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.
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.