Why You Shouldn’t Use the Self-Cleaning Oven Cycle

The Slightly Greener Life Podcast | Episode 29

December 12, 2023

Self-cleaning ovens sound awesome, right? I’m all for something that is going to clean for me! But trust me, the dangers of the self-cleaning oven feature aren’t worth the risk. So why shouldn’t you use the self-cleaning oven cycle?

There are a couple of reasons for that. Before we get into the toxicity of it, let’s talk about the dangers of the damage it can cause to the oven or even catching fire during the self-cleaning cycle.

Safety Concerns During the Self-Cleaning Cycle

I have known the health dangers of the self-cleaning oven feature for awhile (because it’s similar to why non-stick cookware is harmful to your health), but when I researching for this podcast episode, I was surprised to read how many repair professionals recommend not using the self-cleaning oven.

General Appliance Service out of Florida has a blog that discusses a lot of appliances and if and when to know when to call a repairman, so if you have any questions about appliances, I recommend it! 

One of their blog posts is about the self-cleaning oven feature and why you should never use it. 

For example, the locking mechanism on the door so it can’t be opened during the cycle can become damaged, requiring a repair and part replacement. 

The touchpad and control panel can also be affected by the extreme heat and can stop working. Wiring and connectors throughout the stove can melt or overheat. Although they are surrounded by insulation to protect them from the heat typically used in cooking, the hours-long high heat of a self-cleaning cycle can melt or damage wiring. 

Thermal sensors, heating elements, and ceramic coating can wear down or fail after continued use. All of these scenarios can be costly repairs.

Fire is also a risk. If grease or oil remains are still in the oven, the high heat can cause them to catch fire. The blog post said if this happens to be sure to NOT open the oven door because the rush of oxygen can fuel the flames. The best thing to do is to get out of the house and call 911. I thought I should add that because although opening the oven door during a fire might be something we know not to do on a normal day, our involuntary reflex might be to just get that fire out when we’re in a scary situation like that! So I’m adding that here for myself as a reminder, too! 

Health Concerns of the Self-Cleaning Cycle

On top of all that, there is also the toxicity of the self-cleaning cycle. Food residue can result in carbon monoxide fumes from the high heat created during the self-cleaning cycle. Smoke and fumes can also be created, which can cause breathing problems, and can be harmful to anyone with a respiratory issue, like asthma or other respiratory problems. 

Self-cleaning ovens are coated in a Teflon-like coating. This may be ok at normal baking temperatures, but when using the self-cleaning feature, the oven heats up to near 1000 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees celsius), which releases toxic Teflon-like fumes. These can cause symptoms ranging from flu-like symptoms, coughing, and sore throat, to breathing difficulties.

You may have heard to put pets out, especially birds, when using the self-cleaning oven feature. Some birds are extremely sensitive to fumes from a self-cleaning oven, and while I was researching this episode, I saw many oven manuals say to relocate birds to a well-ventilated room away from the range.

So if you do use this feature, use an exhaust fan and open windows to help vent the fumes, and make sure people and pets are not in the room when the cycle is running.

Toxic Chemicals in Oven Cleaners

If you have decided not to use the self-cleaning feature and that you’ll stick to your regular oven cleaner, that’s not a better option. I feel like I’m always telling you bad news, but remember – most of this bad news comes with an easy solution. MOST of the time, and luckily this is one of the times!

Conventional, store-bought oven cleaners typically contain ingredients like glycol ethers and ethanolamines, which are linked to respiratory problems and,reproductive and developmental issues among other health effects. And spray oven cleaners typically use butane as a propellant, which is toxic to the nervous system. A popular oven cleaner’s website states that their cleaner contains fragrance allergens, so there is another issue to worry about if you have issues with breathing problems or if you’re sensitive or allergic to chemicals used in fragrance.

If you do use a store-bought oven cleaner, check the back of the label – you’ll usually see warnings like wear protective gloves and wear eye or face protection to ensure the product does not get in eyes or on skin.” I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather clean and not have to worry about grabbing protective gear first!

Warnings on Oven Cleaner

These are just some of the warnings on the back of a popular, store-bought oven cleaner:


Avoid contact with eyes, skin, mucous membranes and clothing.

DO NOT ingest. 

Use only with adequate ventilation. Avoid breathing spray mist. Wear long rubber gloves when using.

Do not use on exterior oven surfaces, aluminum, chrome, baked enamel. Do not use on self-cleaning or continuous cleaning ovens. Avoid spraying over pilot light. Keep off all electrical connections such as heating element, thermostat, bulb receptacles, light switch. 

Those are quite a few warnings, and I didn’t even read them all!

So you can use a toxic self-cleaning oven feature that may damage your oven. Or you can use a toxic oven cleaner that comes with a warning list of health and safety precautions so long that you’re too exhausted to clean after reading it. 


You can make your own non-toxic, way-cheaper version that uses products you probably already have in your pantry, a DIY stove top cleaner doesn’t contain the toxic chemicals many common, store-bought cleaners can contain.

Not sure about you, but I chose option 3!

DIY Oven Cleaner Recipe

Besides being a cheaper option that uses products you probably already have in your pantry, a DIY oven cleaner doesn’t contain the toxic chemicals many common, store-bought cleaners can contain! One of the easiest (and safest) oven cleaners is one that you DIY with just baking soda and white vinegar.

The first thing you’ll do is remove racks and wipe out any crumbs.

Then, In a small bowl, combine about a half cup of baking soda with 3-4 teaspoons of water to make a paste.

Spread the paste over the oven’s interior (avoiding heating elements) and gently scrub (that’s the key word here – use a soft sponge or paper towel to spread the paste and don’t scrub too hard so you don’t scratch the surface). 

Let the paste sit for several hours, or overnight. This is alos a great time to clean those oven racks! The next morning, gently wipe out the loose baking soda. I like to use a damp paper towel for this because the baking soda can be pretty brown and clumpy. I hold a small garbage can up to the oven nearest to where I’m wiping out the loose baking soda so it can go straight into there and hopefully not as much on my floor!

To get rid of any stuck-on baking soda that remains, lightly spray those areas with white vinegar (to make this easy, I like to save my spray pumps and almost any spray pump top will work on a vinegar bottle – just make sure the pump is completely cleaned out).

The vinegar will react with the baking soda and will foam, helping to lift any greasey and grimey spots. Using a damp washcloth or paper towel (and again, I usually use a paper towel because it can get gross quickly), wipe out the remaining baking soda and vinegar. It may take a few rounds of light sprays of vinegar to get all of the baking soda out, so if you have any stubborn areas, just lightly spritz the vinegar on the baking soda again.

Replace the racks and you’re good to go!


*This should work with most ovens, and is recommended on many cleaning websites, but always test it on a small, hidden area in your oven first.


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