How Does Oven Self-Clean Works?

In most ovens, the self-clean function works by using high temperatures or high steam.

The high heat burns up the gunk and dislodges it while a blast of high steam throughout the oven helps to remove the hardened food particles by making them soft and loose.

Everyone wants to be free from getting down on their knees and scouring stuck particles.

Depending on how dirty the oven is, cleaning up the oven interiors can be a long and tiring task.

All you have to do now is switch on the self-clean function and let the oven do all the hard work.

Once the cleaning cycle is complete, use a wet cloth to remove the loosened and burnt particles of food. 

The inside of your enamel coating will be smooth just like new.

Allow me to explain how the self-cleaning function works

How Does the Self-Cleaning Feature in Ovens Work? 

In most ovens, when the self-cleaning starts, the door automatically locks and the oven starts to build up an intense temperature in its cavity.

The temperature used for the self-cleaning function is usually up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. 

This high temperature helps to burn the stuck food particles. The burnt particles are easily dislodged.

This function can last anywhere from two to six hours depending on the oven.

Once the cycle is complete and the oven has cooled down, the oven will shut down the lock feature and you can easily open the oven door. 

There are two methods by which the ovens self-clean: 

Self-clean Using High-temperature Function 

Many ovens use the high-temperature feature to self-clean.

In these ovens, once you switch on the self-cleaning function, the oven will close its door automatically. The temperature inside will rise up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The intense heat will burn out the stuck gunk and the burnt particle will easily fall down to the floor of the oven. 

Self-clean Using the Steam Function

There are a lot of ovens that use steam for the self-cleaning function. 

For these models, you need to pour a cup of distilled water on the floor of the oven.

Close the door manually and switch on the self-cleaning function. Throughout the cycle, the door will remain unlocked.

The temperature inside will reach around 250°F. This temperature is enough to create a high blast of steam throughout the oven.  

The steam cleaning cycle lasts for about 30 mins to one hour depending on the model. The blast of steam will loosen and soften the food particles.

In both cases, you will have to manually remove the gunk off once the oven has cooled down.

Use a small hand vacuum or a wet cloth followed by a dry wipe. 

Also read: Can Self-Cleaning Oven Kill You?

Step by Step Guidelines for Using the Self-Clean Function in the Oven 

  • Remove the plug from the socket after usage. Let the oven cool down
  • Read the manual that came with your oven when using the self-cleaning function for the first time
  • Remove plastic items and all other accessories from the top of the oven as well as items stored nearby.
  • Open the oven door and take out the removable racks. This is done to prevent discoloration and protect the racks from warping
  • Remove all cookware and wipe off any heavy spillage before starting your self-cleaning cycle.
  • Increase the ventilation of your kitchen by switching on the ventilating fan and opening your windows. This will remove the heat and fumes from the kitchen. 
  • Close the door of the oven. 
  • Once you activate the self-cleaning feature, the doors will lock automatically. If you are not sure, check and double-check to make sure they are locked. Remember that a steam-based self-cleaning mode will not lock the door and will have to be closed manually.
  • Once the cycle is over and the oven has cooled down, wipe away all the loosened and burnt gunk off the oven. 
Also read: How to Stop Self-Cleaning Oven?

Which Method of Oven Self-cleaning is Better? 

A high-temperature self-cleaning oven gives you an even cleaning throughout the length and breadth of the oven chamber.

A steam-based self-cleaning oven tends to generate more powerful steam at the button and lower walls. 

The particles will be more effectively cleaned from these areas. 

As the steam remains confined more near the lower part of the oven, the ceiling and upper walls remain a little dirty and may need to be cleaned manually by hand.

So the ovens using the high heat technique for self-cleaning stand superior to the models using the steam technique for self-cleaning. 

But wait, there is a catch: The problem with ovens using high heat technique is the emission of a higher volume of noxious fumes. This can be harmful to family members suffering from respiratory conditions.

The Pros of using the Self-cleaning Feature in an Oven

A big advantage of using the self-cleaning feature of the oven is that you don’t have to deal with the harmful chemical cleaning solutions in the market. 

The self-cleaning feature takes care of all the hard work by removing stuck and stubborn gunk and grease effectively.

Many food particles do not get removed easily from the nooks and corners of difficult-to-reach areas.

The self-cleaning feature takes care of removing all dirt from all sides of the oven interiors. 

The old leftover foods can release bad smells and may disturb the flavors of the fresh baking food.

The self-cleaning feature takes care to remove all the leftovers giving you healthy and tasty flavors and aromas from freshly baked food.

The Cons of Using the Self-cleaning Feature

The disadvantage of using both steam or high heat self-cleaning models is the emission of harmful byproducts like carbon monoxide. 

These fumes come out from food particles as well as from the enamel coatings of the oven. 

The fumes and burning odors circulate in the kitchen and spread to the rest of the home in no time.

These pollutants are noxious as well as irritating and may cause harm to people and pets.

One of the harmful by-products is carbon monoxide that may cause breathing issues. 

No matter how much you try to avoid being indoors, the house will stink of burnt smells and fumes for a very long time. 

Even after the self-cleaning function is complete, you would need to manually remove the gunk and burnt particles from the oven. 

How Often Should You Use the Self-cleaning Feature of the Oven?

You may be wondering how often to use the self-cleaning feature of the oven?

The oven gets really hot during the self-cleaning cycle and releases fumes and burnt odors that may make your house smell.

So I would advise you to use the self-cleaning feature about once a month or after every 10th use and make sure no one is at home when you switch it on.

Take your pets along as the smell can be harmful, overpowering, and unpleasant.

Tips to Maintain a Clean Oven between Two Self-clean Cycles 

The self-cleaning feature is not a replacement for hands-on cleaning.

Just like you spend time getting together raw ingredients for a meal, take a little time out to peak into your oven and clean it up when you see it dirty.  

Here are a few tips :

  • Wipe up the spills as soon as you notice them. Wiping them away will prevent them from becoming hard. 
  • Use a non-metal oven scrapper or a soft sponge to remove stuck-on gunk 
  • Wash the racks after every third use with warm soapy water. Let the racks dry up before placing them back inside the oven
  • Use baking soda and vinegar solution and leave it overnight. Wipe away the paste in the morning along with the loosened gunk.
  • Always use a soft sponge to avoid damage to the enamel coating in the interior of the oven. 

If you follow the above tips you will not have a very dirty oven as the leftovers will not harden.

You will have a clean appliance to cook your food while ensuring your food preparation is done in a healthy way.

Final Words  

I hope the self-cleaning technique inside an oven is clear to you.

Summing up, there are two ways the oven’s self-clean: one is using high temperature and the other is using steam.

While the high-temperature method is better when it comes to cleaning, the oven models using steam to self-clean are cheaper and safer due to less emission of fumes.

When it comes to the frequency of using the self-clean feature, it depends on how dirty your oven is and how frequently you use it.

The rule of the thumb is to self-clean after every 10th use

If you keep your oven clean after every use and remove spills as soon as they occur, you can delay the self-cleaning feature according to your preference.

Newer models have adjustable settings you can choose for self-cleaning. The options are mild, moderate, and heavy depending on how dirty your oven is.

Whenever you want to use the self-clean function, read the manufacturing instruction booklet that came with your oven.

Ventilate your kitchen and take a walk outdoors with your family and pets while the oven takes care of the stuck-on gunk. All the best!

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I’m Jueria and I am a regular contributor on In my articles, I share time-saving techniques, appliance wizardry, and health-friendly recipes to bring taste and wellness to your table. So raise a glass (or a spatula) with me, to good health and good food, made easy!