Learning the best way to clean a steam oven is less glamorous than a fancy recipe, but it is necessary!
In this article (and accompanying video) I’ll walk you through what I know about cleaning my combi steam oven. I’ve cleaned inside a steam oven 100+ times in the past decade, so I know how to get one clean. From non toxic household cleaners to super strength chemical ones, and a wide range of different sponges, cloths and brushes.
From frequency of cleaning to knowing which products to use, plus some handy tips I’ve picked up, we’ll cover it all. And at the end of the post you can print my step-by-step oven cleaning guide to take into your own kitchen!
How often should you clean your steam oven?
It’s hard to advise on this, but I recommend ‘as often as needed to keep it tidy and smelling fresh’. It’s easier to clean your oven if there isn’t too much dirty build-up in there, so keep that in mind.
Give the inside of your oven a quick wipe after each use, and you’ll reduce the frequency of ‘big cleans’.
If you only ever bake occasional cakes or steam vegetables, you may only need to clean 1-2 times a year.
If you make a regular Sunday roast or twice-weekly sourdough bread, you’re going to need to clean much more often. I use my steam oven a LOT, and ideally I’d clean it around once each month or two. I do recognize life gets in the way sometimes; I’m not immune to having an oven that’s overdue for a clean! Keeping things real, people.
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What products to use when cleaning your steam oven
I’ve tried it all when it comes to oven cleaning. Household items like vinegar, lemon juice and dish soap? Check! Industrial cleaners meant for commercial kitchens? Yep, tried those too! Here are my recommendations based on all those trials:
Firstly, steam! Steam cleaning an oven is the best low-tox way to remove dirt and eliminate odors from inside your oven. It’s not the most effective on hardened-on grime, but it’s easier for cleaning products to work if you soften the grime.
Once you’ve exhausted the capabilities of steam, you have two options. Either continue the non-toxic cleaning process with household products, or go all in on a caustic oven cleaner. Both options are effective but household cleaners will take more work to get your steam oven sparkling clean. This is especially true if it was very dirty to begin with.
Whichever way you go, you’ll need cleaning rags or cloths, an old toothbrush and a pair of decent kitchen gloves. Even non-toxic cleaners can be harsh, and the dirt that comes off the oven does not leave a nice smell on your skin. Glove up, people.
The low-tox oven cleaning route, AKA baking soda/bicarbonate soda and white vinegar
Depending on the size of your oven, start with 1/2-3/4 cup baking soda (bicarbonate soda). Add a little vinegar, enough to make a thick paste. You want to be able to smear it around the oven without it sliding off, not so thick that it won’t spread.
Caustic soda-based cleaners
Sodium hydroxide, commonly known as caustic soda, is an alkaline composition widely used in oven cleaning products. It is very effective but does come with warnings and potential harm.
Firstly, it’s corrosive, so don’t use it on parts of the steam oven that aren’t stainless steel or enamel. You also need to remove all traces of it after cleaning, so it doesn’t have a chance to get into crevices. And, obviously, you should not handle it, ever, with bare hands.
Caustic soda can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, especially when it’s warm and giving off fumes. Aerosol cleaners are the worst culprits for this, but even a gel or liquid based product can give off fumes.
When using caustic cleaners, make sure your kitchen is well ventilated and turn on any exhaust fans. Caution: no fan on while you spray an aerosol product, please! Spray and let it settle, then turn on the exhaust. If you have concerns about ingesting fumes, wear a mask and eye protection.
You might think, reading the above, that no one should ever use a sodium hydroxide oven cleaner. They are certainly harsh and some people avoid them altogether. My take is that if you can avoid it, do. But if you need one and use it safely and judiciously, occasional use of these products can be helpful.
If you want to go for caustic oven cleaners, these are two products I have used and had success with. There are many others; some are recommended by manufacturers and others will void your product warranty! Always check before buying and using a caustic cleaner.
Selleys Oven Plus Heavy Duty Gel (for Australian readers): my caustic cleaner of choice, if I have to use one. It’s a thick blue gel with the right viscosity to stick to your oven’s interior. You only need to spread it on the parts of the oven that are visibly dirty. I far prefer it to an aerosol cleaner because of this control.2x Oven Cleaner Heavy Duty Gel Selleys 400g Oven Plus No Fumes Rack Cleaner
Easy Off Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner (USA readers and rest of world): my cautious recommendation in the absence of the Selley’s gel. It’s an aerosol, which I don’t love, but it is widely available and very effective.
If you are in the States and know of a non-aerosol caustic cleaner, comment below and I’ll update this article!
What NOT to use when cleaning your oven
Lemon juice. It’s widely recommended as a cleaning agent, but I have seen stainless steel ovens rusted by lemon juice. Given vinegar is more effective and just as easy to get, steer clear of lemon juice applied to oven surfaces.
Abrasive paste cleaners, unless they’re made specifically for your appliance. These work on some enamel oven surfaces, but cleaners like Cif will abrade and dull the appearance of stainless steel. Unless your manufacturer sells a paste product designed just for your steam oven I wouldn’t recommend them.
