Jeanette - Off The Cuff

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Blogger at: and -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chemical-Free Range/Oven Cleaning; A Tutorial

Hi faithful readers. Okay, I know... I'm quite delinquent on updating a recipe; our big summer project was getting some contractors to rebuild our retaining wall, and it is going on week 4 now. Thus, not much new inspiration for foods and recipes. However, I was on a cleaning binge today, and decided to show you how to deeply and thoroughly clean your stove/oven/ range combo, to keep your kitchen cooking area spic-n-span, for easy and low-maintenance clean ups.

I worked as a residential / commercial housekeeper for several years, and learned many amazing tricks for lots of stubborn stains, and now I'm sharing one of them with you. One of our monthly clients was an apartment complex, where we had to scrub the vacated apartments top to bottom in preparation for new tenants. I learned how to really get a stove looking almost like brand new; although occasionally even our industrial cleaning tricks were no match for the grime some residents left behind. Learn how to gauge when your stove is due for a cleaning and you can maintain it with a fair amount of ease. My cleaning session today took about 30 minutes, and no chemicals were involved.

This tutorial is for a flip-top range / oven combo, and very many brands of stoves have this sort of configuration. I'll put in some sort of legal disclaimer here that I am NOT responsible for any damage you may do to any other stoves or range-tops that don't function the way mine does. However, if you have a flip-top enamel-clad oven/ range, and use either of the recommended pumice stones I mentioned above, you should be okay.

1 roll of paper towels, and/or rags you don't mind throwing away, like old socks or tshirts (I would avoid re-usable rags, since most of the grease, grime and residue from cleaning a stove would really not wash out of a rag well.)

Rubber gloves, if you don't want to get your hands dirty, but I usually don't bother, since there are no chemicals involved.

1 pumice stone (no, not the kind that is used on your feet -- you can look for either of these types online or at a grocery, hardware or janitorial store near you) Pumie Scouring Stick or Kitchen Stone Cleaning Block (While you're at it, buy some extras to store in your bathroom for scrubbing hard water rings or rust out of your toilets... just keep them separate!)

baking soda and mild dish detergent

old toothbrush (optional)

(If the inside of your oven is extremely caked in grime, and you have a self-cleaning cycle, you might want to run it first the day before so that the worst stuff is turned into ash, and is more easily wiped out. )

Starting at the top of your stove, first, pull any knobs off gently (they should all remove with a slight yank.) Soak them in a bucket of hot soapy water, while you work on other surfaces.

If you have this type of spiral coil burners, they can be lifted out and removed. I'm sure most of you knew that, but based on some of the apartments I used to clean, either the tenants didn't know that this was possible, or they just simply didn't care. So that is why I'm being extra detailed in my explanations.

I made spaghetti with meat sauce. Kind of messy, I know.


Angle each burner up slightly and then yank it out directly from the plug-in prongs.

Now remove the drip pans and rings (some have separate rings that hold the drip pans in place) and wipe off the stove top with a soapy rag or sponge. You can use an old tooth brush to get into nooks and crannies (like the grate on the front of the stove, or around tight corners.) A baking soda and water paste can also be used to gently scrub away stains from the stove-top. This type of enamel on the range can scratch, and that's why I advise being gentle with it, since it is visible from the outside. A wet rag can be microwaved to help steam and soften surface soils on the range. (Microwaving a wet rag also helps soften up splatter inside the microwave, so there's a bonus item you can get cleaned up while you work on the range and oven.)

If your drip pans are enamel coated (usually come in black, gray or white or taupe) then they can be scrubbed with the pumice under running water. If they appear to be made of aluminum, steel or chrome, they cannot be scrubbed with the pumice. Your best bet then is to either brush them clean with an old toothbrush and baking soda and water, and detergent, or to just simply go purchase some new ones. If you opt to buy new ones, you might as well spring for the enamel-coated ones so you can keep them clean longer in the future.

When you scrub with a wet pumice stone, the stone will start to break down into a fine, sand-like grit. This is what you want it to , and it is what prevents it from scratching the baked enamel surfaces. As the hardened soils abrade away with friction, the cleaner the surface becomes, the more smoothly the pumice will glide over the enamel. Stop every so often to rinse away grit and particles and inspect your work.

The range top has hinges, and will lift up with fairly easily, and there are usually some sort of supports or "legs" to hold it up while you clean underneath. Don't neglect the sides of the flip-top--- there is usually an unearthly amount of drips and spills that congeal on the sides. Use your pumice stone to scour away burned on spills underneath the range, making sure to wipe up frequently with a wet rag or paper towel to check the progress and see what stubborn stains remain. Don't be afraid to really lean into it. The pumice shouldn't harm the enamel as long as it's used as directed.

Now time for the oven part of this cleaning tutorial. Hopefully your oven isn't in terrible shape, but as suggested above, it's well worth doing a self-cleaning cycle the day before so it has time to burn off the worst stains, and then you can wipe most of them out with a paper towel or rag. Whatever remains, can be scrubbed out with the wet pumice stone. The heating element coils on the bottom can usually be flipped up to scrub underneath. Also remove the grates, and scrub those clean in the sink or shower, and rinse them clean. It's okay to use a toothbrush for easy stains, but for stubborn baked on gunk, you can gently buff with the pumice stone. (However, this may damage a shiny chrome finish so take care not to do it too hard on brand new grates.)

See those giant black dollops in the photo above? Yeah, that's from me baking sweet potatoes right on the grate, and the sugary goo dripping out of them and turning into charcoal. Nice, huh?

Scrub, scrub, scrub, rinse the pumice, wipe with paper towels. (Please note how sad and gray and worn away my pumice has gotten in this above photo? That means it's doing the work of 1 whole can of Easy-Off, but without fumes!)

TAAA DAAAA!!! Here is the end result: a shiny, clean oven (and I really could have gotten a lot more thorough, but I need a skinnier pumice to get into some of the nooks and crannies.)

For extra punch, don't forget to take out the oven drawer underneath, wipe it out, and vacuum, sweep or mop as necessary underneath the oven.

And there you have it. If you leave questions in the comment-section below, I can give some advice about a few other types of stove tops, but this is the one I am most familiar with. Happy Scrubbing!


  1. I did not know you could lift up the top of the burners like that! I'm scared to go do that to mine now!

    1. Not ALL range tops have hinges, but very many styles do... if you have a user's manual it will probably tell you and the easiest way is to just gently lift it up-- if it's hinged it will come up easily and then you can just drop down the little metal-leg things to hold it up.

      Best of luck! If it's really gunky you can just take a spatula and scrape up as much goo as you can first, and then go at it with the pumice and/or another cleanser of your choice. The point of this tutorial was to show you a completely chemical free way to do it. But I do sometimes haul out some regular cleaning spray if I want a little extra oomph.

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  3. When's jeff gonna buy you a gas range?

    1. Hey Chad! :) Yeah, a gas range-- that's a "someday" expense. We'll pony up for a gas range when this one conks out. But as it is, he just last month bought us a new German Bosch dishwasher, and there's all that landscaping, and the new flooring and ... and... and... :)

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