With all the responsibilities that come with home ownership and home maintenance, hearing the words “self-cleaning” makes your ears prick up, doesn’t it? Compared to the old-fashioned option of elbow grease, the self-cleaning function on your oven is a pretty appealing alternative. But before you hit the start button on the self-cleaning oven cycle, be aware that self-cleaning does come with some potential dangers.
Why the Self-Cleaning Oven Cycle Backfires
Blown Fuses or Burnt Out Control Panels
Most newer ovens have their heating elements installed below the oven bottom and above the ceiling. For cooking, this design is superior to exposed heating elements because nothing will smoke if it spills over.
However, tucking the heating elements away also makes it more difficult to vent the oven and maintain air circulation. That means when the oven reaches temperatures upwards of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit during a self-cleaning oven cycle, it can become so hot that a fuse blows or the electrical control panel burns out.
That’s not good news, but it gets even worse. Due to the way hidden heating elements are designed, they are also very difficult to fix. Technicians usually have to remove the entire oven from the wall in order to replace the heating element. It all adds up to a costly price to pay just for the convenience of avoiding a few minutes of scrubbing.
Toxic Teflon Fumes
When running a self-cleaning oven cycle, many people experience fumes and pungent smells that can cause headaches, lung irritation, dry eyes, and asthma attacks. This happens for a couple different reasons.
For one, the Teflon coatings used to insulate ovens during baking and broiling can produce a toxic fume when exposed to temperatures of 600+ degrees Fahrenheit.
Carbon Monoxide Exposure
Another source of toxic fumes is the foods baked on to the surfaces in your oven. Certain foods emit carbon monoxide as they burn. The concentration isn’t high enough to be life-threatening, but it can produce symptoms of mild carbon monoxide poisoning such as chills, coughing, sweating, and respiratory difficulties.
Keep in mind that the toxic fumes generated by self-cleaning oven cycles are particularly hazardous to the health of any pets in your home! Make sure all pets are safely outside or in a well-ventilated room before turning on the self-cleaning oven cycle.
Of course, using store-bought chemical oven cleaners to manually clean your oven can also produce fumes. Unless you use the baking soda method for cleaning your oven.
If you’re truly determined to use your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, try running it for a shorter amount of time—one hour as opposed to the pre-programmed four. You should also turn on all kitchen exhaust fans and open windows while the cycle is going to minimize the build-up of fumes. Some people choose to leave their home altogether, but it’s not a safe idea to leave your house unattended while your oven is running at close to 1000 degrees!