How to Use Self-Clean on an Oven

Using the self-cleaning feature on an oven is a convenient way to clean built-up grease and food debris. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to use self-clean on an oven.

What is Self-Clean Mode on an Oven?

The self-cleaning mode on an oven uses extremely high temperatures, up to 500°F, to burn off leftover food residue and grease in the oven. This process usually takes 2-4 hours to complete and the oven door will lock for safety during the cleaning cycle.

Most modern ovens have a self-cleaning mode, which is much easier than manually scrubbing the oven interior. This feature can clean the oven more thoroughly than you could by hand.

Before Starting the Self-Cleaning Cycle

Before starting the self-clean cycle, you need to take a few preparatory steps:

  • Remove all racks, pans, aluminum foil or any other cookware from the oven. The extreme heat can damage these items.
  • Wipe loose debris and grease deposits from the oven bottom. This allows the cycle to work more efficiently.
  • Clean the inner door window thoroughly. The high heat can bake food residue onto the glass.
  • Check the oven manual and remove any parts that are not meant for the self-cleaning cycle, like temperature probes.
  • Open a window. The process will produce some smoke and odor.

Starting the Self-Clean Cycle

The steps to start the self-cleaning cycle may vary slightly by oven model. Consult your manufacturer’s instructions for exact directions. In general:

  • Press the “Clean” or “Self-Clean” button on your oven control panel. This may be a keypad, touchscreen or dial interface.
  • If your oven has options for self-clean times, select the desired length, often either 2, 3 or 4 hours.
  • The oven will automatically lock the door once the process begins.
  • The oven will heat to very high temperatures, often near 500°F.
  • A fan may activate to aid in ventilation and smoke control.
  • When the cycle finishes, the oven will automatically cool and unlock the door. This may take up to an additional hour.
  • Once cooled, wipe any ash out of the oven with a damp cloth. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.

Safety Tips for Using Self-Clean

Keep these safety precautions in mind when using the self-cleaning feature:

  • Only clean one oven at a time if you have a double oven. Simultaneous cleaning can lead to circuit overload.
  • Never leave pets or children unattended near an oven in self-clean mode.
  • Avoid touching the exterior surfaces which will become extremely hot.
  • Never force open the locked oven door. This can damage the automatic locking mechanism.
  • The oven may smoke during the cycle, so have ventilation like an exhaust fan running.
  • When finished, allow the oven to fully cool prior to wiping out any residue.

What Gets Cleaned in Self-Clean Mode?

Here are the areas of your oven that get cleaned during the high-heat self-cleaning cycle:

  • The oven interior including the sides, back, top and bottom. This cleans baked-on spills effectively.
  • The grooves and crevices around the oven racks. Removes built-up grease deposits.
  • The porcelain-coated oven racks. Will not clean other types of racks.
  • The oven door window interior. Gets rid of foggy appearance from food residue.

Areas that do NOT get cleaned by the self-clean feature include:

  • The exterior oven surfaces, knobs and handles.
  • The gasket around the oven door.
  • The bottom drawer or warming drawer in some oven models.
  • Crumbs or spills in the oven door tracks. These must be cleaned by hand.

Tips for the Best Self-Clean Results

Follow these useful tips for the most effective self-clean cycle:

  • Wipe down loose debris and grease spills before starting. Allows the cycle to focus on baked-on food.
  • Run a routine self-clean cycle every few months to prevent major buildup.
  • Avoid opening the oven door at all during the cleaning process. This releases heat and slows the cleaning.
  • If racks are cleaned in the cycle, expect some discoloration. This is normal but does not affect function.
  • For stubborn grease stains, use the maximum time setting (often 4 hours).
  • Heavy smoke during cleaning often indicates excess food residue in the oven.

Common Self-Clean Cycle FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about using the self-cleaning mode:

Should I stay home during the self-clean cycle?

You do not need to remain at home, but it’s wise to be nearby in case any issues arise. Do not leave children or pets unattended with an active self-clean mode.

Why does my oven smoke so much during cleaning?

Excess food residue in the oven can cause more smoke. Wipe spills thoroughly prior to self-cleaning to reduce smoke. Having good ventilation running also helps control it.

Why does the oven door lock?

The locking mechanism is for safety given the extremely high temperatures. Do not attempt to force the oven door open when locked, as this can damage the door.

Can I speed up or interrupt the self-clean cycle?

It is not recommended. The cycle is programmed to reach the optimal temperature and time for cleaning. Stopping it early can leave debris in the oven.

Should self-clean mode smell bad?

A certain odor and minor smoke are expected, but a very strong smell can mean the oven needs a more thorough pre-cleaning before the cycle.

Can I use oven cleaners instead of self-cleaning mode?

Oven cleaners are caustic and require careful handling. The self-clean feature is generally safer and more effective than chemical cleaners.


The self-cleaning mode on modern ovens provides a convenient and effective method for deep cleaning the oven interior. Following the proper steps will ensure safe operation and allow the high heat cycle to work optimally. Regular use of the self-clean feature can save considerable effort scrubbing baked-on messes by hand. Just be sure to take all safety precautions when activating the automated self-cleaning mode.