By Ginny Chandoha
Convenience often comes with a price, and in the case of self-cleaning ovens, that price is our health.
Did you know that your self-cleaning oven is hazardous to your health because it is coated with Teflon®, a chemical made by DuPont that is used on all non-stick surfaces, as well as stain-free clothing, “Scotch Guarded” furniture and fabrics, the lining of microwave popcorn bags, fast food wrappers, even disposable plastic plates?
Teflon® is part of the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) family of chemicals that when heated, transforms into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Because our body cannot readily break these chemicals down or eliminate them, they remain stored in our tissues and fat cells and are linked to dry and itchy eyes, burning throat, headache, and more severe side effects of asthma, birth defects, a destructive and unrecoverable disease called bronchiolitis obliterans which destroys the small airways in the lungs, immunotoxicity, impaired liver function, changes in lipid levels, and is a known carcinogen.
Self-cleaning ovens are lined with PTFE (Teflon) and reach up to 900°F during the self-cleaning cycle, emitting toxic fumes that can not only impact your health, but it has been reported that pet birds have died as a result of the toxic emissions during oven self-cleaning cycles.
It was a very long time ago that I attempted to clean my oven using the self-cleaning cycle. While it was so long ago that I do not recall the obnoxious odor that many have reported, what I do remember is that it seemed like an enormous waste of electricity in order to end up with a less than spotless oven and a few burnt crisps.
Instead, when I was much younger and ignorant, occasionally I resorted to using non-fuming oven cleaner, which is also extremely toxic and I wouldn’t dream of using it now. I hate to admit it, but it is rare that I use anything to clean my oven, and as a result, it has been so encrusted with baked on food remnants that I have been ashamed to have dinner guests for fear they’d see the inside of my filthy oven.
Recently I roasted duck and OMG did my oven get even filthier with a very thick and sticky coating of charred duck fat. Vowing that until I’d cleaned it, I wasn’t going to bake another thing in it!
So how are we supposed to clean our ovens without donning complete HAZMAT suits with respirators?
Warming the oven and then wiping it down didn’t do a single thing to get the burned-on crud off, so here’s what I discovered:
First, to clean the door glass I used a razor blade, and then wiped down the glass with straight white vinegar.
I used a Scotch Brite (a full pad, not a sponge lined with it), which is a pretty abrasive scrubber but doesn’t harm the enamel coating of the oven, by slightly moistening it with a couple of drops of white vinegar, then heavily coated the Scotch Brite with Soap For Goodness Sake’s Organic Coconut Oil Soap (I use this soap to clean everything, including my toilet bowl), then added to the soaped up Scotch Brite about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
I quickly scrubbed one side of the oven, then repeated adding soap and baking soda to the Scotch Brite and scrubbed the same area again. This would create a thick foam that would cling to the oven surface. After a lot of scrubbing I’d use a clean sponge soaked in hot water to wipe down the surface.
Next I tried scrubbing down the other side of the oven until my arms felt like they were going to fall off, and still couldn’t get all the baked-on crud off. I did this several times and while a lot of the charred remains came off, it wasn’t spotless or to my satisfaction.
It wasn’t until I was nearly done that I discovered that if I’d left the foam on for at least a half hour (an hour is even better), it takes the baked-on crud right off. It was by accident that I discovered this while working on the back of the stove. I’d gotten it all foamed up when the phone rang and I closed the oven door because I didn’t want the soapy foam to dry out. I’d spent nearly an hour on the phone and when I returned to work on my oven I was shocked when I sponged down the foam. The baked-on sticky fat came right off as if I’d sprayed toxic chemicals on it.
I was thrilled to say the least and kicked myself for having spent two hours trying to scrub clean both sides of the oven when I could have simply foamed up the entire oven with non-toxic soap, baking soda and vinegar, closed the door, spent an hour preparing the food I wanted to bake, and then taking just a few minutes wiping down the foam with a sponge. The stove would have been spotless and hardly any work at all.
Lesson learned and it makes me WANT to clean my oven more often. It will be almost easy, only slight work on my part, and best of all completely toxin-free. I’ll stand on my head if I have to just to avoid toxic chemicals or wasting electricity for convenience sake.
So here’s how to clean an oven the non-toxic way:
- Clean the door glass using a razor blade and then wipe down the glass with straight white vinegar
- Slightly moisten a Scotch Brite with a couple of drops of white vinegar, then heavily coat the Scotch Brite with Soap For Goodness Sake’s Organic Coconut Oil Soap and add to the soaped up Scotch Brite about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
- Scrub all sides of the oven, then rinse Scotch Brite in hot water and repeat step 2, scrubbing the same areas again. This will create thick foam that will cling to the oven surfaces.
- Close the oven door and let the foam stand for at least one hour.
- Rinse the Scotch Brite in hot water and give oven surfaces a quick once over scrub.
- Repeatedly wipe down all oven surfaces with a clean sponge rinsed in hot water until all foam residue is removed.
Of course, one very important, completely non-toxic ingredient not listed above is a little elbow grease.
About the Author
Ginny Chandoha is a published writer whose short stories have appeared in The Staying Sane book series by DeCapo Press. Having spent many years in the publishing industry, she has been a contributing editor of several travel trade publications and is the author of the forthcoming book, “Lichen Sclerosis: Beating the Disease.” She currently resides in New Hampshire with her husband and two cats.
Tags: How to clean and oven non toxic, non toxic oven cleaner, non toxic oven cleaning