Oven cleaner reviews

Unless you wipe your oven clean after each use, you’ll need help with the dreaded job.
 
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01 .Introduction

Cleaners

Test results for 13 oven cleaners

Cooking a big baked dinner for the whole gang was worth the effort. Now that the dishwasher’s taking care of the dishes, it’s time to put your feet up — the oven can wait. Behind the dark, tightly closed oven door, it’s easy to forget about the baked-on stains from meat juices and oil … till you next open the door.

If you don’t wipe your oven regularly after each use, you’ll need a lot of time or elbow grease to clean it, or a specially formulated oven cleaner.

To see which brands are best at delivering a squeaky-clean oven without back-breaking hard work, we bought all the products we could find in major supermarkets and put them through tough tests. We also had a look at their ingredients in the hope of finding one that’ll do the work without damaging your health or the environment.

Brands tested

  • Amway Blast Off Oven Cleaner
  • Bicarb & vinegar
  • Black & Gold Caustic Oven Cleaner (A)
  • Cinderella Super Fast Oven & BBQ Cleaner
  • Coles Smart-Buy Oven Cleaner Non-caustic
  • Easy-Off Oven Fume Free Cleaner
  • Easy-Off Oven Heavy Duty Cleaner 5 Minute Clean
  • Home Brand Caustic Oven Cleaner
  • Mr Muscle Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner
  • Mr Muscle Odourless Oven Cleaner
  • Rubbedin Oven and Grill Magic Active Gel Cleaner
  • Selleys Oven Kleen Fast Acting (A)
  • Selleys Oven Plus Heavy Duty Gel (A)

(A) Discontinued.

 
 

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The following models scored the best results in our test 

What to buy
Brand Price
Coles Smart-Buy Oven Cleaner Non-caustic (300 g) $2.30
Selleys Oven Kleen Fast Acting (350 g) (A) $3.20
Selleys Oven Plus Heavy Duty Gel (400 g) (A) $5.00
Easy-Off Oven Fume Free Cleaner (325 g) $3.00
Easy-Off Oven Heavy Duty Cleaner 5 Minute Clean (325 g) $3.00
Black & Gold Caustic Oven Cleaner (400 g) (A) $2.20
Mr Muscle Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner (300 g) $3.29
Amway Blast Off Oven Cleaner (400 g) $10.50

(A) Discontinued.

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below

PRODUCT PERFORMANCE FEATURES SPECIFICATIONS
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall score (%) Ease of use score (%) Cleaning score (%) Best cleaning conditions Childproof cap Active ingredients (according to the label) Type Size (g) Price ($)
Coles Smart-Buy Oven Cleaner Non-caustic
www.coles.com.au
75 68 78 2 hours cold Ethanolamine 12.2% w/w Aerosol 300 2.30
Selleys Oven Kleen Fast Acting (A)
www.selleys.com.au
74 66 77 30 minutes cold NaOH 39 g/kg Aerosol 350 3.20
Selleys Oven Plus Heavy Duty Gel (A)
www.selleys.com.au
74 66 77 30 minutes cold NaOH 50 g/kg Gel (brush) 400 5.00
Easy-Off Oven Fume Free Cleaner
www.easyoff.us
73 62 78 2 hours cold Alkaline salts 47.5 g/kg, DGAE 95 g/kg Aerosol 325 3.00
Easy-Off Oven Heavy Duty Cleaner 5 Minute Clean
www.easyoff.us
73 59 79 30 minutes cold NaOH 54 g/kg, DGAE 55 g/kg Aerosol 325 3.00
Black & Gold Caustic Oven Cleaner (A)
www.iga.net.au
72 68 73 5 minutes 90ºC NaOH 45 g/kg, DGAE 20 g/kg Aerosol 400 2.20
Mr Muscle Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner
www.scjohnson.com.au
72 61 76 5 minutes 90ºC NaOH 42.4 g/L, DGAE 117.9 g/L Aerosol 300 3.29
Amway Blast Off Oven Cleaner
www.amway.com.au
71 57 77 30 minutes cold NaOH 66.5 g/kg Aerosol 400 10.50
Home Brand Caustic Oven Cleaner
www.woolworths.com.au
66 65 66 30 minutes cold NaOH 36 g/kg, ethanolamine 40.5 g/kg Aerosol 400 2.30
Mr Muscle Odourless Oven Cleaner
www.scjohnson.com.au
65 70 63 4 hours cold Alkaline salts 37 g/kg Aerosol 300 3.29
Rubbedin Oven and Grill Magic Active Gel Cleaner
www.rubbedin.com.au
50 47 51 30 minutes 50ºC (B) ns Pump spray 300 mL 6.53
Cinderella Super Fast Oven & BBQ Cleaner www.cinderella.com.au 47 67 39 5 minutes cold ns Pump spray 500 mL 6.00
HOME-MADE OVEN CLEANER
Bicarb & vinegar 42 41 43 5 minutes cold na Sodium bicarbonate, acetic acid Liquid & powder na na
 

Using the table

na Not applicable.
ns Not stated (no active ingredients that require labelling).
(A) Discontinued.
(B) No, but two of the three positions are 'off'.

Scores The overall score is made up of cleaning performance (70%) and ease of use (30%).

Optimal cleaning conditions Manufacturers usually recommend various times and oven temperatures for using their products. The results listed in the table are the best we achieved in the shortest soaking time.

Active ingredients as per product label: NaOH = sodium hydroxide, DGAE = diethylene glycol alkyl ether.

Price is recommended or average retail as of May 2008.

