I admit it. I’m a neat-nick. I’m also a passionate cook, which means I like a clean oven. Not only do gleaming walls and a spotless element make me happy as I slide in a pie or a pan of bread dough, a clean oven also helps make sure my efforts aren’t wasted. A clean oven heats more evenly and cooks more reliably than a dirty one.

The standard methods of cleaning didn’t work for me. Oven cleaning products were out of the question. My husband is sensitive to a lot of chemicals, and I really didn’t want to turn him into something out of a zombie movie. Then there’s the fact that after one whiff of certain cleaners, I’m about as coherent as a celebrity on a bender. Fortunately, I found an easy, toxin-free way to clean the oven with inexpensive grocery store ingredients to boot.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Baking soda
  • Basting brush
  • Rags
  • Water
  • Clean spray bottle
  • White vinegar
  • Scrub brush

HOW TO CLEAN:

1. Start by using a damp rag to wipe any ash or loose grit off your oven.

2. Begin cleaning by placing two to three tablespoons of baking soda in a small bowl. It’s important you use soda, not powder. Powder can react prematurely and you’ll end up re-enacting "the Blob," only with bubbles instead of slime. Add two to three tablespoons of plain tap water and mix until you get a thick paste, about the consistency of a drop of toothpaste that’s been hanging out in your sink for 30 minutes or so.

3. Next, using a basting brush, spread your baking soda paste on the walls and ceiling of your oven. Also do what you can on the oven floor, but be careful not to get any of the paste on the element. If anything drips, wipe it off with a damp rag or paper towel. You don’t have to cover every inch of your oven’s surface, but try not to make it look like a Jackson Pollack painting.

4. Close the oven door and let the paste dry for at least an hour or up to overnight. This isn’t exactly convenient for a weekday cleaning session, but it’s great from a multitasking (or outright laziness) standpoint. While you do other chores, enjoy a book or catch up on your favorite show, your oven will be cleaning itself.

5. Once the paste has dried, add two cups of water to a clean spray bottle (not one that has previously been used to hold any cleaning products or you could get a "look-at-all-the-pretty-colors" experience) and add two tablespoons of vinegar. Spritz the vinegar water onto the baking soda until it foams vigorously. As you probably remember from building volcanoes for a science fair (only to loose to the nerd who made a small thermonuclear device out of paper clips and chewing gum), the acidic vinegar reacts with the baking soda to create carbon dioxide. The resulting foam is essentially "scrubbing bubbles" ® for your oven.

6. Using a scrub brush, clean all accumulated dirt, grease or grime from the sides of your oven. I’ll do my Abe Lincoln imitation here and be honest: this is going to take more elbow grease than using a standard oven cleaner. If it helps, do what I do and think of it as an upper body workout you can get without paying for a gym membership. In any case, not exposing your family to the harsh, "melt-your-face-off-like-the-Nazi-in-Indiana-Jones" chemicals has to be worth it.

7. When your oven is clean, get a rag sopping wet and use it to wipe any remaining foam, baking soda, or vinegar off the walls. Don’t omit this step or the next batch of cookies you make will taste like you marinated them in salad dressing with a baking soda chaser. If you don’t have any small kids or pets running around, you can also leave the oven open to let it air out. Don’t use the oven until it has dried completely. Enjoy your clean oven!

This has been a guest post by Melanie from Greeley, CO

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