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The Oven

And now for the heart of the matter-cleaning the inside of your range. Aside from saving you embarrassment when company comes calling, a clean range will operate more efficiently by providing more even heating. A dirty range can also prevent the door from sealing properly, which allows heat and smoke to escape.

You can clean oven interiors with commercial cleansers, steel wool soap pads, or a People-Friendly Oven Cleaner.

If a commercial cleaner says you must wear rubber gloves and avoid breathing fumes, it's probably very caustic and possibly toxic. It may even give off harmful gases even after the cleaning is complete and the oven is again heated for use. Thus, we suggest that you avoid using them whenever possible. If you must use a commercial cleaner, follow label directions to the letter.

To loosen up tough, baked-on spills, preheat the oven to 200 degrees, turn off the heat, and then put a bowl of ammonia in your oven overnight. This works well as long as you don't mind the smell of ammonia in your kitchen the next day.

Ammonia and commercial window cleaners containing ammonia are also great for cleaning browned and discolored oven window glass. You can also use mild abrasives and scouring pads for tough spots.

For wire oven racks that are severely caked with food spills, put them in a plastic trash bag, add some ammonia, and seal the bag well with a twist tie. Leave the bag outside overnight, and then either hose them off, hand wash them, or put the racks in your dishwasher.

Speaking of spills, many people believe that they can simplify oven cleaning by lining the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil to catch spills. This is a no-no. A layer of foil will cause the oven to heat unevenly and will also shorten the life of the element by causing it to superheat in certain locations.