Can You Leave the House While Oven Is Self-Cleaning?

The self-cleaning feature in a modern oven makes maintenance way easier than ever before. But did you know that this feature is a lot more dangerous than it may sound? So, before you start a self-cleaning cycle, you should know whether or not it’s safe to do so in an empty home.

Do not attempt to run a self-cleaning cycle in your oven if you want to go out. Not only does the entire process take hours to finish, but it can possibly lead to housefires if you’re not careful. If you want to leave your home, run the self-cleaning cycle when you get back.

In this guide, I’ll explain in more detail what the self-cleaning feature is, how you can run a self-cleaning oven safely, and whether or not it’s even necessary to do it in the first place.

What Is a Self-Cleaning Oven?

In the past, a self-cleaning oven was just something people dreamed of. Today, that dream is a reality, but what nobody could’ve foreseen is that the process is a lot more complicated than it appears.

The self-cleaning feature in an oven utilizes heat ranging between 800 and 900°F roughly. To put this into perspective, the hottest a typical oven can get is 550°F. What the heat does is, it burns leftover food soils to a crisp. All of the old juices, bits of meat, and anything else in your oven (including plastic) will be turned into a fine ash.

Now, what people don’t usually say about self-cleaning ovens is that there’s still some manual work to do. When the food is charred to a fine ash, you will have to remove it with a damp towel or even a vacuum cleaner.

How to Run a Self-Cleaning Cycle Safely

Running a self-cleaning cycle in your oven is pretty straightforward. If you’re unsure of how to begin, just take a look at the owner’s manual to figure things out. However, if you don’t have time to scan through all the manual’s fine print, here’s the gist of how to run a self-cleaning cycle.

1. Remove everything from inside your oven

Remove as much of the food soil and grease as you can

By everything, I mean everything. This includes the metal racks, whose sleek finish might become undone due to the extreme temperatures of the self-cleaning cycle. Remove all pots, pans, bakeware, and anything else inside the oven that you can detach and clean by hand.

2. Remove as much of the food soil and grease as you can

While the self-cleaning feature will undoubtedly burn all food soils to a crisp, giving your oven a manual pre-clean will produce less of a mess. Try using a non-scratch spatula or even a toothpick to pick away at the caked-on bits of debris.

3. Shut and lock the oven door

This is a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning, especially if you live with kids and/or pets. Even though the self-cleaning feature will automatically trigger the door-locking mechanism to engage, it doesn’t hurt to be absolutely sure about it.

4. Set the self-cleaning timer before hitting the start button

Set the self cleaning timer before hitting the start button

Now that the oven’s door is locked in place, you can turn the oven on and start a self-cleaning cycle. Your oven may ask you to input how long you want it to run, which you should play it by ear. Dirtier ovens require longer self-cleaning cycles. When you’ve set the timer, hit the start button and let the oven do its thing.

5. When the cycle is complete, let the oven cool down completely

Your oven door will remain locked even after the self-cleaning cycle has finished. This is to ensure that you give the oven ample time to cool down, after which it will unlock. However, to play it safe, wait at least 1 hour before opening the unlocked door.

6. Remove the ash from inside the oven

With a damp cloth or paper towel, soak up the charred bits of old food soil. Continue doing this until wiping the wall and sides of your oven doesn’t leave a streak on your rag or paper towel. If the ash is loose enough, you can expedite the post-cleaning process by using a vacuum cleaner.

Additional tips

  • As a note of warning, it’s important that you do not introduce a commercial cleaner into your oven prior to running a self-cleaning cycle. Some of those chemicals may be flammable or become absorbed into your oven’s walls when exposed to extreme heat. If you want to use a chemical cleaner in your oven, do it after the self-cleaning cycle is complete. This guide will explain this in more detail.
  • Another thing you should pay attention to is the ventilation in your kitchen. A super-heated oven, especially one that is filled with layers of grease, can release foul odors. So, turn on your range hood, open your kitchen windows as wide as they can go, or even consider using a fan in your kitchen to force the smelly air out.
  • Finally, because there’s no telling what that much heat will do, it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand at all times. Keep the fire extinguisher away from the oven when it’s in the middle of a self-cleaning cycle, but keep it close enough that you can spray the extinguishant at the oven at a moment’s notice.

Can You Leave the House While Oven Is Self-Cleaning?

The self-cleaning process can take as long as 3 hours to complete. Of course, I’m not expecting you to sit around and stare at your oven during this time, but is it safe to leave your home in the meantime?

No, it’s not! There’s no telling what will happen in your kitchen if you leave an 800-plus-degree oven running unsupervised. Don’t become a part of the 50% of total housefires caused by kitchen mishaps!

Can You Sleep While the Oven Is Self-Cleaning?

Again, leaving an oven while it’s running a self-cleaning cycle is not a good idea, even if you’re still at home. You can watch TV, play video games, and do other things while the oven is at work, but you should still check up on it periodically.

Unless you don’t mind waking up every 5 to 10 minutes to check on your oven’s status, you should only run the self-cleaning cycle when you’re awake, alert, and prepared.

Do You Need to Use a Self-Cleaning Oven?

Here’s the thing about the self-cleaning feature: you should only use it when your oven is filthy. Moderate levels of food debris can be removed using other means. Basically, only run a self-cleaning cycle as the last resort.

I’m not going to tell you that you should clean your oven after each use because nobody has the time to do that. However, if you can still scrape off the majority, if not all, of the food soils inside your oven, you don’t need to run a self-cleaning cycle.

On the other hand, after a large Thanksgiving feast and baking non-stop without cleaning periods in between dishes, it might be a good idea to run a self-cleaning cycle when your guests have left.

Can You Stop a Self-Cleaning Cycle Early?

Yes, you can, but it’s not recommended. Hitting the cancel or clear button is all it takes to stop the self-cleaning cycle, though you will still have to wait for a certain amount of time for the oven to come down to temp. This guide will explain everything you need to know about stopping a self-cleaning oven early.

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