A self-cleaning oven uses extremely high heat to incinerate leftover food and cooking grease inside the oven cavity. Setting the oven control on "clean" puts the appliance into cleaning mode and locks the door for several hours. A simple task to accomplish, it does take preparation to prevent heat damage to the immediate environment.
Preparing the Cavity
Remove the baking racks and grill pans. The excessive heat causes them to discolour and lose their shine. They may also be difficult to return to the oven once they have been through a cleaning cycle. Wipe the cavity with a warm, soapy cloth and scrape gently to remove any food waste on the bottom and sides of the cavity. Sugary leftovers are especially damaging, as the heat of the cleaning cycle can cause them to adhere to the porcelain-enamel surface coating. Some spills can burst into flame, or cause heavy smoke and excess odours.
Protecting Kitchen Cabinets
High heat may damage your kitchen cabinets, especially if a cupboard or drawer is adjacent to the oven. Open cabinet doors away from the oven, pull drawers out and away, or remove a cabinet door if necessary. If the cabinetry is thermo-foil, be especially vigilant, as the excessive heat can melt the glue that attaches the foil to the base wood. The surface may blister and discolour, and the foil may curl and peel away from the base.
Protecting Surrounding Areas
An oven's cleaning cycle varies from two to four hours, with a one-hour cool-down. The oven doors will not unlock until the cooling is complete. Open your windows and ventilate the kitchen area well. The fumes may cause respiratory difficulty. There may also be smoke. While the smoke and vapours are not harmful to humans, domestic birds should be removed during the entire cycle, as the odours can be toxic to their systems.
Do not use a lye-based oven cleaner. The residue can damage the inside cavity, and some chemicals can actually etch into the cavity surface. Use a damp, soapy cloth to clean by hand. Don't use abrasive materials to wipe or scour the cavity. The excessive heat in some branded ovens is so severe that it can damage the oven's control panel after only a few uses. Stand away from opening the oven door when the cleaning cycle is complete. Hot air or hot steam may rush out when the door is opened after a cleaning.