I have a self-cleaning oven. It’s great because the oven looks like new again after it has done its clean. The problem is, you must remove the racks first. That means you have to wash them by hand. When I got my first self-cleaning oven and found I had to manually clean the racks, my initial question was, how do I make my oven racks shiny again?
I dislike using oven cleaning chemicals. If there is a more natural way to clean oven racks that doesn’t produce horrible fumes, I’m all for it.
For years now I have been using a method, where all I need is a dishwasher tablet, some soaking time and a small amount of scrubbing. This method works brilliantly, and my oven racks come out looking shiny and new again every time.
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How a simple dishwasher tablet cleans your oven racks
Dishwasher tablets contain a couple of ingredients that are perfect for cleaning oven racks. These are oxygen-based bleaching agents and enzymes. Both ingredients help to break down food deposits. But, the most interesting are the enzymes because it is those that consume or digest the food. In other words, the enzymes will ‘eat’ the burnt-on food on your racks.
Enzymes are also found in laundry detergents because they can lift dirt and stains by ‘digesting’. They are a pretty modern invention. Previously, phosphates were used in detergents, which are not good for the environment because they pollute rivers and streams. Enzymes are totally safe. They break down easily and do not pose any threat to nature.
To work effectively, enzymes need a warm temperature of at least 30-degrees.
You could clean your oven racks with laundry detergent instead because it basically contains the same ingredients. If you don’t have any dishwasher powder or tablets to hand, go ahead and use laundry detergent instead, the effect will be the same.
How to make oven racks shiny again with a dishwasher tablet
For these directions, I use the sink to soak my racks, but if your racks don’t fit in your sink, you can use the bath instead.
If you use the bath, make sure you lay an old towel on the bottom to stop scratches.
Although these directions are for cleaning oven racks, they also work for racks that fit on the side of the oven. The oven racks in my particular oven have a non-stick coating, so they don’t need shining up in the same way, you can just wipe them to get them clean. In these instructions, I will be cleaning the side racks. The method is the same as for the horizontal racks.
Step 1 Warm up your racks in the oven
This step is optional, but if you warm up your racks first in the oven, the soaking solution will stay warmer for longer because the racks are already warmed.
Don’t burn yourself, be careful not to heat the racks too much.
Step 2 Dissolve one dishwasher tablet in warm water
Dissolve one dishwasher tablet in some warm water. The water should be about 30-40 degrees Celsius (86-104 F) which is warm to the touch but not hot. You should have no issue putting your hand in the water. At that temperature, the enzymes will activate and begin digesting food deposits. Don’t make the water hotter than warm. Otherwise, you will kill off the enzymes.
If your racks are badly stained, add some washing soda crystals for extra cleaning power.
Step 3 Soak the racks
Add the racks and leave to soak for a couple of hours or overnight. If you don’t have time, and you need to clean your oven racks quickly, I’ve found that just an hour is enough to soften the stains. You might need to do a little more scrubbing, but it will be much easier than if you hadn’t soaked it.
Step 4 Scrub
After the racks have soaked, you should find that either the stains simply wipe off or will need a small amount of scrubbing.
Wipe over every metal bar to remove the stains on every side, then rinse and dry and put back in your oven.
Here is my rack back in the oven. While the racks were soaking, I did a self-clean cycle on my oven. Everything is looking clean and shiny again!
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Can you put oven racks in the dishwasher?
You would think that as we are using a dishwasher tablet to clean the racks, then you could put them in the dishwasher. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The dishwasher’s action isn’t enough to remove the food stains, so you end up with a rack that is even harder to clean because it has been baked on.
What makes the soaking method effective is the food gets softened, so you can wipe it off easily. A dishwasher goes through a cleaning cycle culminating in a steam clean which bakes the burnt food on the rack. It might clean a bit of the burnt food off, but not as much as the soaking method. Plus, what is left will be all the harder to remove.
Find out more about putting oven racks in your dishwasher.