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How Self Cleaning Ovens Work 8/25/2023 11:17:17 AM

Friday, August 25, 2023 • Rob Tope • Appliances
The self-cleaning feature in ovens, introduced by Thermador in 1963, offers a convenient way to clean ovens using two primary methods: High-Temperature Cleaning and Steam Cleaning. The high-temperature method heats the oven between 800°F to 1000°F, turning food residues into ash, while the steam cleaning operates at a cooler 250°F, softening light soils for easy removal. For effective cleaning, ensure the oven is empty, consult the operating manual for specific instructions, and use the feature before heavy soil accumulation.

How the Self-Cleaning Feature on Ovens Works

Ovens have come a long way since their inception, and one of the most appreciated features in modern ovens is the self-cleaning function. But how does this feature work, and what makes it so effective? Let's dive into the science and mechanics behind self-cleaning ovens.

The Basics of Self-Cleaning Ovens

The self-cleaning feature was first introduced by Thermador in 1963 and was designed to make the cleaning process easier for homeowners1. This feature was added to both gas ranges and electric ovens, and over time, it has become a standard in many high-end and even mid-range ovens.

The Science Behind the Cleaning

There are primarily two methods that self-cleaning ovens use to get rid of food residues and other soils:

  1. High-Temperature Cleaning: This is the most common method used by self-cleaning ovens. When activated, the oven can reach temperatures between 800°F to 1000°F2. At these high temperatures, any food residues or spills inside the oven are effectively turned to ash. This process can be likened to how wood turns to ash when burned in a fireplace. Once the cycle is complete, the ash can be easily wiped away with a damp cloth.

  2. Steam Cleaning: Some modern ovens offer a steam cleaning option, which operates at a cooler temperature of around 250°F2. This method is designed for light soils and is meant to be used "between" the more intense high-temperature cleanings3. The steam helps to soften and loosen the food residues, making them easier to wipe away.

Safety and Usage Tips

  • Always ensure that the oven is empty before starting a self-cleaning cycle. Remove any bakeware, oven liners, or utensils4.
  • Check the oven's operating manual for specific instructions, especially regarding the cleaning of oven racks. Most racks should be removed during the self-cleaning cycle4.
  • It's recommended to run the self-clean cycle before the soil levels inside the oven become too heavy. If there are thick layers of residue, the self-cleaning feature might not be as effective4.


The self-cleaning feature in ovens is a testament to how technology can make our lives easier and more convenient. Whether you're using the high-temperature method or the steam cleaning option, it's essential to understand how these features work to ensure you're using them safely and effectively.



  1. Good Housekeeping

  2. Mental Floss 2

  3. Whirlpool

  4. The Spruce 2 3

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