steam to do its work. Once the solution started boiling (it took more than an hour, even after I cranked up the heat), I turned the oven off and let everything sit for 30 minutes with the door shut.
  5. I took the baking dish out and allowed the oven to cool down a bit, so I could clean it.
  6. Then, I took a bottle of water-vinegar solution and squirted it around the oven (with a little extra on the bottom, where there was a bunch of burned gunk from last night’s pizza).
  7. I used a wet sponge to scrub and added a mixture of baking soda and water with a sponge wherever there was burnt-on build-up.
Credit: Ashley Abramson

The Verdict

Unfortunately, this is not the most effective method for oven-cleaning. First, 350 degrees definitely wasn’t hot enough. After more than an hour of waiting, the solution barely steamed, so I turned up the heat to 375 degrees.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

Even at 375 degrees, I was surprised by how little steam built up in the oven, and how baked-on the stubborn spots still were. Even the oven door, which I figured would be most affected by the small amount of steam I saw, required a lot more torque than I would have liked. I definitely had to do a decent amount of extra work with that baking soda paste to finish the job. 

Credit: Ashley Abramson

There was one unexpected bonus, however: The baking dish I used had some significant baked-on gunk. It’s the same pan that I use to catch hot cheese drippings when I bake frozen pizza, and honestly, I had given up all hope that I’d ever use this pan for anything except building up gunk. 

When I went to dump the hot vinegar-water solution in the sink, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The gunk totally slid off! I had to do a tiny bit of light scrubbing with a wet sponge, but the pan was basically good as new when I finished. While I won’t be attempting to clean my oven with steam again, I would definitely use this method in the future for removing stubborn grime from my bakeware. 

How do you usually clean your oven? Or better yet, when was the last time you cleaned it?