How To Clean Oven Racks

The oven is the workhorse of the kitchen. In my home, it’s responsible for everything from last-minute meals to enormous Christmas dinners for the whole family. I clean it regularly to ensure even cooking, clean up inevitable splatters, and keep my home and family safe from fire hazards. Below are tried and trusted cleaning methods for making every dirty oven rack in your oven sparkle and shine like new. (I’ve used them myself for years.)  

Why is it important to clean your oven racks?

Before jumping into cleaning hacks, let’s quickly cover why oven rack cleaning is important. It’s easy to see the gunk build-up that accumulates on the stovetop and oven door. The baked-on grease and baked-on food splatter attached to your stainless steel racks, however, is harder to spot. Making matters worse, self-cleaning ovens require removing the racks during the self-cleaning cycle, which means your oven racks don’t get the attention that the rest of the oven does. 

But food and grease buildup on oven racks can affect your food. Over time, it may cause heat to distribute unevenly, making food cook slowly and improperly. This impacts all types of recipes, but those that are especially sensitive to heat and cook time, like baked goods, are affected the most. Dirty oven racks can also change the taste and smell of food. When food splatter lingers in the oven, its scent circulates each time you cook, causing today’s lasagna to smell — and sometimes taste — like yesterday’s meatloaf. Cleaning your oven racks is a simple and effective way to remove old smells and keep your favorite dishes tasting great.

3 Ways To Clean Oven Racks

Unfortunately, you do have to remove your oven racks before running the self-cleaning cycle. But don’t worry: There are several easy DIY hacks for washing and cleaning oven racks, and most require the use of cleaning products you already have on hand. 

1. Cover and Wash

If you have a bathtub, you may want to consider the “covering and leaving” method for washing your oven racks instead of cleaning them in the kitchen sink. There are several variations on this method, so it’s easy to adapt to fit your needs, depending on the cleaning tools and products that you use. Before you begin, make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area — like outdoors or in a room with open windows — and that children and pets are away from areas with active cleaning supplies. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Start by placing an old towel in your bathtub. This will prevent the oven racks from scraping the tub’s paint or porcelain. Next, remove the oven racks and place them on the towel; add hot water to the tub until it covers the oven racks. For the next step, there are a few options. 

The latter process is very simple, but you’ll want to do it before you add the hot soapy water to the tub. Start by spreading an even layer of baking soda paste across your oven racks. Then generously pour distilled white vinegar over the baking soda on the racks and allow the cleaning solution to bubble. When it is no longer foaming, add hot water to the tub. For this method, you’ll want to let the submerged racks soak overnight in the tub. In the morning, use a cleaning tool like a scrubber, old towel, or brush to remove grease from the grates. If you need extra traction to remove stubborn pieces, scrub with salt. Once done, rinse the racks and dry them before returning them shiny and clean to the oven.  

2. The Trash Bag Clean

If you don’t have a bathtub or you’re worried about leaving the racks to soak overnight, consider the trash bag method instead. This method works best if you have a cleaning product specifically for ovens, but you can substitute ammonia if needed. When working with these cleaning products, it’s crucial that your space is well-ventilated to protect you and any other people or pets in your home from ammonia fumes. Keep children away from your workspace, and wear rubber gloves to prevent irritation. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Place dirty oven racks in a large, clean garbage bag with either the oven rack cleaning product or the ammonia. Tie the bag tightly and allow it to rest overnight in a safe place. In the morning, take extra care when opening the bag, and if possible, do this outdoors. (The method is effective because of the corrosive quality of the fumes — which are also why caution and care are necessary when opening the bag.) If outdoors, rinse the solution off with a hose; if indoors, rinse in the shower until the product is entirely removed. If correctly executed, this technique requires little to no elbow grease. 

3. Bar Keeper’s Friend

Bar Keeper’s Friend (Buy from Amazon, $7.80) is a commercial oven cleaner that effectively removes grime and caked on grease from oven racks. It’s relatively low-impact, which means it won’t damage other surfaces. (That said, as with other cleaning products, it’s best to keep it clear of everything but the oven racks you are cleaning.) One of the reasons this is such a popular method for cleaning oven racks is because it’s quick and easy. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

While other methods require the racks to sit overnight, this method requires just one hour. If using the liquid formula of Bar Keeper’s Friend, apply a good amount to all parts of oven racks. If using dry formula, make a paste and apply to same. Allow racks to sit one hour, then scrub the oven racks using an abrasive sponge or scouring pad and rinse in warm water. (One way to get into hard-to-reach spots is to use an old toothbrush or a bit of steel wool. A little salt on the head of the toothbrush will add traction for stubborn grime). This technique is ideal when you need a quick cleanup before the holidays, or you don’t want to worry about pets or children ingesting fumes.

Squeaky Clean

Did you know that, if you cook regularly, your oven racks should be cleaned every three months? The dirt and grime from food and oils can really begin to build up, which can affect the flavor and scent of your food. It can even impact how heat is distributed around the oven, making cook times slower and cooking uneven. The good news is that cleaning your oven is easy, and there are many ways to get your oven racks clean with the ingredients and cleaning products you already have at home. Effective options include bathtub soaking and scrubbing, applying Bar Keeper’s Friend, and using the trash bag method. Don’t worry if you don’t have fancy cleaning products on hand: A solution of vinegar and baking soda works just fine. For additional cleaning tips, turn to Woman’s World. Our home experts have kitchen, bathroom, and garden hacks galore — because a clean home is a happy home.

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