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What You Need To Know About Your Self-Cleaning Oven


By Christy Begien,  Christy’s Non Toxic Lifestyle

Okay, so as the days turn darker and we get ready to hunker down for the holidays and winter, I’m shifting into baking mode. Let the fun begin! My friend Karen’s pumpkin bread is first on my list. However, as I open my oven after many months of neglect, I am reminded that it’s time for a good cleaning. Many of us have self-cleaning ovens, but wait — what’s that nasty smell that causes a burning throat and itchy eyes that comes with that convenience?

Did you know that self-cleaning ovens are lined with Teflon? When exposed to 600 degrees Fahrenheit – or higher – during the oven cleaning, well, the off-gassing is very toxic to humans, especially babies, young children and pregnant women. The fumes can also cause flu-like symptoms, sweating, coughing and trigger asthma. Pet birds are particularly vulnerable to death after being exposed to these toxic fumes. Is it just the Teflon? If so, what can I do to clean an oven that’s less toxic?

Did you also know that carbon monoxide is released into the air during the cleaning cycle? That’s because the  process involves burning off baked-on, charred food in the oven, according to Celia Harsch with Demand Media. So just a quick recap: By turning that self-cleaning oven on, you are exposing yourself and those in your home to a group of chemicals called PFOAs. They are known carcinogens and they do not flush out of our systems quickly. They are really pretty bad, and you really don’t want them in your house. Some of these chemicals are also found in microwave popcorn bags and non-stick pots and pans. Even with good ventilation, these bad-boy chemicals don’t go away easily, so I highly recommend replacing anything with this coating. It means a bit more elbow grease, but it’s healthier.

Why Are Aerosol Oven Cleaners So Unhealthy?

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), only 1 out of 12 standard oven cleaners rated a “C.” All the others received totally failing grades. Each contained at least one of a number of horribly toxic chemicals, including lye and petroleum distillates, like kerosene. (Petroleum distillates are hydrocarbon solvents produced from crude oil.) They can cause serious health issues: burns to the skin, eyes, mouth, throat and even stomach, when in direct contact. I used to use those nasty aerosol oven cleaners with toxic chemicals to clean my oven. The directions said to wait a couple hours and wipe down. I did that, but then my eyes burned and I was coughing most of the time. Not good.

Here’s the link to the list of oven cleaners with failing grades according to the Environmental Working Group: List of Oven Cleaners

So How Do I Clean My Oven Without Using Toxic Chemicals?

This will require a little more time and effort, but in the end, it’s so much healthier.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your oven, followed by enough white vinegar to set the soda bubbling or fizzing.
  2. Wait 20 minutes, then take a good sponge or stainless-steel scouring pads and start scrubbing.
    To make things even easier, let the mixture sit 12 hours, or overnight. A damp dishcloth and plastic spatula can also help scrape off the paste. Oh, and don’t forget to wear a good pair of rubber gloves to protect your nails.

For cleaning the racks, I let one half of each rack soak in the sink in hot water and organic dish soap for a few hours. Before going to bed, I flip them and let the other half soak.

Yes, it takes a little more time and effort, but I think most of you will agree that it’s a healthier option for you and your loved ones. Trust me, there’s something kind of rewarding when you wipe that grime off and you’re left with a clean, sparkly oven! And let’s face it, a box of baking soda and some vinegar is pretty inexpensive!


Christy is a Colorado native who returned to Denver five years ago after living on the East Coast for 25 years. She’s a 10-year breast cancer survivor and researcher, passionate about finding new, everyday, simple changes one can make to stay healthy. She’s lived single motherhood, is currently happily married and has worked full-time over the years. She also loves family time, her treasured friendships, photography, reading, gardening, cooking, volunteering and travel. She is certified in Feng Shui and recently completed Reiki level I training. You can learn more about Christy on her website: Christy’s Non Toxic Lifestyle.


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1 Comment

  1. Claudia
    April 13, 2016 @ 10:36 pm

    The question is, why do over makers decided to keep those oven cleaning feature when it is not safe? People who does not know probably would keep using that since it is easier than cleaning manually. I did this for some time ago until one day my friend told me that the residue can be unhealthy especially for babies. After doing the research myself, I am quite shocked that there are many articles about this.

    But yeah, I guess marketing wise, that self cleaning feature sounds so great and all. I’ve also read many blogs that such as this http://blog.estrading.com.au/do-you-have-these-3-smart-features-in-your-new-oven. Makes me wonder if they have actually make it safer as technology goes better


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