How to Clean Oven Racks – Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Oven Racks

Learning how to clean oven racks effectively can save you a lot of time. The kitchen is the heart of every home and the oven is its star player. You use the oven to bake cookies for loved ones and cook favorite family recipes. While the inside of the oven isn’t visible to everyone, it’s very important to keep it clean. Over time, grease build-up and grime will cover your oven racks and a quick wipe down won’t be able to remove all of the gunk in a dirty oven.

While many are self-cleaning ovens, we’ve found that the self-cleaning cycle on most ovens uses high temperatures to burn off all of the build-up, which takes a long time to run and often leaves a bad smell in the air.

Like cleaning furniture and flooring, cleaning a dirty oven can seem daunting. Luckily, there are many oven cleaners out there and a variety of methods to clean oven racks. We’ve gathered some tried and true cleaners and methods to help you clean oven racks with minimal fuss.

Before you get started with our guide on how to clean oven racks, it’s important to note that all the ways listed below on how to clean oven racks do NOT require your oven to be on. Make sure your oven is off when you clean oven racks!

Oven racks prior to cleaning. Burnt on gunk and grime can be seen covering the racks. 

How Often You Should Clean an Oven

Think of how much better it would be for you if you managed to clean away a stray pepperoni or tater tot right as you see it in your oven. The cleaner you keep your oven, the better your food will taste. But, aside from trying to clean up messes as soon as they happen, you should make a point to deep clean your oven at least once every three months.

However, you have to know that there aren’t any hard and fast rules regarding oven cleaning. If you don’t have a chance to use your oven a lot, you can go longer between deep cleans. However, if you’re someone who loves to cook and have homemade meals for your kid’s sleepovers, and you’re afraid of what you’ll find when you open the oven, you should clean it more often.

Why It’s a Good Idea to Clean Your Oven Racks

Lets face it, no one is thrilled about the prospect of cleaning oven racks. It can be a lengthy process from start to finish, and most people don’t like scrubbing at the racks. However, it’s essential that you clean them frequently to make your overall health better.

Once in a while, after you bake or cook any type of food in the oven, grease, burnt food, and residue get left on the oven racks. It looks dirty, and more importantly, if you don’t take time to clean it, you’ll cook in an unhealthy environment.

We want you to have a clean and healthy oven, so we’re going to round up several techniques you can employ to get a clean and shining oven rack. All of the methods we go over will require minimal effort on your part.

How to Clean Oven Racks – The Method


The first step in our how to clean oven racks method is soaking.

Perhaps the easiest way to clean your oven racks efficiently is to give them a hot water bath! As long as you have a bathtub, some old towels and dishwasher detergent, you’re all set. Follow these steps to soak and clean your oven racks:

  1. Put an old towel or two on the bottom of the tub to prevent scratches.
  2. Fill your tub with hot water. You won’t need too much hot water, just enough to fully submerge the oven racks. Add 1/2 a cup of dishwasher detergent and mix it into the water. It doesn’t matter if you add powdered or liquid, just use what you have.
  3. Remove racks from your oven and put them into the tub.
  4. You can also put dryer sheets in the mix (yes, dryer sheets!). The antistatic properties of dryer sheets help soften the bonds holding the food particles to the racks
  5. Now you just have to wait! Let sit for a few hours. It’s best to do this in the evening and let the dirty oven racks sit overnight, well-soaked. As long as you let the racks soak for at least six hours, they should be ready to wipe clean after soaking.
  6. After they’re done soaking, rinse them off and use an old rag to clean them up. One thing we found especially helpful if there was a lot of dried on gunk and grease buildup was to use a stainless steel scouring pad. You shouldn’t need to scrub too hard after soaking for so long, but if your oven racks were very dirty, a stainless steel scouring pad will help get all the gunk off. Dry off the racks before returning them to the oven.

An oven rack sits and soaks in a bathtub filled with hot water and dishwashing detergent.

