How To Clean Dirty Oven Racks So They'll Look Brand New

Experts share how to tackle the task.

Cleaning Oven Racks
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There are two types of cleaning that happen in my house—the daily organizing to make things appear clean, and the dreaded deep cleans that only happen a few times a year. Cleaning my oven racks is one of those deep cleaning projects I like to put off until the racks are completely covered in burnt pizza cheese. Below, we've asked multiple experts for their advice on making this daunting task much easier.

How Often Should You Clean Oven Racks?

Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for oven racks to become dirty and sticky. "Baked-on grease, grime, and burnt bits are likely to accumulate over time, especially if you're someone who bakes frequently or makes most meals at home, which makes it more difficult to clean as time goes on," explains Amelia Hensley, Director of Cooking Systems at GE Appliances. "Cleaning these more frequently can also help reduce smells from foods that have been burnt onto the racks while cooking."

In terms of how often you should clean your oven racks, it depends. "Once or twice a year is good for most homes, especially if major spills are cleaned up right away," says Hensley. "It becomes less of a chore if the oven is wiped down after big spills or after cooking a large meal (i.e. after a party, holiday, etc.)." If you're cooking most meals at home, it is recommended to clean the oven more often, like four to five times per year. Hensley also recommends wiping down racks immediately after cooking directly on the rack (like a pizza).

How To Clean Oven Racks with Dishwasher Detergent

To clean oven racks using dishwasher detergent, Sabrina Fierman of high-end cleaning service New York's Little Elves suggests doing the cleaning in your bathtub. "First, line the tub with an old towel to avoid scratching it, then place racks on top and cover with hot water and a ½ cup of dish soap," she says. "Leave the racks in the soapy water solution overnight for about 12 hours, and make sure that nobody will have to use the bathtub during this time." Scrub the grates with an old rag or abrasive dish sponge and rinse well. Fierman notes that, while this technique is simple enough, it's probably not effective for very dirty grates.

How To Clean Oven Racks with Dryer Sheets

To incorporate dryer sheets into your oven rack-cleaning, you can apply enough dryer sheets on top of your old towel in the bottom of the bathtub, then add the rack(s) and cover the rack(s) with more dryer sheets. "Then add ½ cup of dishwasher detergent and warm water to cover, let sit for 12 hours, then drain the solution, throw away the dryer sheets, and sponge clean with an abrasive sponge," suggests Fierman. "Rinse and dry well."

While this technique does work for some, it's actually Fierman's least favorite method. "It's not as effective for very dirty grates." Additionally, Hensley does not recommend this method, as her team has not tested it on oven racks and cannot confirm performance or what may happen to the rack finish.

How To Clean Oven Racks with Easy-off

Fierman suggests doing this method outside or in a well-ventilated room, and making sure all surfaces are protected. "Oven cleaners are very strong and can easily damage wood or stone surfaces," she explains. "Follow the manufacturer's directions on the oven cleaner can."

Hensley notes that commercial oven cleaners may be used for the racks, but some cleaners cause discoloration. "Be sure to do a small test area to check the results, and rinse the racks thoroughly after cleaning," she says.

How To Clean Oven Racks with Bar Keepers Friend

First, make a paste with water and brush it on the racks to cover them completely. Let sit for 45-60 minutes and then scrub off with an abrasive sponge and rinse well. "This is the most effective method and requires very little time and elbow grease," says Fierman. "Bar Keepers Friend will not damage your other kitchen surfaces if it splashes, but I'd still recommend doing this in the tub with an old towel to protect the tub or do it outside."

Hensley agrees that this can be an effective way to get grease out but, similar to above, always do a small test area to check the results on your specific oven rack to ensure the color and luster are maintained.

What To Avoid When Cleaning Oven Racks

The most important thing is to not damage other surfaces. "Make sure everything is protected, pets and children are out of the way, and you've gathered all the tools and time you will need to complete the project once you start it," says Fierman.

After cleaning, or whenever you notice difficulty sliding racks in and out, Hensley recommends wiping the rack frame with vegetable oil to help keep them sliding smoothly. "Some racks may come with a special lubricant for the ball bearings in the sliding mechanism—take care to not get water or cleaning products in the sliding mechanism and use the lubricant as specified by the manufacturer."

Additionally, some racks can be left inside the oven during a self-clean cycle, and wiped clean after the cycle completes—this would be the best way to clean a rack if it's capable, according to Hensley. "Always be sure to check the manuals or product specifications to be sure," she says.

Where To Clean Oven Racks

Whenever possible, clean your racks outside, so you don't run the risk of damaging other surfaces. That being said, most city dwellers don't have this option. "I recommend running the self-cleaning option of your oven (if you have it) with the grates in place," suggests Fierman. "Anything left over can usually be removed with a damp cloth, a dusting of Bar Keepers Friend, and warm water. Otherwise, a well-protected bathtub will do the trick."

For normal cleaning, Hensley recommends a counter or floor, but make sure to cover the surface with a towel to prevent damage from cleaning products. "You can also take your racks outside and spray them off with a garden hose," she says. "When using an oven cleaner, keep the racks in the oven and follow instructions listed on the product." Heavily soiled racks may need to be soaked—a cushion of towels should be placed in the tub to prevent damage. Do not submerge the sliding mechanism, Hensley warns.

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