The debate about whether oven cleaners are toxic or not never culminates in a clear winner. Opponents talk about hazardous chemicals and dangerous side effects.
Proponents tout the safety of these products as self-evident by virtue of them being on the shelves in supermarkets. So who’s right? Today we aim to find out.
In this article:
Debating whether oven cleaners are toxic is pointless. The question shouldn’t be whether they’re toxic, but how toxic they are.
Most cleaning products base their entire foundation and effectiveness on a few active ingredients. In the case of oven cleaners, those ingredients are effective at dealing with oily and grimy stains. They also happen to be harmful.
If you don’t believe me, take your oven cleaner of choice and read the label. Invariably, there’s going to be a section that tells you what to do if the stuff gets into your eyes or if you ingest it. These scenarios can pose a significant danger to your well-being. I think that answers the question of whether they’re toxic or not.
As to how toxic, this will depend on the active ingredients. Some of the most common active ingredients in oven cleaners are caustic soda, dichloromethane, and ethylene glycol (of antifreeze fame).
Basically, each of these has powerful alkaline properties and they’re excellent at breaking down organic matter. This organic matter can oily splatter and grime, but it can also be your skin (I don’t want to get into a more gruesome territory but you get the gist).
“Wait a minute,” I hear you exclaim. “If these products are so toxic, how come they’re selling them in supermarkets?” Great question, dear reader. And the answer is that thanks to the warning on the label, you’re using these products at your own peril.
Don’t get me wrong, if you take all the necessary precautions, you can clean your oven without a hitch. Precautions like good ventilation where you use these products, wearing glasses, a mask, and gloves will ensure oven cleaning doesn’t cost you your health. But the fact that you need all these measures in the first place settles the toxicity debate, don’t you think?
Now that we’ve established oven cleaning products are toxic, can they make you sick? And the answer is “yes”. I mean, otherwise, they wouldn’t be toxic.
Most oven cleaning products are extremely volatile. They can easily evaporate even at room temperature, which is bad news if you like breathing without feeling a burning sensation in your lungs.
That’s why it’s essential to ensure proper ventilation while you clean. It’s also ill-advised to use these products if you suffer from asthma or other chronic lung conditions.
Other than toxic fumes, you should also be careful with direct skin contact. These chemicals don’t discriminate between oil stains and your hands.
It goes without saying, but ingesting any oven cleaning products can be potentially life-threatening. Be extra careful when handling any cleaning products.
Finally, be especially mindful about protecting your eyes. Getting toxic chemicals into your eyes is not something you want to deal with, especially if you’re home alone.
That’s not very likely. As I’ve said, oven cleaners are pretty volatile, which means they evaporate easily. It’s therefore unlikely there will be any leftover residue to poison your food.
However, just to be on the safe side, make sure you rinse your oven well before you start using it again.
Most modern ovens come with the so-called “self-cleaning” feature. You might be tempted to use it because, as the name implies, the oven will clean itself. However, this is ill-advised.
Many online publications advise you to leave the house when using the “self-cleaning” feature on your oven. However, you should absolutely not do that. The self-cleaning method is turning the oven to a very high temperature and burning any potential residue, oil stains, and grime to a crisp.
In theory, this is great. It’s going to be so much easier to clean once everything is scorched. In practice, this method is dangerous. First off, using this method can cause a fire in your home. This is why it’s especially dangerous to leave the oven unattended.
Many people forget food leftovers in the oven before they execute the self-cleaning function. The leftovers catch fire and… well, you can imagine the rest.
Standing around and watching the process isn’t any better. On the one hand, it can take hours before it’s done. On the other, everything that’s burning inside your oven will turn to fumes and spread throughout your home.
All in all, it’s best not to use this function. However, if you’re absolutely hell-bent on trying it, make sure you check out your instructions manual on how to do it safely and secure proper ventilation.
As you can see, oven cleaning can be a tricky and dangerous business. But it doesn’t have to be. There are clean, green, natural alternatives to your traditional toxic oven cleaners. And the best part is you probably already have them in your kitchen.
I’m talking about baking soda and white vinegar, of course. They’re natural products that are almost as effective as the store-bought stuff with none of the hazards. Mix some baking soda until the mixture forms a paste and you’re good to go. Here’s how you can use baking soda to clean your oven (and your entire kitchen).
Are oven cleaners toxic? Yes, they are, and you should always handle them with care. Always make sure your oven is cool and empty before you start cleaning and never underestimate how easily a simple cleaning can go sideways.
Opt for natural ingredients when you can. And, of course, if you need professional help, you can always count on us.
Hi, I’m Atanas - brand consultant and writer. I’m helping Samyx Cleaning create the best cleaning company blog on the Internet. Join us on our journey and learn how to live a cleaner, healthier, happier life in the process.