Commercial Oven Cleaner

Another method is to coat your oven racks with an oven cleaner. Many oven cleaning products found in stores use harsh chemicals that leave a strong, unpleasant smell. Not only do these products smell bad, but they can be harmful to your health. When you’re cleaning a space that cooks food, such as the inside of your oven, you don’t want a strong smell left lingering.

However, there are definitely some good, natural oven cleaners, such as Method’s Heavy Duty Degreaser, that can clean not only your oven racks, but the inside of your oven and stove top, too

Another effective fume free cleaner is the Easy Off Fume Free cleaner, which is also very effective and cleans without any harsh fumes.

How to Clean Your Oven Racks with a Commercial Oven Cleaner

It’s best to clean your oven racks outside or in a very well-ventilated area if you choose to go the commercial oven cleaner route. Pick out a sturdy work surface and cover it with a few sheets of newspaper or plastic. Lay your oven racks on top of this layer in a single layer.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and spray your commercial oven cleaner of choice onto the racks in a generous layer. Allow it to sit undisturbed for 10 to 20 minutes. Get an old toothbrush or old rags and scrub at the racks. Rinse them very well with the garden hose before you put them back to remove all of the residue.

DIY Oven Cleaner

We’ve found that DIY cleaners for oven racks can work just as well compared to store bought cleaners. There are a few DIY mixtures that we found to be especially efficient in cleaning oven racks. The good news is that the recipes call for common ingredients you should already have in your kitchen so there’s no need to go to the store and spend money.

Oven Cleaner Mixture Number One: Baking Soda and Water

The first mixture is simply 3 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with 1.5 tablespoons of water.

Oven Cleaner Mixture Number Two: Baking Soda, Hydrogen Peroxide and Dish Soap

The second mixture is 3 tablespoons of baking soda, mixed with 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and 1 tablespoon of dish soap

No matter what recipe you decide on, the following steps will be the same. They both provided great results. The first mixture requires one less ingredient but the second mixture was a bit easier to work with. For a natural clean scent, add a few drops of an essential oil, such as lemon, to the mixture to leave your kitchen smelling fresh!

  1. Mix the ingredients in a bowl until a spreadable paste forms.
  2. Lay out old newspapers, towels or a trash bag on a flat surface, such as a kitchen floor or counter.
  3. Spread the mixture all over the racks using either a paintbrush, spoon or your hands. Using your hands is perhaps the most efficient way, But grease build up and grime will threaten to stain your hands, clothing and anything you touch. A pair of rubber kitchen gloves will keep your hands clean and ensure that your kitchen stays clean.
  4. Let sit on your oven racks for about six hours. Then wipe clean with a damp cloth or rinse off completely in the sink or a bathtub. You can use a stainless steel scouring pad here too, especially dried gunk on your oven racks. Dry the racks off before returning them to your oven.
  5. If you’re using a store-bought cleaner, you can still follow most of these steps. Lay out your oven racks on a towel or old newspapers and then simply spray down your oven racks and follow the directions on the bottle for the rest of the steps.
  6. You can also use dryer sheets to wipe down the racks

An oven rack is coated with a DIY mixture of baking soda and water. A stainless steel scouring pad helps take off dried on, burnt gunk.

Oven Cleaner Mixture Number Three: Trash Bags and Ammonia

In a ventilated area or outside, you want to carefully put your oven racks into a trash bag, making sure you don’t rip it. Add a pint of ammonia and allow it to sit on the oven racks overnight after you tie up the bags.

In the morning in a well-ventilated area or outside, carefully open the trash bags. You may want to wear eye protection and a mask because the ammonia fumes have built up over the night in the trash bags. Remove the racks from the bags and rinse them thoroughly using the garden hose. You shouldn’t have to scrub at them. When you finish, put them back in the oven.

  • Precaution: Take necessary precautions to avoid inhaling the ammonia fumes as you open the bags. You’ll want to have gloves and safety goggles on at the very least, and a mask is a good idea. Consider wearing something you don’t mind potentially ruining clothing-wise. Spray the racks down and watch everything wash off before replacing them. 

