How to Clean Oven Racks

Cleaning oven racks – Is there anybody out there who enjoys this job? I seriously doubt it. It’s not the most fun household task and what probably doesn’t help is the fact that as soon as you’ve finished, you shut away your nice clean oven racks behind the oven door so nobody can even see the evidence of your hard work.

Oven racks can be really difficult to clean because they’re in the perfect place to develop a build-up of hard to remove, baked on food. To properly clean them, you have to get right in between the metal bars and into corners. They never fit into your sink and you’re not supposed to put them in the dishwasher so usually, this entails hardcore scrubbing with maximum elbow grease and a whole lot of time. I’m depressed just thinking about it!

But what if I told you there was a simpler way!

Did you know that the key to quick, clean oven racks is hiding in your bathroom? Your bath is the perfect place to soak your oven racks.

And there’s even more good news! You can skip most of the scrubbing and you won’t even need to buy any special cleaning products. All you need is a bathtub, some dishwasher detergent, a couple of old towels and a sponge or soft brush.

The only negative thing about this method is that you need to set aside some time for it to work and your bath is going to be off-limits for at least 12 hours. That’s why I like to do this in the evening time and let it work overnight.

How to clean oven racks:

  1. First off, remove your oven racks from the oven and brush off any excess debris or food build-up. Don’t spend too much time on this step as your bathtub is going to do all the hard work.
  2. Take two old towels and put them in the bottom of your tub. This is to protect your bath surface from being scratched or stained by the racks or what comes off them. Rust stains, in particular, are very good at transferring from one surface to another.
  3. Don’t forget the bath plug!
  4. Put your oven racks on top of the old towels and turn on the hot water. You want this to be as hot as possible so if your water heater doesn’t give you really piping hot water, you might want to boil the kettle a couple of times and add this to the bath.
  5. Add 2 dishwasher tablets to the bath water or if you use dishwasher powder, add about a tablespoon and half of that instead.
  6. No dishwasher? No problem! You can easily substitute with a heaped tablespoon of laundry powder or 2 capfuls of liquid laundry detergent, BUT it needs to be biological laundry cleaner. Non-bio laundry detergent doesn’t contain the enzymes that you need to shift the baked on grime and grease from your oven racks.

That’s it! Go watch Netflix or better still go out for the night. After 12 hours soaking in the water and detergent, the vast majority of the dirt and grime should have detached from the racks and will be floating on the surface of the water.

Remove the racks from the bathtub and drain the water. All the dirt and grime should now be on the old towels so it will be easy to remove these. Rinse the oven racks and use a cloth to take off any detergent residue and if there is any dirt remaining, you should be able to easily scrub this off with a soft brush or cloth.

What if I don’t have a Bathtub?

If you don’t have a bathtub, all is not lost. You can still have clean oven racks. All you’ll need is a heavy duty bin bag and some ammonia, like Home Care Ammonia Liquid.

This is a job that you’ll want to do outside as Ammonia liquid has a strong smell and you don’t want it spilling on your carpet or tiles.

  1. Remove your oven racks from the oven and brush off any excess food debris. Put on rubber gloves and take them outside with your ammonia and bin bag. It’s advisable to use a high quality, heavy duty bin bag for this task. A garden waste bag is ideal as cheaper, lightweight bags are likely to rip when you put the racks in.
  2. Put the racks inside the bag and pour about a cup of ammonia over them. You don’t need to soak the racks because it’s the fumes rather than the liquid that do the work. Tie up the neck of the bag and leave it overnight.
  3. The next day, again wearing rubber gloves, remove the racks from the bag and rinse off any ammonia residue with a garden hose. All dirt and debris should have loosened and you’ll be easily able to remove this with a sponge or brush and some warm soapy water.
  4. Discard the bin bag and the remaining ammonia carefully.

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What if my Oven Racks still look dirty after cleaning them?

If your oven racks had a very thick layer of burnt on food, it is possible that some of this might remain after cleaning. If this is the case, then don’t worry – you won’t have to repeat the whole process again.

There are a couple of really excellent products which do a fantastic job of spot cleaning burnt on and stained kitchen utensils, oven racks and appliances.

The first of these is Stardrops Pink Stuff Paste.

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I love this cream cleaner for its high performance and sheer versatility. There are so many household tasks that you can use it for and cleaning oven racks is just one.

The bubblegum pink paste is brilliant at taking off stubborn dirt and grime deposits and removing staining from practically every hard surface.

  1. Simply apply a small amount to a cloth or sponge and work it onto the stain or deposit on the oven rack.
  2. Use a gentle scrubbing motion to penetrate the grime. Within seconds you should start to see the stain lift and the dirt lift away from the rack.
  3. Rinse and dry your racks which should be looking as good as new.

Stardrops Pink Stuff paste is very reasonably priced and comes in a 500-gram tub which will last for ages. It is made in the UK and available from Amazon and from a number of High Street stores and DIY centres.

Check out this video to see the Pink Stuff in action:

The second product which works exceptionally well at removing stains and build-up from oven racks is the cult cleaning product Bar Keepers Friend. This is another very reasonably priced product and again, it can be used for all kinds of household stain removal tasks.

Bar Keepers friend comes in a variety of forms including a liquid, a spray and a cream. I use the powder form of the product which I think is the most economical way of buying it. Apply the powder to a damp cloth making a thick paste, and then gently rub it into the stain or dirt deposit. The mild abrasive action of the paste quickly and effectively erases your stain and easily shifts even burnt on food, rust stains and thick grease.

Bar Keepers friend is available on Amazon and can be safely used on all kinds of surfaces around the home.

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Keeping your Oven Racks Clean

To avoid having to deep clean your oven racks too frequently, there are steps you can take to minimise the amount of dirt that you get on there in the first place.

Here are some tips for keeping those racks as clean as the day you bought your oven:

Prevention is better than Cure

Some dishes have a good chance of boiling or bubbling over in the oven. Maybe it’s just my own cooking but I find that casseroles, lasagnas and other baked meals have a habit of going all over your oven racks and the base of the oven.

A handy way to minimise the mess is to line your oven rack with tin foil or to place a baking tray underneath the casserole or oven dish so that any overspill is contained and can easily be removed and cleaned

Use a pizza tray or stone to bake pizzas and avoid getting baked on cheese all over your oven racks as this can be a real pain to remove.

Don’t let the Dirt Sit

If you do have a spill in your oven, clean it as soon as you can. It’s much easier to clean a recent spill from your oven racks than when it’s been sitting on there for two weeks. Giving your oven racks a quick rub with a damp cloth and some mild dish detergent every week or so will remove a good amount of grease and food debris and doing so will mean that you won’t have to soak your racks too often.

I hope that this article and my tips help to take some of the hard work out of cleaning your oven racks. Nothing is nastier than a dirty oven and even though oven cleaning isn’t much fun, it’s always a big relief when the job is finished! Enjoy!

Claire has been in the cleaning industry for over 15 years. She's worked numerous jobs including both domestic and industrial cleaning. Her most recent role has been head of product testing for a major cleaning supplier. Following the birth of her second child, Layla, Claire has set up Cleaning Mentor to help people become better at cleaning, saving time and money.

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