Holiday cleaning: tackling the oven, with Jill of All Trades

- The holidays are nearly upon us and it's a time of family, friends and food. Is your oven "guest ready?" If it's not, or if you find post-holiday that the all the cooking and baking has taken a toll on your oven, you're going to need the tips that our Jill of All Trades, Jill Washburn, has for you.

If your oven is not self-cleaning, Jill says you don't necessarily have to use harsh chemicals. You can clean it with water and white household vinegar. 

First, remove all the racks but one, and move that single rack to the lowest position. Then, fill a jellyroll style cookie pan with water. Add ½ - 2/3 of a cup of vinegar and place on the rack. Heat your oven to 350 degrees and let the vinegar mixture come to a boil. Let it sit in the oven and boil for a while. Then shut the oven off and let it sit for 30 minutes. Jill says, at that point, the oven should be cool enough to work on. You can take a damp rag and wipe down the inside of the oven. Use care to not damage the coil. If you oven is really caked with grime, it may take a second run-through of this process.

Next, Jill tackles the self-cleaning oven. 

Wait…. doesn't self-cleaning mean I don't have to do anything? Well, yeah, but Jill says there's still some stuff you should know. 

First remove all the racks from your oven. The extended high heat of the self-cleaning cycle can damage the finish on them. And, you should be able to wash them down pretty easily. If they're really grimy, Jill recommends soaking them in a water and vinegar bath in the bathtub. That should loosen anything that is really stuck on them.  

Next, and Jill says this is key: open the cabinet doors and the drawers of the cabinets that are adjacent to the oven. That keeps heat from building up in the cabinets and damaging them. Jill even removes the doors of those cabinets and pulls the drawer out entirely. It only takes removing a couple of screws per door and it's worth it, because cabinet doors being open for a few hours are going to be in the way in all but the biggest kitchens.

Start the self-cleaning cycle on your oven and let it do its thing! 

After it's done and the oven has cooled, Jill advises that you take a damp rag or even a wad of wet paper towel and gently wipe out the ash/dust that is left behind by the process. Again, take care around the heating element. Try not to jostle it too much.

Now for the part that will make the biggest difference in the look of your oven - the window.

If the window is grimy (and it pretty much always is), you can clean it with paper towel and vinegar. If that isn't enough, Jill says you can use some baking soda with the vinegar and just gently scrub your way through the grime. You may find that cleaning the window is not enough. In that case, you may want to consider taking the door apart and cleaning between the layers of glass. Jill says it's not as scary as it sounds. Many oven doors will come off the hinges pretty easily if you open the door slightly and give it a gentle yank. Some doors will require you to release a latch near the hinge to do this.

Once you have the door off, you can generally take it apart by removing a few screws. Keep track of the screws. If you're worried about getting the door put back together after you're done, take notes, makes sketches or even take a few pics with your phone of the process, as you take it apart. 

Once the screws are removed, you should be able to fairly easily remove the inside of the door. Gently clean the glass with paper towels and white vinegar. If there is dust or dirt that has built up around the edges of the door, you can carefully vacuum it out. Then, just put it back together, reversing the process for taking it apart. You should be able to pop it right back on the hinges. Jill says that this process made her oven of 10+ years look brand new.

To watch Jill tackle the clean-up of her oven, you can click on the video player above.

PROJECT RATING:  Medium to Medium+ (depending on the condition of your oven)

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