How does an oven cleaner work? (3 Things to Remember)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How does an oven cleaner work?”. We will study the chemical process which makes an oven cleaner work. We will analyze the benefits and drawbacks of using oven cleaners.

How does an oven cleaner work?

Oven cleaners work by using strong chemicals such as Sodium Hydroxide and Amphoteric Surfactants, which enable them to clean the oven on a whim. Commercial oven cleaners are effective at sanitizing the oven in little time with little effort.

What chemicals are in an oven cleaner and how do they work?

The chemicals in a common oven cleaner are butane, sodium Hydroxide, Monoethanolamine, and Diethylene glycol Monobutyl Ether. Oven degreasers have a high foaming surfactant, and water-soluble solvents.

The alkali and other compounds are effective at cleaning carbonized and heavy grease. Other constituents are organic soil which means that it was derived from a natural source. 

The chemicals are corrosive, have a high pH, and highly poisonous. A high pH is associated with the caustic effects, which dissolve and harden the gunk inside the oven. It reacts chemically and disintegrates the compounds that are possibly found inside an oven; fats, oils, and proteins.

What is pH and what does it tell us about oven cleaners?

pH defines as the power of hydrogen. Measurement of pH helps us find out how much acidic or alkaline a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 1-14. 

All the values above 7 are alkaline. The higher the pH value, the stronger the alkalinity. 

Alkaline substances are known to be corrosive and bitter. Alkalinity is measured using the pH scale that ranges from 1-14, where the ‘7’ is neutral. 

 If the pH of a substance falls before 7, it means that the substance is acidic. The alkalinity levels increase as the pH value progresses after 7. The pH of 7 is neutral, after which the pH of a substance is alkaline. As the pH value increases and approaches 14, the alkalinity increases.

Oven cleaners have a very high pH of around 11-13. Some oven cleaners could be as high as 14. The higher the value of pH, the more alkaline, powerful, and harsh chemical it is.

The oven cleaner or degreaser one chooses depends on the requirement. Oven cleaner with a higher pH may be needed to cleanse a surface with caked-on dirt or carbonized soil.

A process called pyrolysis occurs, which eradicates all the food and liquid spills from the oven. As dirt and food debris is removed, the chemical reaction causes white deposits. The fatty acids turn to white ashes which can now be wiped clean. 

The foaming reaction is a result of the increased interfacial tension and it aids the process to speed up the alkaline-based reaction. The reaction is highly exothermic and which makes the built-up dirt thermally decompose.

The white ashes left behind can harm your health and machine, according to a source. The residues can be activated into harmful compounds when in the future you use the self-cleaning mechanism. The fumes are detrimental to health if inhaled by accident. What adds to the ill effects is that the residues are flammable too.

Some experts recommend that you wait for all the fumes to evaporate. After the oven has cooled down, you can use it right away. IF you use a self-cleaning oven, it will take around 30-60 minutes to cool down

Remember that oven cleaner fumes can poison food.

Other FAQs about Ovens which you may be interested in.

How to unlock a Kenmore Oven?

How to build a Brick Smoker and Pizza Oven?

How long after using easy off can I use the oven?

Should you practice any caution before and after you use an oven cleaner?

The harsh chemicals that instantly and spontaneously clean your oven can have devastating consequences as well. 

When you clean the oven, take extra care to ensure that the chemicals do not come in contact with you. Use gloves to protect your skin. The toxic fumes also harm the lungs and cause breathing difficulties. The constituents emit butane, monoethanolamine, diethylene glycol Monobutyl Ether, to name a few. The mentioned compounds are carcinogenic and can cause chronic illness or health conditions.

 If it comes in contact with the eyes, it can irritate. Besides respiratory problems, the cleaner can also cause you headaches, nosebleeds, and even cancer.

If you develop any symptoms that need immediate attention, call your healthcare provider. If the process seems daunting or a job unfit for you, then you can hire an oven cleaning service to assist you.

The residues need cleaning immediately, as they can poison the food which you prepare inside. The food absorbs the toxic substances after turning the oven on. 

Sometimes the effects will be apparent as an off-smell or a bad taste. 

In this brief guide, we answered the question, “How does an oven cleaner work?”. We studied the chemical process which makes an oven cleaner work. We analyzed the benefits and drawbacks of using oven cleaner.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.