Steel wool or other scouring products. This is obvious, right? Like the paste cleaners, heavy duty scouring sponges, brushes and cloths are likely going to scratch your oven. It might not be a function problem, but it looks bad and there are other ways to clean your oven.
I’m going to add a blanket disclaimer/non-recommendation here, which is: don’t use any product your steam oven manufacturer advises against. I talk about products I use or that I know others use; that does not mean they’re suited to all ovens.
If you have ANY concerns about cleaning products for your oven, contact the manufacturer to check what they recommend.
Steps for cleaning your steam oven
This may look like a lot of steps, but I promise it’s straightforward and really doesn’t take too long! Much of cleaning your steam oven is waiting for either the steam or your cleaning products to work their magic.
Would you like this step by step combi steam oven cleaning guide as a printable? Get it sent straight to your inbox and print it to take into the kitchen with you!
- Remove racks, pans and probes from your oven.
- Run a steam cycle to loosen and soften dirt. I set my oven for a 20 minute steam, which is long enough to get the grime to soften.
- Wipe out with a wet cloth. Some of the dirt will come away, although likely not all if you haven’t cleaned your oven for a while!
- Apply your cleaning product of choice; most cleaners work best on a warm oven surface. Don’t smear chemical cleaners onto the rubber seals or inside the fan holes of your oven; they can cause non metal parts to degrade. Remember to wipe some cleaner on the inside of the door.
- Don’t forget to apply cleaner to the top of your steam oven, too! This is difficult with some ovens because the top heating element may be exposed. There’s no easy way around it but don’t worry too much if you get a little cleaner on the element. We’re going to steam things again to make that easy to wipe off later.
- Leave the cleaner to do its work. Depending on the product guidelines and how dirty your oven is, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour is normal.
- Wipe the product out with a damp cloth and/or a non-scratch scouring pad. Repeat several times, rinsing and squeezing out the cloth each time. Pay special attention to any very dirty sections of the oven. Now’s the time to grab an old toothbrush and go over those sections with a small amount of extra cleaner.
- Run another steam cycle for 10 minutes. This time you’re softening any hardened cleaning products and adding moisture to the cavity again. This makes it easier to wipe away traces of cleaning product residue.
- Have a look inside. Is it sparkling? I often find at this point that there are still a few spots on the back wall of my oven. If that happens to you, too, it’s time to spot clean.
- If necessary, reapply cleaner to remaining dirty spots and leave to work again. Wipe off with a clean damp cloth.
- Once you’ve spot cleaned, if there are traces of cleaner left, run one last steam cycle for 10 minutes. Wipe everything down with a clean, wet cloth.
- Follow up with a last go-over with a dry microfiber cloth. This eliminates water spots and polishes everything nicely now that your oven is clean.
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Tips for the best oven cleaning results
- Little and often is better than ignoring a dirty oven for months or years! You’ll feel better about cleaning your steam oven if it’s not too difficult, right? The key to that is not letting it get an inch-thick layer of grease in there. When it’s looking a grubby, spend an hour making it pretty again. Most of that time is hands-off, by the way, so it’s not really even an hour.
- Embrace microfiber cloths, as well as an old toothbrush. The toothbrush gets into the corners and attacks stubborn spots, while microfiber is great for wiping up moisture and grease. A bulk pack of microfiber cloths is inexpensive. Plus they can be washed over and over, so they’re a sustainable way to clean.
- Non-scratch scourers. Many stores stock scouring pads which have little plastic knobbly bits on them, broadly known as non-scratch scourers. While I don’t recommend harsh scouring brushes or cloths, the non-scratch ones are brilliant for spot cleaning especially.
- Got a crafty bone in your body? The other thing I’ve found really useful for cleaning are some little cotton kitchen cloths my Mum made. They are crocheted and because of this they’re a little bumpy and knobbly in places. Excellent for gentle but firm coaxing off of dirt, so if you like knitting or crochet, give yourself a project!
What about descaling a steam oven?
Descaling your steam oven is a necessity, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for cleaning.
Scale is a mineral build-up from particles in the water you use to run your oven’s steaming functions. It needs to be removed from the internal plumbing, and, in some cases from the evaporator dish inside the oven. If you’re not sure what an evaporator dish looks like, see the video for this post.
Different ovens need a slightly different approach when it comes to descaling. I’ll cover this more in another article but most descale cycles are straightforward, using powder or liquid in the water tank. Just know that sometimes after you’ve cleaned your oven, you might be left with some scale to clean off too. This is completely normal.
Shiny clean and ready to cook
Now that you’ve made your oven sparkling clean again, you can get cooking! Not sure where to start? My steam oven recipe index will give you plenty of inspiration, whether you want to use steam or combi steam, and cook sweet or savory.
I hope this article has been helpful; if you’ve enjoyed it please leave a comment or any questions below. I absolutely love hearing from my audience!
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