Adventures in All-Natural Oven Cleaning

Chickens ready for the oven, destined for the crock pot

Chickens ready for the oven, destined for the crock pot

When we moved into this house, it came with the major kitchen appliances. There was a broken dishwasher, a refrigerator that leaked coolant and made noises like it was about ready to blow, and a whirlpool oven from 1985 that looked like it had been used plenty, then sat untouched for the next ten years. That made sense, given the state of the rest of the house. The month we moved in I led an out of town retreat for a week and had a thousand other things to fix and clean, so somehow I forgot to pull the oven out and clean behind it. We eventually replaced the dishwasher and refrigerator, but that oven just wouldn’t quit, so there it sat.

One of the side effects of all our high fat cooking is that splatters and spills are greasy. Another fringe benefit of making everything from scratch all the time is that those splatters are frequent! Sure, I wiped it down a few times a day and cleaned out the drip pan every month or two, but I’m ashamed to say it took a fire before I got down on my hands and knees and tried to scrub the oven out completely. Even when we did our big top to bottom kitchen cleaning extravaganza so we would be totally gluten-free, I admit I skimped on thoroughly scrubbing the very back of the oven under the elements, and there was no way that window glass in the door was coming clean!

My oven's bake element broke... and I replaced it myself!

My oven's bake element broke... and I replaced it myself!

I was gearing up to put two chickens in the oven. I’d given them a nice paprika rub and melted my ghee… mmmm….. crispy chicken! As the oven preheated, I saw flashing lights in the vent. The lower element had caught fire and broken, probably because of grime burning underneath it. Fortunately it went out on its own when I turned the oven off and there was no major damage done. After a few tears, the chickens went into crock pots and I set about figuring out what to do.

Our first thought was NEW, WHITE, SELF-CLEANING OVEN!!! Kelsy already had one on her wishlist to the tune of $439. But that would have meant getting a new store credit card and adding a monthly payment to our already-strapped budget. I stalled for a week, put the kibosh on the order, and spent another week tracking down the right part. Our oven was so old that Whirlpool didn’t have our model number in their database. They had to send it to the parts research team!

Yeah. Turns out I didn't even clean back there when I moved in. Whoops.

Yeah. Turns out I didn't even clean back there when I moved in. Whoops.

For $28 plus shipping and a bit of a wait (see what that did to my meal planning), I had my new bake element. Of course I wasn’t going to just put the new element in. My oven needed cleaning! But of course we don’t use toxic oven cleaner products around here.

First things first, I pulled the oven out and unplugged it. Yikes! There was d-CON under there… plus years’ worth of grime that had dripped down between the oven and the cabinets. That wasn’t too hard to clean up. I started with the broom, progressed to vinegar & water, and most of it came up. But I needed something more abrasive, so I pulled out the Bon Ami powder.

I had two children before I learned how to clean out the stove top drip pan, lol!

I had two children before I learned how to clean out the stove top drip pan, lol!

This stuff is great. It’s made of limestone, feldspar, biodegradable cleaning agents from coconut & corn, soda ash, and baking soda. Our son does have an IgE corn allergy but it’s not extreme. I figure on surfaces like the side of the oven or the bathtub he’ll be ok. A little bit of scrubbing and some light elbow grease and things were looking pretty good.

I took out the old bake element. This was ridiculously easy – all I needed was a flat head screw driver. Then it was time to scrub the oven itself.

The Bon Ami couldn't cut this grime. What to use?

The Bon Ami couldn't cut this grime. What to use?

Bon Ami did the trick for the most part, but it is super awkward to clean the inside of an oven with the door open. I probably should have figured how to take it all the way off. Once that was as good as I could get it, I hooked up the new element, and lucky for me, it worked!

The door itself was another matter. The window was caked in baked-on goo. All my scrubbing barely put a dent in it. I finally just gave up and called it good. The time, start to finish? 4 hours! My back and arms were sore!!!

How often do you clean your oven? What do you clean it with?

I’m thinking of trying the recipe for natural oven cleaning that I found at Learning Herbs.

This is as good as it gets.

This is as good as it gets.

This post is part of Full Plate Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, Living Well Blog Hop, Homestead Barn Hop, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

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13 comments to Adventures in All-Natural Oven Cleaning

  • Katie

    Norwex oven and grill cleaner is fantastic and is not toxic. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Hi! I found you through the Living Well Blog Hop. I’m definitely glad to learn about Bon Ami because my oven is in desperate need of cleaning.

    I host a Green & Natural Mamas Blog Hop every Thursday and your posts look like a great fit if you want to join in!

  • What great information and a great cleaning tip. Hope you have a wonderful week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  • Karen B.

    Try orange oil on the oven door window. Spray it on the window and leave the oven door open so it can sit on there overnight. It may still take a little scrubbing but if you use the orange oil for a few nights (depends how bad it is) it’ll work.

  • Melissa

    I use equal parts baking soda, salt (the kind you dont cook with, but buy at the grocery store-you know, round cardboard container cute girl & umbrella :) & water, then a few drops of orange or lemon oil. The oil can be eliminated, it’s optional but citrus is a natural degreaser & smells great.
    Mix it and spoon it on trouble spots and scrub. Another option is to let it set and scrub it when it’s dry. Either way there is a mess to clean up when you’re done, but the oven will look brand new!

  • Karenscrapers

    Use a razor blade to scrape the window, as you would if you were painting window trim. It totally works and is easy!

  • impressive – not just cleaning so well but doing the element yourself too – kudos!!

  • Chloe Smith

    Just a quick comment to say thanks a lot for your post and also ask (including other commenters) if they have ever had to clean a cooker when moving in to a new house and has that made a difference to how they’ve cleaned it? I don’t know what it is but I just can’t bring myself to cleaning someone else’s grease and grime, especially in the oven! I don’t know if I’m weird but it really makes me cringe haha. I usually get my OH to do it, but I have been known to get the professionals in too I won’t lie! When we last lived in the area I got oven cleaner sutton coldfield to come and do it. Anyone else?!

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