How to Clean a Really Dirty Oven

Have you opened your oven door recently only to be greeted by a wall of grime? Is the accumulated grease and burnt bits of food making your oven more of an eyesore than an appliance? Don't worry - even the dirtiest oven can be returned to its former glory with some elbow grease and cleaning know-how.

Cleaning an oven is one of those chores that many of us put off time and time again. However, allowing grease and grime to build up over a long period only makes the job harder and more unpleasant when you finally tackle it. The good news is that with the right techniques and products, getting your oven sparkling clean again doesn't have to be difficult.

In this guide, we'll take you through a step-by-step process for getting even the dirtiest oven clean. With a little bit of time and effort, you can make your oven look and work like new again.

Assessing the Mess


Before you can get started cleaning, take a moment to assess just how dirty your oven actually is. Is it just a light coating of grease and some burnt-on food remnants? Or is there a thick, caked-on layer of grime coating every surface?

Opening the door and using a torch can help you get a good look at the amount of grease and food debris built up inside your oven. Pay special attention to the following areas:

  • The walls and rear panel - Food splatter and grease often coat the interior walls and back of the oven. Look for thick buildup or burnt-on stains.
  • The door - Grease and dirt often accumulate around the window and handle of the oven door. Peel back the seal around the door to look for grime.
  • The racks and rack guides - Check both sides of the oven racks for burnt on food and thick greasy buildup. Rack guides often harbour hidden gunk.

The bottom of the oven - Peek under the racks to look for spills, drips and food debris burnt onto the bottom surface of the oven itself. Once you've assessed where the grime has accumulated, you can put together a cleaning plan to tackle the job. If the mess seems really significant, you may need to break up the cleaning over several sessions so you're not overwhelmed.

Equipment You'll Need

Having the proper equipment and supplies on hand will make cleaning your filthy oven much easier. Stock up on the following items before getting started:

  • Oven cleaner - A good commercial oven cleaner is the best degreasing agent for tackling the mess inside your oven. Look for a cleaner that clings to surfaces so it can penetrate tough grime.
  • Steel wool pads - For scrubbing off caked-on grime, nothing works better than steel wool. Opt for a coarse grade like #3 for heavy messes.
  • Nylon scrubber sponges - These non-scratch scrubbers are perfect for cleaning the glass oven door. They'll remove baked-on gunk without scratching.
  • Microfiber cloths and sponges - These pick up grime efficiently from oven surfaces without leaving lint behind. Have plenty on hand.
  • Protective gloves - Wear heavy-duty rubber gloves to keep oven cleaners and grime off your skin. Elbow length is best.
  • Old rags and towels - You'll need plenty of disposable rags for wiping up grease and grime as you clean. Old cut-up t-shirts or towels work well.
  • A plastic scraper - This can help gently free stuck-on spills and gunk. Opt for a flexible plastic putty knife-style scraper.
  • Baking soda - For mild areas or for deodorising, baking soda can be a great grease-cutting alternative to harsher cleaners.

With these supplies gathered, you'll be armed for battle against even the nastiest oven mess.

Safety Tips

Cleaning an oven involves dealing with some harsh chemicals and irritants. Keep the following guidelines in mind.

  • Always turn off the oven and allow it to fully cool before cleaning. Hot surfaces can pose a burn hazard.
  • Wear gloves and eye protection when handling oven cleaner sprays or scrubbing abrasive grime. The chemicals can irritate the skin and eyes.
  • Open windows and turn on exhaust fans before spraying cleaners in an enclosed oven. Avoid breathing in fumes.
  • Read and follow all safety precautions listed on any commercial cleaners you use. Don't mix chemical products.
  • Use caution when scrubbing. Steel wool pads can scratch surfaces like glass. Be gentle on coated or chipped areas.
  • Dispose of used rags, gloves, and sponges properly to avoid cross-contamination. Consider wearing a mask as well when cleaning.
  • Never use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners in your oven, as they can create toxic fumes. Stick to commercial oven products.

Proceeding carefully will ensure the cleaning process goes smoothly and safely.

cleaning an oven

Step 1 - Remove Everything from the Oven

The first step in any thorough oven cleaning job is to clear out the oven fully so all surfaces are exposed and ready to be scrubbed.

Start by removing the racks. If they're heavily soiled, place them in the sink or tub to be washed separately later with a degreasing dish soap.

Next, safely remove any debris from the bottom of the oven - burnt-on drips, crumbs, grease puddles, etc. Use a plastic scraper as needed on stickier spots. Place any solid debris in the rubbish.