How we tested

Cleaning performance Our testers applied a special food mixture (measured quantities of milk, sugar, cherry and tomato juice, vegetable oil, dripping, flour and raw egg) evenly to enamelled test panels and baked them for an hour and a half at 250°C. Once the panels had cooled, they brushed on a second coat of food mixture and baked again, and once more the next day without applying more food mixture.

They then applied the oven cleaner, testing each product several times as recommended by the manufacturers — after five minutes, half an hour or two hours, for example. They scored the cleaners’ ability to remove the baked-on food mixture after wiping the panels with a damp sponge and scourer pad — the cleaner the panel and the less effort required, the higher the score.

Ease of use For this score the testers applied each product to the inside of the oven and rated it for its ease of application, coverage and adherence to the back, top, side and bottom surfaces. They also checked the instructions and noted any offensive odours and wafting mists during use.

Safety The testers also checked whether the product labels provide sufficient safety information and whether any of them seemed particularly noxious during use.

Handle with care

At least seven of the 12 products in our test are caustic: they contain sodium hydroxide (NaOH), often called caustic soda, which reacts with fats, converting them into water-soluble soapy compounds you can wipe away. But it’s highly corrosive, even in dilute forms, and can attack other organic matter, not just baked on food stains. So if you get it on your skin or in the eyes, you can suffer severe irritation, deep burns or even blindness.

Other ingredients aren’t without hazards either. For example, some diethyl glycol alkyl ethers (DGAE) in oven cleaners have been shown to have destructive effects on blood cells. And the solvent ethanolamine, though non-caustic, can affect the respiratory and central nervous systems, even after short-term exposure. ‘Alkaline salts’, listed on two product labels, is a vague term — caustic soda is one, but there are others.

To minimise all these health hazards, take particular care when using a commercial oven cleaner. Have the kitchen well ventilated when applying the product and avoid inhaling any fumes — follow the instructions and wear a face mask and safety glasses, if necessary. To prevent your skin coming in contact with the product, wear long-sleeved protective clothing and gloves.

Used oven cleaner has undergone a saponification reaction, which turns fat into soap that can then be wiped or rinsed away with water. So after the product’s been applied for the recommended time, remove any residue with paper towel. Then wipe the oven with a neutralising solution of 10% vinegar.

Disposing of empty cans

The environment, too, can suffer from thoughtless disposal of oven cleaner. So use the whole contents and put the empty can in with your steel can recycling, if they’re accepted in your area.

If you have unwanted leftover product, dispose of it in your council’s household chemical collection, or if it’s just a small amount, spray it into sawdust or paper towels before putting it in the rubbish.

Tester's tip

Some manufacturers recommend spraying the roof of the oven first. But when you do that you’re likely to get the product dripping onto your arms when spraying the other surfaces, so we’d advise leaving the roof till last, or second last, if you’re also spraying the inside of the door.

Fit to drink?

What on earth were the manufacturers thinking when they packaged this cleaner? The Cinderella Super Fast Oven & BBQ Cleaner is orange in colour, labelled ‘passionfruit’ and comes in a clear PET container that looks very much like a soft-drink bottle, except for the trigger on top.

According to the manufacturer, this cleaner has been designed to be ‘safe around children’: “When formulating we worked to the premise that in a worst-case scenario [that] a child ingested the product no harm would occur.” Even if the cleaner contains no hazardous ingredients — and therefore requires no child-resistant lid (but you need to push a tag up before you can spray) — CHOICE thinks this design is irresponsible. A cleaner is a cleaner is a cleaner — and should never entice a young child to take a sip. Cinderella are working on changing the packaging to reflect the nature of the product. The new packaging should be released in Jan / Feb 2009.

Oven cleaners are hazardous products that can cause health problems and degrade indoor air quality. To reduce some of these risks, you might prefer a ‘greener’ alternative, so we also included in the test two cleaners that don’t contain sodium hydroxide, ethanolamine or alkaline salts. Unfortunately, though, their cleaning power left much to be desired.

The Rubbedin gel, with 1% d-limonene (a solvent derived from citrus rind) hardly got rid of any stains; wiping with a sponge after 30 minutes just seemed to remove the product. And it was difficult and messy to apply and didn’t stick well to the surface. Worse still was the Cinderella oven and barbecue cleaner. “Most of what was removed was by scourer pad action, not the oven cleaner,” our testers remarked.

Bicarb and vinegar

As these milder cleaners don’t cut through the grease, you might as well save your money for yet another cleaning product and use the old-favourite bicarb and vinegar, a natural alternative to commercial oven cleaners that you may well have in your pantry anyway.

Bicarbonate of soda is mildly abrasive and known to remove stains, while white vinegar cuts grease and disinfects. We included it in the test to see how this green cleaner compared. It’s fiddlier to apply and requires more effort to wipe clean, but for cleaning performance it beat the $6 Cinderella product.

To use it effectively, in their book Spotless Shannon Lush and Jennifer Fleming advise sprinkling bicarb on the cool oven surface, splashing some vinegar on top and when it starts fizzing, scrubbing with a nylon sponge or brush. To clean the sides of the oven, use one damp sponge dipped in bicarb and another dipped in vinegar. “Apply the bicarb sponge first, then place the vinegar sponge over the top of the bicarb sponge and press the vinegar through both sponges.” Rinse clean with water.

If cleaning the cheap, green way is too much work and the other products seem too hazardous, you’ll have to start wiping your oven after each use. Alternatively, buy a self-cleaning pyrolitic oven when your old one’s due for replacement, or one with catalytic liners that’ll absorb grease and dirt and burn the stains off at high heat. But you’ll still have the shelves to clean.

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