How to Clean Oven Racks Quickly and Easily

Find out what cleaning pros say are the best ways to get your oven racks clean and sparkling

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With all the grease, food residue and bacteria lurking about, your kitchen is definitely a room that needs regular cleaning—and the occasional deep-clean as well. Even if you’re well-versed on how to clean your kitchen, though, figuring out how to clean oven racks is one of those tasks that can go unnoticed.

Aside from the fact that oven racks are hidden away out of sight, so you don’t always remember that they need a good scrubbing, cleaning oven racks can be a messy, difficult, time-consuming job. When it comes to the worst part of how to clean your oven, it’s a toss-up between scrubbing oven racks and how to clean a glass oven door.

Even the pros agree: “I’ll be honest with you, of all the tasks we have, cleaning oven racks is one I will always pass on,” says Rochelle Wilkinson, owner of Dirt Detective Cleaning in Phoenix, Maryland.

Figuring out the best way to clean oven racks comes with several challenges. For one, these metal racks are large and often won’t fit in a standard sink. They’re also not easy to just wipe down in your oven, since the grime that has accumulated on them is a mixture of food residue and grease that has been baked on at very high temperatures, and the racks have a lot of nooks and crannies.

“Oil or fat drips on them, or maybe you have a 12-year-old who cooks a frozen pizza right on the rack,” says Wilkinson. “You’re basically baking it on, and you’re never going to get it off.”

Yet it’s precisely because oven racks are in close or even direct contact with your food that you’ll want to make sure they are clean and sanitary. Really, the only way to do that is to clean them on a regular basis, Wilkinson says. She recommends adding this chore to your cleaning schedule twice a year at a minimum.

Before you groan, know that there are some proven techniques to make this dreaded task easier. Read on to find out what cleaning professionals think is the best way to clean oven racks.

How to clean oven racks

While it’s tempting to take advantage of your oven’s self-cleaning setting for this dirty job, it rarely cleans the oven racks as well as it should, and it can be hazardous to certain pets. Self-cleaning ovens work by superheating, sometimes to 900 degrees, to burn away any interior residue in an oven. But this also causes the release of toxic fumes as the nonstick coating of the oven’s interior heats. It has been known to kill pet birds even when the area is well-ventilated.

“People need to be aware that self-cleaning ovens are very toxic to animals in the house,” says Wilkinson. Even if you don’t have pets, you may not like the idea of exposing yourself to such fumes. Not to mention, it won’t get your oven racks as sparkling as the following methods.

How to clean oven racks in the bathtub

It can be a challenge figuring out how to clean oven racks in your kitchen sink because they are generally too large to fit, especially if you want to lay them down to soak. For that reason, many people think the best way to clean oven racks is in a bathtub, if you have one. Wilkinson offers one caveat, however: Some types of tubs have coatings that can be scratched by the metal grates, so if you decide to use your bathtub to clean oven grates, lay an old beach towel or even a plastic curtain liner down first to protect the tub’s finish from damage.

The bathtub method

oven rack and cleaning supplies laid out in a bathtubTMB Studio

Supplies:

  • Towels or an old shower curtain liner
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Scotch-Brite Dobie or other non-scratch sponge

Directions:

  1. Line the bathtub with towels to prevent scratching, and lay the oven racks on top.
  2. Mix baking soda with just enough water to form a paste and apply it with the sponge to both sides of the racks.
  3. Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle, then spray racks.
  4. When foaming subsides, fill the tub with enough hot water to submerge the racks and let them soak for at least an hour, or up to overnight.
  5. Use a clean sponge to scrub the racks clean.
  6. Rinse and dry oven racks thoroughly before returning them to the oven.

Pro tip: If there is still any dirt that won’t come off, add some coarse salt to your sponge and scrub; the abrasive material will help remove stubborn grime. After you’re done cleaning oven racks following this method, you’ll want to learn how to clean your tub.

How to clean oven racks with dryer sheets

oven rack and cleaning supplies laid out in a bathtubTMB Studio

This less conventional method might work for lighter jobs, says Wilkinson, who has never tried it herself but presumes that the softening agent in the dryer sheets helps break down dirt and grease.

Supplies:

Directions:

  1. Line the bathtub with towels to prevent scratching, and lay the oven racks on top.
  2. Fill the tub with enough hot water to submerge the oven racks.
  3. Arrange dryer sheets on top of the racks, making sure they are fully wet. Squeeze in some dishwashing liquid.
  4. Let oven racks soak from one hour to overnight.
  5. Use the dryer sheets to wipe the racks free of dirt and grease (it should wipe off easily without a lot of scrubbing).
  6. Rinse and dry oven racks thoroughly before returning them to the oven.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a bathtub, you can try this method inside a large plastic garbage bag in your yard or garage.

How to clean oven racks without a bathtub

The best way to clean oven racks, according to cleaning professionals, is to invest in a plastic storage container large enough to lay the racks in. You can use it to store other things, like sports equipment or old towels, when you’re not using it to clean your oven racks. When you’re ready to clean, empty the container and fill it with hot water, because you’re going to need to soak those dirty oven racks. “Time is your friend,” says Wilkinson. “You just need to let the products do their job.”