Finally, remove any removable panels, the oven door, probe thermometers or other parts that can safely come out of the oven. Set them aside for individual cleaning later on.

Your oven should now be empty and ready for degreasing.

Step 2 - Apply Oven Cleaner Liberally

With the oven cleared out, now is the time to break out the trusted oven cleaner. When tackling a really dirty oven, you'll need to use plenty of cleaners to soften and penetrate all of that caked-on grease.

Put on your gloves and eye protection before working with any oven-cleaning chemicals. Make sure the oven is cool before spraying or applying cleaner.

Focus first on the interior oven walls and back panel. Give a generous coating of oven cleaner to any areas with thick grease buildup or burnt-on stains. Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping to allow it time to penetrate.

Next, spray inside the door frame and hinges to cut through greasy accumulation. Coat the exterior door surface as well if needed.

Give racks a thorough spray down on all sides with cleaner if they are grimy. Use a liberal amount to loosen the grease. Place them in large plastic bags or garbage bags after coating to contain the dripping cleaner.

Finally, apply cleaner directly to heavily soiled areas on the oven bottom. Spread it around with a scrub brush or plastic scraper.

Let the oven cleaner sit for at least 10 minutes before wiping. The longer you allow it to penetrate, the more effective it will be. Set a timer so you don't forget oven parts soaking in cleaner.

Step 3 - Scrub, Wipe and Scrape Away Grime

After letting the oven cleaner solution sit for 10-15 minutes, it's time to start scrubbing away. The solvents in the cleaner will have loosened up much of the grease buildup, making it easier to remove.

Start with the oven's interior side and rear walls. Use a dampened steel wool pad to scrub the surfaces in a circular motion, reapplying cleaner as needed. The steel wool will scour off layers of baked-on gunk.

For the glass oven door, switch to a nylon scrub sponge. Apply some elbow grease to remove stubborn spots. Take care not to scratch the glass.

Use towels or rags to wipe down areas as you work. A plastic scraper can also help pry off any chunks of debris loosened by the cleaner.

Remove racks from their garbage bags and go over all sides with steel wool and cleaner. Rinse thoroughly after scrubbing.

Finish by scouring the oven bottom with a scrub brush and scraper until all stuck-on debris is gone.

It takes some real muscle, but eventually, all of the grimy buildup inside your oven should be removed down to the shiny metal or enamel surfaces.

Step 4 - Rinse and Clean Again if Needed

Once everything inside your oven has been scrubbed, you'll want to thoroughly rinse any cleaner residue off of the surfaces. Take racks to the sink and rinse them well with hot water.

For inside the oven, simply use a spray bottle filled with clean water to rinse surfaces. Use towels to soak up the rinse water.

After rinsing, inspect the oven again. If any greasy spots remain, repeat the cleaning process, focusing on those grimy areas.

You may need to do several rounds of spray, scrub, wipe, and rinse to get a fully clean oven interior once the grime is caked on. But your patience will pay off!\

Step 5 - Clean the Exterior Surfaces

While the inside of a dirty oven tends to get our attention, grime builds up on external surfaces too. Once you've cleaned the inside, finish up by tackling the exterior.

Spray oven cleaner onto a soft scrub sponge and wipe down the outside of the oven door thoroughly. Rinse and dry with a towel.

Use a degreasing all-purpose cleaner and rag or sponge to remove greasy fingerprints and food residue from the oven's exterior stainless steel or painted surfaces.

Finish up by thoroughly cleaning the control panel. Either use speciality appliance cleaner and a soft brush or carefully wipe with a damp rag to remove grime from between buttons.

Step 6 - Clean Other Oven Parts

If you removed racks, the oven door or other parts during the first step, make sure to thoroughly clean them now before replacing in the oven.

For oven racks:

  • Spray with cleaner if needed and let sit briefly
  • Scrub with steel wool and rinse until clean
  • Soak in warm water and dish soap to remove all residue
  • Dry fully with a towel

For the oven door:

  • Spray the glass with cleaner and let sit briefly
  • Wipe down with a scrub sponge and rinse
  • Use a toothbrush to clean crevices around the handle
  • Dry the glass fully before replacing the door

For detachable elements like probes:

  • Hand wash fully with dish soap and rinse
  • Dry fully before returning to oven
  • Reinstall any dismantled parts once they are clean and dry. 

Now you've tackled the whole oven!

