If scrubbing your oven isn’t part of your normal cleaning routine, it should be. The inside of your oven sees all kinds of food residue, bacteria, and other droppings that get left behind while you’re cooking for your family. And once you use and reuse the oven again, those particles get baked into the sides and surfaces of the space. Since 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.
Any cleaning product could contain some chemicals. But according to Samara Geller, senior research and database analyst for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), oven cleaners are “especially hazardous.” It has to do with the ingredients used in oven cleaners, she told The Daily Meal. The chemicals Geller warned about specifically include sodium hydroxide, ethanolamine and butoxydiglycol. The EWG publishes a full guide to which oven cleaner brands contain which chemicals on their website.
These ingredients are far from safe if you don’t take appropriate precautions — a danger that’s made clear by multiple warnings printed on oven cleaner labels. “Those warnings 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 say 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 here is that there is reason to be wary of these cleaners — and if you must use them, to take the necessary precautions to protect your eyes, throat, and skin. The Daily Meal has reached out to Amway and Reckitt Benckiser (RB), the company behind the Easy-Off brand of oven cleaner, for comment.
An alternative solution for those concerned about the issue is to DIY an oven cleaner using natural ingredients. For instance, Geller recommends the tried and true recipe of a solution made of 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon water.
“Apply this liberally to your oven and scrape up all the greasy residue,” she instructed. “A little elbow grease goes a long way! 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 comes off with it. Just make sure you rinse the oven thoroughly with a wet cloth when you’re finished. For the oven racks, which can be clunky and difficult to clean, you can use your bathtub.
“Oftentimes the kitchen sink isn’t big enough,” Geller said. “Soak them 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 tip and tricks you can use to keep your home safe.