Cleaning dirty oven racks doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. Learn the easy, natural way to get your oven racks as sparkling clean as a new oven!
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Oven racks seem to mysteriously collect grease and grim: one day they’re bright and shiny stainless steel, the next they are covered in splotchy black and brown stains that are nearly impossible to remove.
Where oh where does all this dirt come from???
When we purchased our current oven, I vowed to keep it sparkling clean inside and out. Then one day I opened the oven door and WHAM… the racks were filthy!
I tried wiping the racks with cleaner and scrubbing them in the kitchen sink, but nothing seemed to make a huge difference.
Finally, I consulted my trusty sidekick (Pinterest) and started investigating oven cleaners. After some trial and error I found the easiest way to get clean oven racks.
The best part? It’s a natural, green-cleaning solution I feel good about using!
Check out the video tutorial or skip to the written tutorial below.
Both will show you how to make oven rack cleaning a simple chore!
The Best Way to Clean Oven Racks
The best oven rack cleaner is the simplest: soak them overnight in baking soda and water then wipe clean.
Yep, it’s really that simple!
Why this natural cleaning combo works:
- Baking soda breaks down the grease, food proteins, and stains found on dirty oven racks.
- Water softens the grime and baked on food particles so they can be easily wiped away.
- Baking soda is an affordable, natural cleaner so it’s good for your wallet and the environment.
How to Clean Oven Racks with Baking Soda
Baking soda makes a great oven cleaner. It’s cheap, won’t damage metal surfaces, and has great cleaning power without harmful chemicals.
Here’s how to clean oven racks with baking soda:
- Fill tub with several inches of hot water (just enough to cover the racks).
- Add 1-3 cups of baking soda depending on the size of the tub (more water=more baking soda needed). Swirl to dissolve.
- Place racks in tub. (Add a bit more hot water if racks are not completely covered)
- Soak the racks in the baking soda solution for at least 8 hours (or overnight)
- Wipe the racks with a clean rag, sponge, or stainless steel pad (use a scrubbing pad for tough spots like corners).
- Rinse and dry before replacing in oven.
WHAT IS BAKING SODA?
Baking soda is the name commonly used in the United States for Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3) a white crystalline powder used to leaven or raise baked goods. It is edible and is mild enough to be used as toothpaste or taken as an antacid, but should not be inhaled and can irritate eyes.
Sodium Bicarbonate is a great green cleaning ingredient because it is alkaline (a mild base) which helps break down grease and food which are generally acidic. It also softens water (raise the pH) for better cleaning and neutralizes odor causing acids.
You may also love: how to clean your oven door glass with baking soda
… and easy tips for cleaning with baking soda
Baking Soda or Baking Powder for Cleaning?
Please note, baking soda is sometimes confused with baking powder, but they are definitely not the same thing! Both are used to rise baked goods in the kitchen, but:
- Baking powder is a mixture of a leavening agent (sodium bicarbonate), an acid (usually cream of tartar), and inert buffer (usually cornstarch).
- Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate.
- An easy memory aid: baking soda = single ingredient, baking powder = poofs in the oven.
3 More Natural Cleaning Methods to Try
While researching oven rack cleaning I came across several other natural cleaning tutorials that seemed promising. Give these 3 tutorials a try if you’re ready to move beyond plain old baking soda.
#1 Overnight in the Grass Oven Rack Cleaner
Directions: Lay warm or cool oven racks on grass (yes, your lawn!) overnight to loosen burned-on food and grease. In the morning wipe clean. (This method is also recommended for dirty grill racks.)
Assessment: I eagerly tried this old-school method, but it made very little difference on my grimy oven racks. Perhaps the problem was the time of year: I tried the method in autumn when my lawn was frosty overnight, I will try it again in summer when the lawn has more morning dew.
#2 Dishwasher Detergent Bath
Directions: Place old towels in bathtub. Place the oven racks in bathtub, on top of the towels. Fill tub with enough hot water to cover the racks. Add one cup of powdered dishwasher detergent. Soak overnight. In the morning wipe clean and rinse the racks.
Assessment: Dishwasher detergent is designed to clean the type of messes left on oven racks so this method probably works great. However, using a cup of my favorite natural dish washing powder would cost around $5! I’d rather not waste that much dishwasher detergent for one cleaning!
#3 Baking Soda and Dish Soap Bath
Directions: Place old towels in bathtub. Place the oven racks in bathtub, on top of the towels. Fill tub with enough hot water to cover the racks. Add one cup of baking soda and a half-cup of hand washing dish detergent (the kind used for washing dishes in the sink) then soak oven racks overnight. In the morning wipe clean and rinse the racks.
Assessment: As already noted, baking soda is a great cleaner that can boost the power of water and dish soap. And, since dish soap is designed to clean the type of messes left on oven racks this method probably works great. However, using a half-cup of my favorite natural dish soap would cost around $5! I’d rather not use that much soap when the baking soda also does a great job cleaning the racks.
6 DIY Oven Rack Cleaning Methods You Should Skip
There are MANY questionable oven rack cleaning tutorials online. The suggestions range from messy and damaging to downright dangerous. Do your oven racks a favor and skip these 5 rack cleaning recommendations:
#1 Self-Cleaning Oven Cycle
Directions: Run the self-cleaning oven cycle with oven racks inside the oven.
Why this is not recommended: The self-cleaning oven Feature is not recommended for oven rack cleaning. Manufacturers instructions state that all oven racks should be removed before self-cleaning. This is because the extreme oven temperatures during the cleaning cycle burn food off of the oven’s interior. Oven racks are made of different material that can be damaged by the heat. Self cleaning can even damage the interior of the oven if the racks are left in contact with the walls.
