When they say ‘self-cleaning’ oven, they don’t really mean it

by DaniGirl on November 26, 2007 · 13 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

We have a self-cleaning oven. For a while, I thought maybe this meant that fairies came in the night and cleaned the oven for us, but after an extended period of hopeful waiting, this does not appear to be the case. In fact, it involves setting the oven to some dangerously high temperature and scorching the holy hell out of the dirt, then scooping up the ashes. Which is actually a rather appealing solution to housecleaning, don’t you think? Screw the clutter, we’ll just carbonize the shit out of everything and then flush it down the toilet.

You also need to know – as if that won’t become self-evident by the end of this post – that I am not the most diligent housekeeper in the world. We don’t exactly live in squalor, but my threshold for a little mess is probably higher than most people’s.

So anyway, you’d think a self-cleaning oven would improve this situation, even if no fairies come to do the dirty work for you — and especially considering that since I’m no domestic goddess, I will seize any opportunity to NOT make dinner, thus reducing the wear and tear on the oven. But eventually even the most sparsely used oven gets a good coating of warmed-up take-out crumbs and frozen lasagne goo burnt to the bottom and needs a good cleaning.

Despite the fact that the nanny had previously expressed reservations about using the stove because of the ghastly amount of smoke that belched out of it one day when she was preheating it for chicken fingers (and decided instead to feed the boys peanut butter sandwiches for fear of using the oven), the tipping point actually came a while ago when we made homemade pizzas and some of the pepperoni slid off the cheese and ingratiated itself under the burner coils. Now, every time we use the oven everything tastes like charred pepperoni.

So we decided the time had finally come to test the self-cleaning part of the oven. Although I suck mightily at housework, I’m actually pretty good at filing paperwork (I am, after all, a bureaucrat in my day job) and was quite surprised when I could not find the oven owners’ manual anywhere, and setting the oven that high without having a vague idea of what I’m doing scared the crap out of me seemed unwise.

So after an endless amount of dithering, procrastination and just ignoring the problem, the charred pepperoni taste finally compelled me to the GE website, where they said sure you can get an owners’ manual here, just enter your model and serial number. It took me a while, but I found said model number and copied it carefully to a notepad and transcribed it onto the website, which promptly replied “that model does not exist.” I rechecked the numbers, and I hadn’t made any mistakes. It was the right model number, but apparently GE now denied its existence.

This was about as far as I got a year ago (did I just admit it’s been more than a year since I cleaned my oven?) and I lost interest. But by this time we were really, really desperate to clean the oven, so I perservered. And then I had a brain wave, and I went to the GE website and found a model that looked and sounded just like ours – coil burners, lift-top, self-cleaning, shiny white and purty – and copied THAT model and serial number into the “get yer own manual” page. (I’m so clever, aren’t I?) And once again the helpful reply said “that model does not exist.” On the same damn website!

So finally, getting stubborn, I started clicking around and actually found an oven reasonably like ours, and when you click on the product specs, it gives you a link for that oven’s owners’ manual, which was close enough. So I printed it out and read it, and now I know how to self-clean an oven that’s at least mostly like mine. Just to be safe, I read the owners’ manual of three or four other self-cleaning ovens, making sure that the basic instructions remained the same. I am now an expert in the functionality of the self-cleaning feature on standard GE ovens.

That was two weeks ago. Despite my newly garnered expertise on the subject, we still haven’t gotten around to actually cleaning the oven, and the muffins continue to taste like charred pepperoni.

Oh well.

(This post may look familiar to those of you who read Nancy’s blog. Yes, I’m now pilfering my own comments on other people’s blogs for fresh material. Standards are falling like snowflakes around here.)

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Batman November 26, 2007 at 8:18 am

Have you considered the damaging effects that cleaning your oven will have on your family? Think about it. For the past year, you’ve all been enjoying pepperoni flavoured food…regardless of whether it contained pepperoni or not. What’s going to happen when you clean your oven and food no longer has that je ne sais quoi about it. Perhaps that’s been the charm all along. You’re going to be stuck with some new taste sensations. Are you ready for that? Are the kids? And what about poor beloved? Is he ready to go cold turkey and give up the pepperoni for actual muffin-flavoured muffins? My advice – don’t be too hasty.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone…

2 patois November 26, 2007 at 10:21 am

Hmmm, pepperoni muffins don’t quite seem to have the same cache as blueberry ones.

