Why Does Your Self-Cleaning Oven Smell?

Paradise Appliance
February 5, 2024
Oven Repair

The self-cleaning feature of ovens can be incredibly useful as we all know how much time and effort manual cleaning can take. 

The self-cleaning feature makes people much more likely to clean their oven regularly, creating a more hygienic cooking environment. In contrast, the laborious nature of manual cleaning makes people more prone to neglecting this task and leaving the oven unclean for long periods.

If you’ve just started using a self-cleaning oven for the first time, the pungent smells and odors emitted during the self-cleaning process may have taken you by surprise. They may even cause you to be slightly concerned.  

However, odors are a normal part of the self-cleaning process, and in this article, we explain why. We explain what causes these smells and what practical steps you can take to minimize them. Let’s get started.

What Causes Your Oven To Smell During Self-Cleaning?

Self-cleaning ovens use incredibly high temperatures of between 800ºF and 1000ºF (430ºC to 540ºC), which incinerate and carbonize any food particles, residue, or grime inside the oven, turning them into ash that can be easily wiped away.

This process naturally creates smoke and fumes, which are emitted out of the oven and into the kitchen, and have a strong burnt or smoky smell. This is normal and nothing to be alarmed about as most of the time, it should just be the charred food particles and grime you can mostly smell.

However, a few other factors can contribute to the smell that you should be aware of, such as:

The Oven Is New

The smell during self-cleaning is often more pungent on brand-new ovens because they still have residues left from the manufacturing process, such as oils and lubricants. However, this smell should reduce slightly after the first few self-cleanings. 

Cleaning Chemicals

If your oven still has chemical residues from cleaning products  that weren’t fully wiped away after a manual cleaning, these can burn off during self-cleaning and omit a chemical-like smell.

Items Left in the Oven

Most of the time, an oven should be completely free of trays, pans, racks, and large debris before running a self-cleaning. If items or debris are left inside, they can burn, causing a more intense smell. 

The shock factor is another element that contributes to the smell’s intensity. People can be quite overwhelmed and surprised by how smelly it is. 

However, once you know how to follow best practices to reduce the smell, understand that having some odors is normal, and have run the self-cleaning process a few times, much of the fear and concern surrounding it fade away, allowing you to start enjoying the benefits of self-cleaning.

How To Minimize Odors During Self-Cleaning

While some smells are to be expected during self-cleaning, you should follow some important rules to ensure you don’t worsen the smell or create a potentially hazardous situation. Here are some best practices for self-cleaning ovens which can help reduce odors:

Ventilate the Kitchen

It’s important to ventilate the kitchen or area where your self-cleaning oven is situated as well as possible. This means opening all doors and windows nearby and turning on the extractor fan so the odors can dissipate quickly, reducing their intensity and the duration they linger. 

You should also do this during the winter months. Some people avoid doing so as they don’t want cold air coming into the home. However, a lack of ventilation is potentially hazardous and intensifies the smell.

Even in ventilated kitchens, keeping children and pets away from the kitchen during and immediately after self-cleaning is vital for safety reasons because of the fumes.

Remove Large Debris Before Using the Oven

Of course, having some grime and food particles inside the oven during self-cleaning is fine, as this is what the process is designed to burn away. However, you should remove larger pieces of food and debris beforehand as they will emit strong odors and a lot of smoke when incinerated and, in some cases, may even temporarily ignite.

Since larger pieces of debris are easy to remove by hand, there really is no benefit in leaving them in there before running a self-cleaning.

Don’t Use Chemicals Inside the Oven

It’s generally best not to use any chemical cleaning products inside a self-cleaning oven. That’s because the residues left behind can omit a nasty, toxic odor when burnt away during self-cleaning. Harsh chemicals may also damage the protective coatings that self-cleaning ovens have inside.

When you need to perform a manual clean, for example, on the oven glass door, opt for a natural solution, such as a vinegar and water mix or a baking soda paste. These can remove most spills and stains when needed, while the self-cleaning feature does the bulk of the work on keeping the oven clean.

Remove Trays and Pans

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to remove all trays, pans, racks, and other items from the oven before self-cleaning to avoid burning or damaging them, which could cause a more pungent smell.

However, this rule has some exceptions, as some oven models come with special trays or racks that can stay in during self-cleaning. But don’t take a chance on this; instead, refer to your user manual and only leave items in if you have confirmation it’s safe to do so.

Set a Regular Self-Cleaning Schedule

The final step is to set a regular self-cleaning schedule and follow it. The longer you leave your oven between self-cleanings, the dirtier and grimier it will be. This means the odors it emits will be stronger.

Also, the whole point of self-cleaning is that it makes cleaning your oven easier, so you may as well use it and enjoy having a squeaky-clean, hygienic oven at all times. How often you do a self-cleaning also depends on how regularly you use your oven; however, many experts recommend self-cleaning once every three to four months.


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