Potential Dangers of Oven Cleaning Products

By on 28th January 2010 (updated: 6th January 2021) in Franchise

What a minefield! …. but let’s see what can be done to un-ravel the mystery behind these products.

Oven cleaners can be divided into two main groups, those that work and those that don’t!

Generally speaking, the oven cleaners that “do what they say on the package” will contain ingredients that mean you’ll need to be very careful when using the product.

You MUST read the instructions first. This is very important indeed.

There are numerous cases every week of damage to both humans and appliances where the instructions have become ‘destructions’ because warnings have not been heeded. Warnings are put onto oven cleaning products for good reason.

A common ingredient found in many ‘off the shelf’ oven cleaners is sodium hydroxide more commonly known as caustic soda. This product is a very high alkaline that can cause a lot of damage if not used in accordance with instructions.

Fan and electric Oven Cleaner Chemicals

Many are unaware that many chemicals found in oven cleaning products, such as sodium hydroxide (lye), can cause harm to humans. Commonly referred to as Caustic Soda, Sodium Hydroxide is found in most oven cleaner products and can cause skin burns and irritation to the eyes. Lye is an effective cleaning chemical because it reacts with the baked-on grease in your oven as it decomposes fats and sugars into soapy compounds that can be washed away. However, lye can be harmful to humans.

Cleaning an Electric Oven

For electric oven cleaning, make a cleaning paste by mixing baking soda and water in equal parts until it forms a stiff paste. Baking soda reacts with baked-on grease and dirt and decomposes fats and sugars, making it possible to easily clean your electric oven with natural baking soda.

Here is a detailed list of all the potential issues that arise from using oven cleaner chemicals:

  • Burns to the skin
  • Irritation to eyes
  • Damage to nostrils and lungs
  • Removal of paint
  • Corrosion of certain metals
  • Dulling of glass
  • Rotting of rubber
  • Distortion of elements
  • Removal of ‘self-clean’ coatings including ‘non-stick’.

The list above isn’t exhaustive, but just an idea of what can go wrong. That said, caustic soda is a very effective oven cleaner and oven cleaning product particularly in a commercial environment. You may also need to look out for some different variations of caustic/corrosive oven cleaners, including caustic potash and potassium hydroxide, to name just a couple. If the oven cleaner you’re looking at has a label for ‘corrosive’ then the chances are it contains caustics in some way, shape or form.

A huge issue with caustic based products is that they are often sold in aerosol sprays and the product is dispensed at speed making accurate ‘spraying’ virtually impossible without ‘masking’ all the potentially hazardous areas before-hand… pretty time-consuming in the modern world we live in!!

You’ll also do well to look out for the so-called ‘professional oven cleaning companies’ that claim to be “just a bit caustic”… products are either caustic or not… bit like ‘wet’… Either it is or it isn’t!!

A far ‘kinder’ range of oven cleaners contain ‘surfactants’ to physically break down the grease and fatty substances rather than ‘burning’ them off. Oven cleaning products containing these ingredients will generally be more limited in effect and will take longer to work.

On the plus side, however, they will be a lot kinder to the environment and safer to dispose of after use. You’ll probably have to use a lot of this type of oven cleaner on heavy soiling perhaps even a second or third application in severe circumstances.

The range of oven cleaners and oven cleaning products that claim to be ‘eco-friendly’ is a huge growth market. A couple of these products claim to be ‘chemical-free’ !! This actually means they only contain water….anything added is in fact a chemical of some sorts. Various pastes, sprays and gels will have limited effect as their main constituent ingredient is just water. Extremely environmentally friendly but won’t necessarily do the job you need doing. In many cases, simply washing up liquid would produce a better result!!

As you’ll now appreciate the oven cleaning product range is interesting and diverse for many good reasons and logic. As we pointed out from the outset, it’s a minefield out there however, exercising due diligence before embarking on the oven cleaning chore, should ensure that both you and your cooking appliances are still in one piece once you’ve finished the job!!

If in any doubt, contact a professional oven cleaning service company who will know exactly what they’re doing and will leave your oven sparkling, hygienic, safe to use.

Rik Hellewell is the Founder & Managing Director of Ovenu and a member of the Approved Franchise Association. He established Ovenu in 1993, cleaning 4,000 ovens and proving his concept over five years before starting the franchise business. Since then he has helped over 200 franchisees achieve their dreams of running successful businesses of their own. Established for over 25 years, the Ovenu concept has proven successful across the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the USA.