How to clean an oven rack

Person cleaning an oven rack with a sponge and rubber gloves.
(Image credit: Getty)

Once you’ve learned how to clean an oven rack, you’ll not only benefit from a cleaner cooking space but also gain a skill that will make maintaining this everyday appliance much easier in the long run.

Oven racks can fall victim to all sorts of grime and grease, with the hot internal temperatures doing nothing to help prevent the dirt from becoming baked in. To get a sparkling clean oven, you not only need to focus on how to clean oven glass, but you also need to pay attention to the racks themselves before it’s too late and you need to fork out to replace them. Accessories for the best ovens don't come cheap.

The process of cleaning your oven racks is just as important as the jobs that make the appliance look better from the outside, and while we’ve already covered cleaning hacks for ovens on the whole, there are plenty of specific oven rack cleaning techniques that you should know about. With the help of the tips and tricks below, the oven rack element of your cleaning process will be easier than ever.  

How often should you clean oven racks?

Before we get into the specifics, it’s good for your cleaning schedule to know exactly how often you should be cleaning your oven so that you can mark a time on the calendar and get supplies. Most of us use our ovens every day, making it hard to gauge exactly how often we should be carrying out this (often quite time-consuming) task. 

While general estimations for how often you should clean your oven often sit at the 3 to 6-month mark, Toby Schulz, CEO and Co-Founder of Maid2Match, a home cleaning service, says that your schedule really depends on ‘how often you use your oven!’. He adds, ‘Generally, you should wash oven racks every 3 months. But if you see scorched food starting to cake on, there’s no harm in doing it sooner.’ 

Another expert, Ron Shimek, President of Mr Appliance, an appliance repairs company, echoes the same sentiment, adding that ‘oven racks should be cleaned any time they are dirty.’ With that in mind, It’s especially important to make time to clean your oven racks if you’ve cooked food straight on the shelf (like bread or pizza), so that any debris doesn’t become much harder to clean off in the future. 

Wondering what might happen if you decide to leave the task too long? Shmiek says that while they won’t malfunction, ‘you will have a burning odor which can stink up your kitchen and transfer to the food you are preparing. Also, you can see some smoke as the residue burns off. It’s always best to clean up spills after each use once the oven has cooled down.’ 

How to clean an oven rack with baking soda and vinegar

As with so many cleaning conundrums, often it’s the reliable mix of baking soda and vinegar that can swoop in to save the day. These natural cleaning products not only save you money on supplies and are kinder to the planet, but they’re also mightily effective. 

While some cleaning jobs call for you to mix up a baking soda and vinegar paste, this particular task uses these two magic ingredients in separate forms. To start the operation, remove the racks and place them on your countertops, which have been prepped so as not to damage them.

Liberally sprinkle your baking soda all over the racks, making sure you’ve effectively covered any particular problem areas, then apply plenty of vinegar, too. It’s easiest if you decant your vinegar into a spray bottle if possible. This mix of products should prompt foaming, which will work on that stubborn grease and dirt. 

Finish off by soaking the racks in hot water for at least a few hours. If you have a big enough container that can hold boiling water, opt for that, or try the process in your sink if it’s big enough. If you’re out of options in the kitchen then you can use your bathtub, just bear in mind that you’ll need to use detergent on your tub after the oven cleaning job is done.

After a few hours, your oven racks should emerge gleaming and will be ready to be returned to their place. You might need to apply a little elbow grease here by scrubbing the last bits of baked-in food off, but this will be much easier, thanks to the soaking.

How to clean an oven rack with detergent

If you want to opt for an oven-cleaning rack method that’s a little more heavy-duty, then swapping out your baking soda and vinegar for detergent might just do the trick, especially if you’re battling against stubborn food debris. 

This method can also be carried out in your sink, with the first step being to fill it with hot water. Again, if your sink isn’t quite big enough, you can always opt for your tub. Toby Schulz, cleaning expert from Maid2Match, then advises mixing detergent into the sink or tub and letting the racks soak for a least 30 minutes to loosen the grease and debris that’s stuck on.’ 

Next up, ‘use a scrub brush or scouring pad to work them clean.’ Within a pretty short timeframe, you should now have oven racks that are sparkling clean once again. 

How to clean an oven rack with aluminium foil

One excellent hack for cleaning oven racks is to use aluminum foil, a method that’s both effective and affordable. This method is also scrub-free and highly effective, an excellent combination if you find this particular cleaning task more than a little gross, especially when contending with baked-on food.

It might sound odd, but what you need to do is entirely wrap your racks in aluminum foil once they are out of the oven and then pop them into your bathtub. Fill the tub up to the point that the racks are entirely submerged, and then pop two dishwasher tablets in there with them.

Wait for two hours, and then remove the foil. You should find that the racks are squeaky clean, thanks to a reaction between the foil and the tablets that eat away at all of that baked-on grime. No effort is needed!

What not to use to clean an oven rack

So now you know exactly what to do to get the results you need when it comes to your oven racks, but which methods and products should you avoid at all costs? 

Cleaning expert Ron Shimek advises that if your oven is self-cleaning, then you should avoid using anything ‘except a damp cloth to wipe up spills.’ This is because ‘cleaners can damage the surface and stick to it. They can then give off toxic fumes when baking or self-cleaning.’ 

As with so many cleaning queries, it’s probably best to steer clear of abrasive scrubbers and steel wool for this particular task, too, as you run the risk of damaging your stainless steel racks.

Molly Cleary

Molly is the Staff Writer for the Home Section at Top Ten Reviews, joining the team after finishing college. When she's not writing she enjoys baking and embroidery, as well as getting stuck into a good book. She now enjoys writing about kitchen appliances, gardening tools, and will even dip her toe into writing about fridges and ovens.

With contributions from