Photo: Jevtic (iStock)
FeaturesStories from The Takeout about food, drink, and how we live.  

I once lost a portion of a security deposit on a college apartment because my roommates and I hadn’t cleaned the oven before vacating the premises. (Never mind the black mold the landlord let multiply unchecked in our bathroom or the half-rotted wooden staircase they should have repaired or the fact that the oven was abysmally gross when we arrived—we didn’t clean the oven; we lost $75.) We didn’t clean the oven because, in shameful millennial fashion, I don’t think any of us knew how to clean an oven.

In even more shameful fashion, I didn’t learn to clean an oven after that, either. I just scooped up the large bits of charred food and figured it was good enough. Gross, I know! Mom, Dad, I’m so sorry, you did raise me better than this.

After my holiday goose-cooking success, though, there were no two ways about it: my oven needed cleaning. Stalactites were forming. Geology was occurring inside its walls. The time had come, a long time ago. In the spirit of The Takeout’s micro-resolutions—spending a quick 15 minutes learning to do a small kitchen task more effectively—I bit the bullet.

Yeah, you could basically eat off my oven floor now.
Photo: Kate Bernot

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As with most basic cleaning duties, once you start the damn task, it’s actually not so bad at all. I watched a few YouTube videos, read up on the various products that existed. But being something of a closeted granola-crunchy hippie, I ultimately decided against the chemical sprays and exploding oven bags in favor of the two substances that can clean 90 percent of home messes: vinegar and baking soda.

Loosely following this guide from The Kitchn, I removed the oven racks, snapped on my rubber gloves, and removed the big chunks of charred stuff first. Then, I mixed the paste of baking soda and water, using about 3/4 cup of baking soda and enough tap water to make it spreadable but not drippy. With a paper towel, I smeared that all over the insides of my oven. Brown crusties were already loosening up. For good measure, I spread that paste on the racks, too, which I let sit in my kitchen sink.

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I let the paste hang out in the oven and on the racks for an afternoon (about four hours) before I began step two: Wiping all that junk away with a towel. This actually got rid of most of the crap, to my surprise. What was left was annihilated with just a few squirts of regular white vinegar from a spray-bottle. The vinegar began to foam in contact with the baking soda, like Scrubbing Bubbles do in the commercials. I was able to wipe the rest of the gunk off easily with a towel. That was it!

Sweet victory
Photo: Kate Bernot

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All the complicated products and self-cleaning cycles are just out there to trick us, people. Cleaning an oven is as easy as mixing a paste and spraying on some vinegar. Equipped with this knowledge, I’ll never let my oven go years between cleanings again. I am a new, better woman. Happy 2019, everyone.