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How To Use an Oven's Self-Cleaning Cycle

Most ovens being made these days include a self-cleaning feature. Because people often loose track of the manuals for their oven or never received one when they move into their home, we have provided this basic guide. We offer a variety of suggestions and tips to get the best results. For more information on cleaning oven grime or for cleaning an oven that lacks the self-cleaning feature, see our article on "How To Clean an Oven".

These instructions are basic steps that apply to most ovens. Your oven may have unique instructions that are not described here. For instructions specifically detailing the use of your oven's feature, try searching for on-line for your oven's manual.

How the Self-Cleaning Cycle Works

Heat is the key to the self-cleaning cycle in an oven. The oven heats up to around 800 or 900 degrees (F) and burns off the grease and grime from the surfaces inside the oven. The oven is heavily insulated to keep that dangerously high heat inside the oven. At the end of the cycle, all that is left is a pile of ash that can be wiped away with a damp sponge.

When you start the cycle, most ovens have an automatic lock that prevent you from opening the oven door. The door will stayed locked, usually for hours, throughout the cleaning process and until the oven has cooled to safe levels. The oven may still be hot, but it will have returned to normal cooking temperatures.

How To Use the Self-Cleaning Oven Feature

First of all, remove everything from the oven, including the racks. If there is any food debris, remove it to reduce smoke, odor and the risk of flame up.

To get the very best results, scrub any particularly bad messes. This will reduce the smoke and odor, and will help to break up the spill and allow it to be more thoroughly incinerated.

If there are any sugary spills in the oven, they must be cleaned by hand. Incinerating the sugar spills can pit and damage the enamel and other surfaces in the oven.

Clean grease from around the door frame and around the door seal. This area is not cleaned as effectively by the cleaning cycle and pre-cleaning will improve results. It will also reduce the risk of damage by flame up.

If you have birds, remove them to a well ventilated location, far from the oven. The fumes produced by the self-cleaning process are toxic to birds.

Turn on the range hood ventilator to draw away smoke, odor and fumes. Also open windows to provide ventilation.

Set the oven to Self-cleaning mode. Often, there is more than one control that must be set to start the cycle; this is to prevent the accidental selection of the cleaning cycle. If there is a manual lock, lock it now. If there is a manual timer for the cycle, set the timer.

Never try to open the oven during the self-cleaning cycle, the heat blast is very dangerous. The oven may remain dangerously hot for hours after the incineration process has completed.

The oven exterior may become hot to the touch, keep children away.

Remain at home while operating the self-cleaning cycle to guard against fire and to ensure the cycle completes safely.

Small flames inside the oven are not unusual and in most cases should not be cause for concern. Large flames or flames that last for more than a very few minutes may require action, including turning off the oven and contacting the fire department. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN THE OVEN.

The door will remain locked (on automatic models) until the temperature has dropped to less than 600 degrees (F) (varies by model). Do not attempt to force it open. Do not assume it is broken because it has been a long time.

Special Tip: Do Not Use the self-cleaning cycle before an important event or holiday. Wait until after the important day to use the cycle. The use of the self-cleaning cycle has a tendency to precede the break down of the oven. In other words, waiting until the day before a holiday feast to use the self-cleaning feature may mean you'll being waiting for the appliance repairman to show up on the very day you most need your oven.

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