Step 7 - Remove Odours

Even after scrubbing away all traces of grime, a freshly cleaned oven may still retain some lingering odours left behind by grease and burnt food residue.

To freshen up your oven, try placing a small bowl of baking soda inside and leaving it overnight. The baking soda will help absorb funky smells.

You can also wipe down the interior oven surfaces with some distilled white vinegar. Its acidic properties help remove odours. Just rinse surfaces after spraying vinegar.

Run the empty oven at a high temp (500F) for 30 minutes to burn off any remaining odours as well.

Step 8 - Apply a Protective Coating

To help keep your oven clean longer after putting in all that elbow grease, consider applying a protective finish inside.

An oven enamel coating is designed to make oven surfaces more resistant to grease buildup and grime sticking. Spray or brush on evenly and bake at 200F for one hour.

You can also rub a light coat of olive oil onto the oven interior using a cloth or paper towel. Just wipe off any excess. The oil will create a barrier against splatter and drips.

Either protective method will make periodic cleaning much quicker and easier going forward!

Oven Cleaning Hints And Tips


  • Always start cleaning when your oven is completely cool for safety. Turn off, open the door and allow it to cool fully first.
  • Ventilate your kitchen well while cleaning by opening windows and turning on exhaust fans. This keeps chemical fumes from building up.
  • Avoid bleach- or ammonia-based cleaners as they create toxic gases when combined with oven grease. Use commercial oven formulas only.
  • Start cleaning dirty ovens early in the day to allow adequate dry time before using them again. Any rinse residue needs to fully evaporate.
  • For quick post-use oven cleaning, hit spills and drips immediately with baking soda once the oven is cool. This prevents burning on.
  • Use dryer sheets to wipe down cooled oven surfaces between major cleanings. They help remove light greasy buildup.
  • Schedule oven deep cleaning sessions for when you'll be home for hours so cleaners have time to penetrate gunk fully.
  • Place a foil or silicone oven liner on the bottom rack to catch future drips and splatters for easier cleanup. Change it periodically
  • Install an oven splatter screen if you fry or roast frequently. This shields walls from greasy buildup between cleanings.
  • Wear an apron when cooking messy or greasy dishes to protect your clothes from pesky oven splatter.

When to Call in a Professional

If your oven is an utter disaster zone, you may want to consider hiring professional cleaners rather than tackling the massive mess yourself.

Signs it may be time to call in a service include:

  • Thick layers of grime and carbon buildup completely coating every surface
  • Burnt-on grease that seems impossible to chisel off no matter how much you scrub
  • Rust or other corrosion present that may need special attention
  • An oven cleaner/degreaser solution that is ineffective at penetrating the layers of caked-on gunk
  • Health issues like back pain or breathing trouble that make extensive bending or use of chemicals a problem
  • Lack of time for an intensive, multi-hour oven cleaning marathon
  • Fear you may damage the oven surfaces trying to remove stubborn debris yourself

Oven cleaning professionals have commercial-grade tools, high-powered oven degreasers and plenty of experience tackling extreme oven gunk. In just a few hours, they can restore even the filthiest oven to a like-new condition. If you are based in Wirral, visit for a professional clean or a local cleaner in your area.

Rather than risk damage to your oven or your health trying to clean layers of burned-on grease, calling in the experts may be money well spent.

Maintain a Clean Oven

To prevent your oven from ever getting disturbingly dirty again, get into the habit of quick cleaning sessions between your deep cleans.
Follow these tips to stay on top of oven grime:

  • Wipe up spills promptly after the oven has cooled using baking soda and a damp cloth
  • Use foil liners and a splatter guard when cooking messy dishes
  • Hand wash racks after each use with dish soap
  • Clean the oven door window frequently with glass cleaner or vinegar
  • Remove and hand wash detachable parts like racks, probes and trays regularly
  • Quickly wipe out loose crumbs from the oven bottom after each use
  • Schedule a thorough oven cleaning session every 2-3 months
  • A few minutes' effort here and there prevents grease and food from carbonising inside your oven. You'll get to enjoy the sparkling clean results much longer!

Oven Cleaning Doesn't Have to Be Awful

While dealing with built-up grime in a dirty oven may seem like a dreaded chore, hopefully, these tips will make the process quicker and easier for you. Break up the workload, use the right tools and take all necessary safety precautions.

In a few hours, your oven will once again be bright, shiny and restored. No more peering in at a science experiment gone wrong! Just remember to stay on top of maintenance cleansing moving forward. A little effort here and there prevents having to tackle a major oven disaster again anytime soon.

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