The soak-and-scrub method

oven rack and cleaning supplies laid out in a plastic tubTMB Studio

Supplies:

Directions:

  1. In an empty storage container, mix one gallon of LA’s Totally Awesome All-Purpose Cleaner with enough hot water to submerge the oven racks.
  2. Gently lay the oven racks in the container, making sure they’re covered by the cleaning solution.
  3. Let the racks soak for one to two hours. Using a Scotch-Brite Stainless Steel Scrubber, test one part of a rack to see if the dirt easily comes off. If it doesn’t, return the grates to the liquid and continue to soak, checking every one to two hours.
  4. When dirt lifts off easily, scrub lightly with the Scotch-Brite scrubber until racks are clean. “They will be bright, shiny silver,” Wilkinson says. “You don’t realize how dirty they were until you clean them.”

Pro tip: Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot water, but the cleaning detergent is nontoxic.

How to clean oven racks with dish detergent tabs

oven rack and cleaning supplies laid out in a plastic tubTMB Studio

Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and founder of cleaning website Clean My Space, tested regular dish soap but had the best results with dishwasher detergent pods. When you clean oven racks this way, she says, “they glisten, they look amazing,” but most of all, she loves this method because “it’s lazy.”

Supplies:

Directions:

  1. In a microwave-safe container, boil three to five cups of water and add three Cascade Platinum Plus ActionPacs. Stir to combine.
  2. Lay the dirty oven racks in the plastic tote and pour the Cascade solution over them.
  3. Add enough hot water to the tote to fully cover the oven racks.
  4. Let the oven racks soak for 24 hours.
  5. Gently scrub the racks with a nylon bristle brush or non-scratch sponge.

Pro tip: The Cascade ActionPacs are heat activated, so you need fully boiling water to dissolve them, but the remaining water can just be hot from the faucet, so you don’t need to boil that as well. If you have a bathtub that’s big enough, you can always put the tote inside the tub just in case it leaks.

How to clean oven racks with oven cleaner

oven rack and cleaning supplies set up in an outdoor areaTMB Studio

Cleaning professionals don’t love this method because, while it does work, the chemicals are caustic. “I don’t like the idea of cleaning with that and then cooking food in there,” says Maker. You definitely have to wear protective gear like gloves when working with such chemicals, and make sure the area is well-ventilated. Additionally, oven cleaner may damage the appliance if used incorrectly. Wilkinson has heard stories from fellow cleaners who used the spray foam in ovens that have a nonstick coating on the interior, and it reacted badly to the spray and damaged the enamel coating. Always check the appliance’s user manual to make sure a product is safe to use.

Supplies:

Directions:

  1. In an outdoor or extremely well-ventilated area, spray both sides of each oven rack with Easy-Off Oven Cleaner.
  2. Seal the oven racks inside garbage bags.
  3. Wait 30 to 45 minutes, then remove the racks from the bags and scrub with a nylon bristle brush or non-scratch sponge. Rinse and dry thoroughly before returning racks to oven.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re wearing gloves and protective clothing and are in an extremely well-ventilated area to spray the oven racks, as oven cleaner can be corrosive.

How to clean oven racks in the sink

oven rack and cleaning supplies laid out near a kitchen sinkTMB Studio

If you don’t have any other place to clean your oven racks, you can try to make do with your sink, although most oven racks are too large to fit, so you won’t be able to soak them.

Supplies:

Directions:

  1. Arrange some towels around your sink if the oven racks do not fit inside. Lay the grates on the towels.
  2. Use just enough water to make a paste with the cleanser and apply it to the grates with a sponge.
  3. Let racks sit for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. With a clean sponge, scrub the grates. Rinse and dry before replacing.

Pro tip: If your rack doesn’t fit fully, you’ll need to clean one half at a time and then repeat the process. Find out how to clean your sink when you’re done.

The best oven rack cleaners

How to keep oven racks clean?

Spills and splatters mean that oven racks are just going to get dirty as long as you use your oven to cook food on a regular basis. Making sure you have a sheet pan under everything you cook to catch drips and bubbling over sauces can help lengthen the time you can go between cleaning your oven racks, but you will eventually still need to do it.

It also helps to avoid putting anything directly on the oven racks to cook, or if you do, spray the rack with nonstick spray first, or rub them with oil and wipe them down with a damp cloth as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Ultimately, however, dirty oven racks are a fact of life, but you can save time and energy and make this annoying task a little more rewarding by knowing the best way to clean oven racks.

Now that you know how to clean your oven racks, find out how to clean other oft-overlooked but important items, including your faucet heads, toaster and air fryer.

Sources:

Jill Waldbieser
Jill is a journalist and winner of a National Magazine Award for her work at Women's Health. She has more than 20 years of experience covering home, cleaning and lifestyle topics, and her work has appeared in Runner's World, the New York Times, HuffPost, CNN, Oprah Daily, EatingWell and AARP and has been recognized by the Digital Health Awards and the Best of Edible Communities. She likes to share her culinary explorations and food styling and photography skills on Instagram. She also volunteers with the Bucks County Food Alliance and the American Red Cross and is a passionate advocate for disability rights.