Oven Cleaner Mixture Number Four: Dishwashing Liquid and Dryer Sheets

Put the oven racks into your washtub, bathtub, or sink and fill it with extremely hot water. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to help degrease the racks while they soak. Add in a handful of dryer sheets and mix around the water. This should cause the water to foam up. You can use fresh or used dryer sheets. Both work just as well.

Allow the racks to soak for several hours or overnight without disturbing them. Drain the water and wipe the racks down using the dryer sheets. At this point, any leftover debris should slide right off, and the racks should shine nicely. Rinse well and replace them in the oven.

Oven Cleaner Mixture Number Five: Water and Bar Keeper’s Friend

Get a small bowl and make a paste using Bar Keeper’s Friend. This should be the original powder formula cleanser that has oxalic acid, mineral abrasive, a water-softening agent, and a surfactant.

Put your dirty oven racks into the sink and spray them lightly with warm water. Get a pad or scrubber sponge and apply the paste right to the racks. Scour them gently to remove grime, grease, and any residue. Rinse them thoroughly before putting them back.

Oven Cleaner Mixture Number Six: Orange Essential Oil

Orange is a cheerful citrusy scent. Get a small glass bowl and make a paste using vinegar, baking soda, and a few drops of orange essential oil. The oil has very strong antimicrobial compounds called terpenes to help clean your oven racks.

Put your oven racks over the sink and get a damp sponge to apply a thick layer of paste to your entire rack. Allow the paste to sit on your oven racks for six to eight hours. Scrub at them lightly when the time comes up to remove grime and grease. Rinse them all well and replace them in the oven.

1 Cleaning Oven Rack
Oven Racks by Chris D. 2006 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Using natural cleaning methods to get your oven racks sparkling is very popular, and you have a host of options available to you to try. 

Oven Cleaner Mixture Number Eight: Aluminum Foil

Pull the oven racks from the oven and carefully wrap each rung with a layer of aluminum foil. Put the wrapped racks into a tub filled with hot water. Drop a dishwasher tablet right into the water. The cleansing agent in this tablet will react to the aluminum foil and hot water.

Allow the mixture to sit on the submerged racks for up to two hours without disturbing it. Drain your tub and carefully remove the foil from the racks. It should now be easy to wipe the grime and grease away. Rinse off any remaining residue and replace them.

Additional Tips – How to Clean Oven Racks Effectively

Clean oven rack after applying a DIY mixture of baking soda and water. 

An easy way to avoid spills in the first place is to simply cover the oven racks with aluminum foil. This way any drippings from casseroles or pizza will fall onto the foil and you can easily remove and replace the foil as needed.

How often you will need to clean your oven will vary depending on how often you use it and the type of things you cook. If you only use it a few times a month, a good deep clean several times a year should do the trick.

If you often use your oven and tend to cook things that can get messy, such as cheesy pizzas or bubbling casseroles, you might be dealing with messes more often. If your oven starts smoking due to grease build up and burnt gunk, you should try to clean it as needed.

Before you put the racks in any water, try and remove any stuck-on debris chunks that you see on the racks. The more stuck-on debris you remove before soaking them will make it easier to clean down the line.

If you’re concerned about scratching the tub and having to refinish it, you can protect it before you put the racks down. All you have to do is line the bottom of the tub with rags or an old towel, put the racks down, and then fill it. The racks will hold the towels in place, and the towels will act like a barrier to prevent scratches.

Make sure you allow your chosen oven cleaner plenty of time to sit. You’ll get the best results if you give your mixtures a longer dwell time right on the racks before you start wiping them down. Ideally, this will be at least 12 hours before you do anything to them. The longer they soak, the better chance you have of them working.

Try to be persistent when you clean your oven racks. Dirt on your oven rack gets baked on with caked-on grease. If you see black scorch marks and grime after you wipe the racks down, you can get a more abrasive tool and have a go at the racks. Try a dish scouring pad, stainless-steel sponge, or an old toothbrush to scrub each corner.

