Eric and the Fiery Furnace: Oven Cleaning Adventures

For self-care as a writer, I clean the oven–once every twelve years.

My mother always said, “Clean your oven every twelve years, whether it needs it or not.” Full disclosure: She never said that. But, although most household chores are indelibly imprinted on my growing-up memory, oven cleaning is not. And that was before the days of self-cleaning ovens.

Anyway, I’m not saying the oven was terrible. After all, how dirty can an oven get if it’s only occasionally used to warm pizza, Trader Joe lasagne or an occasional turkey thigh? But I did deem it prudent first to make a complete pass over its surfaces with the shop vac.

Since I feared the cleaning task might call for nasty things like vinegar or ammonia, I waited til sweet wife was off on retreat for a week. No need to aggravate her asthma or sinuses. But I thought that I’d at least give the self-cleaning function a try.

I dug out the owner’s manual–kindly left behind by the people we bought the house from twelve years ago. I’m a “before all else fails” type. The instructions told me first to clean the frames of the oven and door and the outside of the door. I dutifully fetched a bucket of water, a scrub sponge and the can of cleanser.

I wetted down the sponge, shook the cleanser can. Nothing came out.

I could feel the can wasn’t empty. Who knew that cleanser cakes up? What, you say, when was the last time I used it? I tried banging it. No luck. Grabbed a can-opener and managed to cut enough of the top to bend it back and loosen up the cleanser with a knife. Can openers are not designed to work on cardboard cleanser cans.

Preliminaries completed, I pushed the “Clean” button on the dashboard and set it for four hours. Could have chosen a two- or three-hour cycle, but I had no assurance that even four hours would clean the beast.

Then set an exhaust fan in the window, as the manual had warned of strong smells likely to emanate from the fiery furnace.

Then to my WIP. Couldn’t resist occasional peeps through the oven door’s window, which showed me nothing but the glowing element. The stove’s designers prudentially include a lock on the oven’s door, else I would have opened it. Never said I was smart. After four hours the stove pinged to say it was finished. But I still couldn’t get in to see. It stays locked till it deems itself cool enough for foolish mortals. Only then could I open it to see nice blue, speckled enamel and small heaps of white ash on the oven floor.

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