#2 Ammonia and Trash Bags Soak
Directions: Place oven racks a large, clean garbage bag and pour in several cups of ammonia. Tightly tie the bag shut and let sit overnight. The ammonia fumes circulate to loosen baked on food. Spray the racks with a hose to remove grime.
Why this is not recommended: Ammonia fumes are harmful to the respiratory system and can even be deadly! This cleaning should only take place outside in a well-ventilated area so the dangerous fumes are not inhaled and do not enter your home. In addition, when handling ammonia safety precautions include gloves, safety goggles, and old clothes that you do not mind staining or ruining.
#3 Hot Water and Ammonia
Directions: Preheat oven to 100⁰F, pour ammonia into a heatproof bowl and place it on the top rack, on the bottom rack place a large pot of boiled water. Let it sit overnight with oven door closed to loosen grease and grime. Use warm water and soap to wipe away oven debris.
Why this is not recommended: This is the most dangerous oven rack cleaning! The ammonia fumes are inside the house where the smell may be unbearable and dangerous amounts can be inhaled. In addition, ammonia can be ignited and poses a fire and explosion hazard, especially in a confined space so allowing a bowl to sit overnight in the oven seems unnecessarily risky.
#4 Commercial Oven Cleaner Coating
Directions: Lay the oven racks on an old plastic shower curtain . Coat with oven cleaner on both sides. Allow cleaner to work for recommended time (at least 10 minutes), scrub racks with a rag or brush, and rinse.
Why this is not recommended: There are several reasons to avoid this cleaning method: 1) Commercial oven cleaners produce harmful fumes. The cleaning should only take place outside in a well-ventilated area so the dangerous fumes are not inhaled. Also, when using oven cleaner, you should wear gloves, safety goggles, and old clothes that you do not mind staining or ruining. 2) Oven cleaner is expensive plus this method wastes a shower curtain.
#5 Baking Soda and Vinegar Bath
Directions: Set dirty oven racks in an empty tub, sprinkle with baking soda then pour over vinegar. Once the foaming stops, fill the tub with warm water and allow to soak overnight. Scrub the racks with a brush to remove grime. Rinse and dry.
Why this is not recommended: This is an ineffective combination of reactive ingredients (vinegar/acid + baking soda/base) that cancel each other out leaving a tub full of water with a teeny tiny bit of sodium acetate. Skip the vinegar and go for baking soda alone!
#6 Dryer Sheet and Dish Soap Bath
Directions: Fill a bathtub with 5-10 dryer sheets and a half-cup of dishwashing detergent (the kind used for handwashing dishes in the sink) then soak oven racks for several hours to allow the antistatic and fabric softening additives in the dryer sheets to soften the food.
Why this is not recommended: There are at least 3 reasons to avoid this cleaning method: 1) Dryer sheets are full of ingredients that are hazardous to your health. 2) It’s a waste of expensive ingredients. 3) This use of dryer sheet for oven rack cleaning is not recommended by manufacturers. I reached out to a cleaning tip line and got this response:
Oven Rack Cleaning Tips
Getting ready to clean? These oven rack cleaning tips will help you get the best results:
- Remove chunks of debris. Wipe the racks before placing the racks in the water. This can remove some of the black build up and stuck on grime making the racks easier to clean.
- Protect the tub. Lay an old towel or rags under the corners of the oven racks if you are concerned about scratching your tub.
- Give the oven rack cleaner enough dwell time. You’ll get the best results if the baking soda and water have enough time to work (also called dwell time) before you start wiping. Let the racks soak for at least 12 hours before you wipe off the grime. (I’ve accidentally let mine soak as long as 30 hours!)
- Be persistent. Oven rack dirt is baked on, caked on grease. If grime and black scorch marks remain on the racks after they are wiped, try a more abrasive tool such as a stainless-steel sponge, dish scouring pad, or even an old toothbrush to scrub into the nooks and corners.
- Clean first then rinse. Finish by rinsing the oven racks thoroughly with clean water, then dry, and replace them in your oven. They will look as good as new!
OVEN RACK CLEANING FAQ
Can you clean oven racks with baking soda and vinegar?
- Lots of cleaning tips recommend mixing baking soda and vinegar to clean oven racks. The bubbling reaction when the two mix is the vinegar neutralizing the baking soda. Instead, use baking soda and water to clean the racks and, if you want to include vinegar, use ½ cup vinegar in the final rinse water.
How do you clean oven racks naturally?
- Soak oven racks overnight in hot water with several cups of baking soda. Wipe clean, rinse, and dry.
How do you get baked on grease off oven racks?
- Soak them overnight in a bathtub with hot water and several cups of baking soda then use a stainless steel sponge (sometimes called stainless steel wool) to wipe them clean. Rinse and dry.
How do you clean oven racks without a tub?
- Think outside the box for a large container to soak your racks. A clean trash can, storage tub, thick trash bag, baby pool, or even the kitchen sink can work if you angle your racks, soak one at a time, or submerge just one part of the rack at a time.
How do you clean the glass on the oven door?
- You can easily clean your oven door with baking soda and water! Get the full tutorial here.
Can you clean oven racks in dishwasher?
- Yes and no. Standard oven racks are dishwasher safe and will not hard your dishwasher if they are positioned to allow all your dishwasher jets to operate correctly. However, the dishwasher will probably not remove all the grease and grimy build-up.
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