Always clean your racks first and then rinse them. You want to finish each cleaning session by rinsing the oven racks very thoroughly with clean water. Dry the racks and replace them in your oven to make them look as good as new.

Oven Rack Cleaning Methods You Should Consider Avoiding

If you do a quick search, you’ll notice that there are several questionable tutorials available that claim to clean your oven racks. The suggestions range from harmless and messy to dangerous. Do yourself and your oven racks a favor and think twice about trying the following methods.

Method One – Self-Cleaning Oven Cycle

Why It’s Not Recommended: The self-cleaning feature may work for the oven, but it’s not a great choice if you want to clean just the racks. In fact, most manufacturers will instruct you to pull the racks out of the oven before you start this cycle.

Pulling the racks is necessary because the ovens get to extreme temperatures during a cleaning cycle to burn off unwanted food in the oven’s interior. Oven racks can sustain damage due to the heat because they’re made out of a different material. Self-cleaning cycles could even cause damage to the oven’s interior if you leave the racks in contact with the walls.

Method Two – Ammonia with Hot Water

During this method, some DIYers instruct you to preheat your oven to 100°F, pour ammonia into a heatproof bowl, put it on the top rack of your oven, and put a large bowl of boiled water on the bottom rack. Close the oven door and allow it to sit overnight to help loosen up grime and grease. Get soap and warm water to wipe it down.

Why It’s Not Recommended: This is a dangerous way to clean your oven racks. The ammonia fumes get trapped inside the oven overnight, and they can build up to dangerously high levels and leak out into the house. Additionally, you can ignite ammonia, and this means that it poses an explosion and fire hazard, especially in a confined space. So, allowing it to sit in a closed oven overnight is extremely risky.

Method Three – Coating with Commercial Oven Cleaner Inside

For this method, you get your commercial oven cleaner, lay out the racks on plastic inside or outside, and coat them with an oven cleaner before allowing it to sit for at least 10 minutes. Scrub the racks with a rag and rinse them off.

Why It’s Not Recommended: Commercial oven cleaners can produce harmful fumes, and you should only use them outside in a well-ventilated area to avoid the fumes building up. You should also wear safety goggles, gloves, and old clothing that you don’t mind ruining or staining. Oven cleaner is also expensive, and you have wasted plastic sheets when you finish.

How to Clean Oven Racks – Frequently Asked Questions 

2 How to Clean Oven Racks FAQs
Rack is Clean by Hefin Owen / CC BY-SA 2.0 Since this can be a labor-intensive project if you haven’t properly cleaned your oven racks before, it’s common to have questions about the process. We’ve picked out several common ones for you below. 

  1. How do you get baked-on grease off the racks?

Cycle through the methods we touched on above and see which one is the most effective for you to help you get the baked-on grease off your oven racks.

  1. How can you clean discoloration off your oven racks?

Get a spray bottle and fill it with distilled white vinegar. Take your oven racks out and lay them in the sink before spraying them with the distilled white vinegar and coating them with baking soda. Let them sit for several minutes before scrubbing them with a bristle brush. They can get discolored if you forget to remove them before you hit the self-clean cycle.

  1. Does Magic Eraser work on oven racks?

Magic Eraser is a popular abrasive cleaning tool that uses compressed melamine foam. It’s safe enough to use on most metal types, so it may work better to help you clean your oven racks than a rag or sponge. However, make sure you don’t use it on any racks that have a non-stick coating or are stainless steel.

  1. How do you clean oven racks in the bathtub?

Usually, your oven racks are too big and bulky to fit in your kitchen sink, and you can clean them in the bathtub. We’ve outlined several methods above how you go about this, including putting hot water in the tub with baking soda or dish soap. It’s also a good idea to line the tub with old towels to protect the surface from scratching and make it easier to clean up the tub when you finish.

Hope this guide on how to clean oven racks was helpful. With these easy methods and simple DIY cleaners, you should have a sparking oven in no time. Happy baking!

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