Self-cleaning ovens are a wonder of modern technology. Rather than scrubbing away at caked-on grime, you can simply flip a switch and let the oven itself do the work.
But is it a good idea to use this feature? Some people have contended that the high heat used during self-cleaning cycles can damage various parts of the oven itself.
Recently, Consumer Reports set out to settle the debate once and for all. CR staffer Tara Casaregola — who has been dubbed the publication’s “resident range expert” — has tested thousands of ranges and wall ovens over the years.
She says fears of damage related to self-cleaning technology are overblown, though you should take precautions when using it.
Casaregola told CR:
“I recall a few malfunctions during self-cleaning over the years, but it’s not a common thing.”
However, that does not mean self-cleaning problems don’t arise. Chris Zeissler, technical service supervisor at Repair Clinic, tells CR that oven parts that sometimes fall victim to a self-cleaning cycle include:
- Door latches
- Electrical components
- Bake or broil elements
- Heating elements in gas ranges
Damage to your oven is not the only potential danger in running a self-clean cycle. The Bob Vila website warns that high-heat and steam self-cleaning ovens could potentially put you at risk for exposure to carbon monoxide. According to the website:
“High-heat models tend to emit a higher volume of more noxious fumes due to the extreme temperature. These fumes emanate from both food particles and the enamel lining that coats the oven interior.”
The resulting fumes can irritate both people and pets. Those with respiratory conditions are at especially high risk.
So, should you skip self-cleaning? Not necessarily. You can reduce the risk of damage by running the self-clean cycle sparingly. Regularly wiping up smaller drips and other messes can reduce the need to use self-clean feature.
Also, remove racks prior to running a cycle, and turn on a range hood fan and open windows during a cycle to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide buildup.
Even if you do find yourself using the self-cleaning feature, the risk of damage remains relatively low. Consumer Reports says that self-cleaning caused issues in just 1% of the ranges covered in its most recent reliability survey.
Ignition problems occur more frequently, however, impacting 9% of gas and pro-style ranges.