Why you should never use oven cleaner and what to use instead

The inside of your oven is among the dirtiest places in your home. This spot has all kinds of food residue and other droppings that get left behind after you’re done cooking the perfect home-cooked meals for your family. And once you use and reuse the oven again, those particles get baked into the sides and surfaces of the space. Because scrubbing this residue is so difficult, some people rely on oven cleaners to make the process less laborious. But you may not want to use these typical oven cleaner products — they could be toxic.

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Any cleaning product, including air fresheners, could contain some hazardous chemicals. But according to Samara Geller, senior research and database analyst for the Environmental Working Group, oven cleaners are “especially hazardous.” It has to do with the ingredients used in oven cleaners. Some of the harmful chemicals that can be found in oven cleaners include sodium hydroxide and butoxydiglycol.

These ingredients are far from safe if you don’t take the appropriate precautions.

“Those warnings [on the labels] give you a pretty strong indication that maybe there are some pretty serious chemicals in this product,” Geller said. “I might want to think twice about using it.”

Some warnings might advise users to wear long gloves, to avoid inhaling spray or vapors, or even to wear goggles or a mask.

“These chemicals are very harsh and can be caustic and corrosive,” Geller said. “They can burn the skin and eyes, can blind, and can be corrosive to the respiratory tract. The vapors can irritate the lungs and can actually exacerbate or trigger an asthma attack. A lot of the chemicals used have been known to actually be capable of causing asthma.”

The bottom line is that there is a reason to be wary of these cleaners — and if you must use them, take the necessary precautions to protect your eyes, throat and skin.

So what’s the safest way to clean your oven then? An alternative solution is to make your own oven cleaner using natural ingredients. For instance, Geller recommends making a solution made up of 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon water.

“Apply this liberally to your oven and scrape up all the greasy residue,” Geller said. “You can leave the solution overnight on stubborn patches and then come back and scrape it.”

As you scrape away the solution, the grease and gunk should come off with it. Just make sure you rinse the oven thoroughly with a wet cloth when you’re finished. And after you’re done with your oven, you might want to consider tackling all those other household items you never thought to clean.

For the oven racks, you can use your bathtub to help clean off the dirt and grime.

“Oftentimes the kitchen sink isn’t big enough,” Geller said. “Soak [the oven racks] overnight in some dish liquid in your bathtub and scrub them off in the morning. Get in there with your tools and scrub around those wires.”

Oven cleaners aren’t the only cleaning products bringing scary-sounding chemicals into your home. Luckily, baking soda is just one of many all-natural cleaning tips and tricks you can use to keep your home safe.