04.Less hazardous alternatives
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.