Thanksgiving weekend has come to a close, and for those who hosted guests, it’s time to put things back in order. If this means cleaning an oven from the effects of cooking a Thanksgiving feast, there are some things to keep in mind, including the following:
- Commercial oven cleaners are generally very toxic. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rated 12 oven cleaners on their safety. Of the 12, one product received a “C” grade and 11 received an “F.”
- Self-cleaning ovens aren’t a non-toxic option, either. Self-cleaning ovens are generally coated with Teflon or similar chemicals. See the previous post titled “Sticky Chemicals” for more information on the dangers of PFCs. The burning of food particles during the self-cleaning cycle may also release small amounts of carbon monoxide and there may be fumes released from the oven’s insulation, including formaldehyde. Most oven manufacturers recommend opening windows, running ventilation fans, and/or leaving the house while the self-cleaning function is operating. Many also recommend removing pets from the home. In a Healthy Home Tip article, the EWG noted that the flu-like symptoms that people often get from heated Teflon-like chemicals are so common that they have been given a name by scientists: “Polymer fume fever.”
- It’s possible to clean an oven safely. There are many “recipes” that have been used successfully. Some people just use baking soda and water. Others use baking soda and vinegar. One blogger posted her recipe for using baking soda and dish soap, which is similar to what I usually do, except that I use a fragrance-free dish soap made by Seventh Generation. Other methods that have been recommended are to use a pumice stick or citrus peels.
Here's what works for me.
In the evening I make a paste of baking soda, water, and fragrance-free dish soap. I apply this to the oven interior. I then boil a pot of water on the stove. When it’s boiling nicely, I remove it from the stove, stick it in the oven, and close the oven door. This allows the oven to fill with steam. I leave everything alone until morning, at which time I wipe away all the gunk. After everything looks clean, I go over everything again with water or vinegar just to make sure I’ve removed all the residue. That’s it. It almost always works. Occasionally there’s a stubborn spot that remains, but some combination of baking soda, water, and time always removes it.
The chemical industry wants us to believe that our choices are harsh chemicals, filth, or exhausting work. It isn’t true. Let’s show them we know better.