3 alison November 26, 2007 at 10:53 am

Dani, we are *so* living the same life. Except for the pregnancy part.

4 Kathleen in Ottawa November 26, 2007 at 11:39 am

Totally with you here. Just had to clean mine. A word to the wise if you haven’t started up the high heat yet: wash the top edge of the oven door really well first, and take out the racks.
Damn ovens can’t really be called self-cleaning till the racks clean as easily as the oven.

5 Ingrid November 26, 2007 at 12:27 pm

A self cleaning oven is worth it’s weight in gold! And quite simple to execute. My suggestions are – start right after supper, then turn off before bed, or for a few hours while you’re out. The smell is a little yucky to be sitting in the midst of it. Also don’t do this procedure when you do not want your house to be hot ( eg summer, or company coming in 2 hours). Just click and start – it’s that easy!
oh yes and remove all items from the top of the stove, in case you have a salt shaker or something like that on top.

6 yvonne November 26, 2007 at 12:44 pm

why don’t you come over and try out all your knowledge on my oven. My mother finally used the self-cleaning part this summer when she was up. I have had the oven for 5 years and never cleaned it… Sigh…

7 Miche November 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Ha! We cleaned our oven this past summer… for the first time since we moved in! (Which is before we had a little one in tow.) *cough*

I think you should celebrate the actual event!

8 revdrmom November 26, 2007 at 7:16 pm

Ha! My oven is two years old and I haven’t cleaned it yet. I don’t cook much, but like you say, it stil manages to collect crud.

I do have my owner’s manual but I haven’t read it yet. But I do know that you have to take the racks out, and then it pretty much does it’s thing when you lock it up and turn it on…hmmm…..maybe I should give it a try!

9 Batman November 26, 2007 at 10:30 pm

It may be karma…my oven stopped working today. Coincidence? Maybe. I tried cleaning it on the weekend for the first time and that might have pushed it over the edge.

10 Kate November 27, 2007 at 9:50 pm

I hate running the self clean cycle. Between the heat and the smell…but I don’t want to do it at night either (would it be obnxious to our neighbor next door?downstairs? ah, apartment living!).

Elves would be awesome. Sign me up.

11 Myra November 28, 2007 at 1:41 pm

Alas I am among the peons without self-cleaning options.

Nevertheless I too cleaned my oven over the weekend old-school style (miracle in a can) because things had reached what we lovingly refer to as “max-cap” in terms of oven crud and smoking the house out. Dani: you’re among friend with high threshholds for clutter.

Gotta say the spray on stuff was not too bad… wiped out just as easy as they say and no more smoking. Tho I did manage to make the oven light go ‘splody.

Oh, and a nylon scrub pad followed by a Magic Eraser work wonders on the racks.

12 So not doing that again! January 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I leave and mange a B & B and today. I got the bright idea to try the self cleaing on the oven. Its a kenmore. It seemed like a good idea at the time.. I could do all the other things that I need to do while in the same 2 hours the oven would clean its self.. easy right… NO!! So I start the oven on its self clean and start sweeping and mopping and doing other things around the B&B after about 15 min I start chocking on the DANG smoke and the bottom of the DANG is on fire.. So I call my mom almost in tears soo scared that I am going to brun the place down.. my mom being a firefighter tells me “Oh thats prolly not good” Great.. By now the whole palce is soo filled with smoke that I have to go stand out side in the cold I live in ALASKA.. and ill tell ya its cold!!! I run back inside to turn the self clean and the dang oven BEEPS at me… I am never ever useing that aging!!!
Word to the wise.. if you dont want to clean it by hand have the hubby or someone else do it… turst me its worth it!

13 tona February 17, 2010 at 1:30 am

Just wanted to say I found your blog by googling “is it safe to be in the house when self-cleaning your oven. ” Mine is self cleaning for the first time in two years (that is how long we have owned it) and I finally got the courage to do it……. it is two hours into the process and it smells like tonic fumes throughout our home (not to mention there is STILL two hours to go). I just wanted to let you know that your post what HILARIOUS and truly gave me a great LOL! Thanks!! 😉

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