December 27, 2021

How does a self-cleaning oven work?

Sears PartsDirect sells original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts for your wall oven.
Sears PartsDirect sells original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts for your wall oven.

A self-cleaning oven automatically locks the oven door and uses extremely high heat to burn food residue to ash inside the oven. After the high temperature clean cycle ends and the oven has cooled, the oven door unlocks. You can then wipe out the ash created when the clean feature burned up the food debris inside the oven.

Using this time-saving oven feature is much more convenient than manually cleaning the oven using oven cleaners. Instead of having to battle harsh cleaning fumes and scrub burnt-on spills out of your oven, running the self-clean cycle reduces the cleaning process down to wiping ash out of the oven using a wet sponge or dish rag.

How to clean a self-cleaning oven

Follow the directions in the owner’s manual to prepare your oven and home for running the self-clean cycle. Here are some important highlights of preparations that you’ll need to make before you start the Clean feature:

  • Wipe out heavy spills. High oven temperature will burn off any food residue remaining after you wipe out heavy spills. Leaving a pool of grease in the bottom of your oven will create a small, controlled burn that will go out within minutes due to lack of oxygen inside the oven because the oven door is locked shut. Still, you’ll want to avoid the flames by wiping out heavy residue—especially greasy spills.

  • Ventilate your home. Open windows to dissipate the smoke that will come out the oven vent during the self-clean cycle. If you don’t wipe out heavy spills, the excessive smoke coming from the oven vent can trigger smoke alarms in your home.

  • Protect your pets. Ventilating your home goes a long way in helping protect pets. Birds are especially sensitive to smoke. Other pets can also be bothered by smoke even though you have all the windows open. For best protection of your pets, move them outside or to another location before running the oven’s Clean cycle.

Because the clean feature will automatically lock the oven door and keep it locked until the oven has cooled, you’ll want to make sure to remove baking dishes or containers before you start the cleaning process. Once the clean cycle starts, heating elements raise oven temperature to over 750 degrees Fahrenheit, so anything left inside the oven will likely get damaged or break.

If you discover that you left items inside the oven after starting the Clean option, you won’t be able to remove them until the oven cools down. The oven door stays locked to limit oxygen supply to the oven cavity during the cleaning process. If you were to open the door when the oven is above 750 degrees while residue is being burned off, the abundant supply of oxygen in the air entering the oven would immediately cause a fire to flare up. Don’t try to force the door open to retrieve items accidentally left inside the oven. Cancel the Clean feature and open the oven door once the oven cools.

How long does a self-cleaning oven take?

You can set the Clean feature to run between 2 and 4 hours on most ovens. Clean option settings vary by model so check the owner’s manual for your range or oven to see how long the self-cleaning cycle will take in your range. Keep in mind that the oven door stays locked until the oven cools down after the high temperature clean so you’ll need to add about 45 minutes to the cycle time before you can use the oven.

Although running the self-clean cycle takes hours to complete, you’ll save energy by not having to scrub out stubborn spills from your oven. Just prepare the oven and your home then start the Clean feature and you’re practically done. Wipe out the ash after the cycle ends and your oven will look like it’s new.

To avoid the need for running frequent self-clean cycles and to save energy, take steps to keep dishes from spilling over when baking. Use the right size cooling containers when baking and don’t overfill casseroles. Even though the self-clean cycle is convenient to use, you don’t want to overuse it.

Keeping oven in top shape will help save energy when running self-clean cycles. Follow the tips in your owner’s manual for maintain the oven door gasket to keep heat from escaping during the high temperature clean cycle. Have an appliance repair technician perform annual maintenance on your oven to keep the controls and heating elements working properly. At the first sign of any trouble, have an oven repair technician diagnose and fix any problems to keep the oven working properly.

Symptoms common to all ranges

Choose a symptom to see related range repairs.

Main causes: food splatters, spilling food on the oven door, allowing liquid to drip through oven door vent when cleaning the door
Main causes: broken oven door lock assembly, wiring failure, electronic control board problem
Main causes: power supply failure, blown thermal fuse, bad relay control board, damaged terminal block, wiring failure
Main causes: bad bake element, broken burner igniter, control system failure, blown thermal fuse, faulty temperature sensor, wiring failure
Main causes: faulty temperature sensor, electronic control board problem, control thermostat failure, weak burner igniter, oven door problem
Main causes: broken broiler element, weak or broken broil burner igniter, control system failure, faulty temperature sensor, wiring failure
Main causes: power supply problem, control thermostat or electronic control board failure, broken element, bad burner igniter

Repair guides common to all ranges

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your range.

How to replace a range oven door switch

The oven door switch detects whether the oven door is closed and helps control the oven light. Replace the switch if it doesn’t control the oven light properly.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
How to replace a range oven door lock assembly

Oven door not locking? You can replace the lock assembly in less than 30 minutes. Here's how.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all ranges

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your range.

December 27, 2021

How does a self-cleaning oven work?

How does a self-cleaning oven work?

Learn how the self-clean cycle works in an oven.

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Coil surface element on range not heating video

Learn how to troubleshoot a coil surface element on your stove that won't heat.

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F90 error code troubleshooting for ranges video

Troubleshoot the door lock system to find and fix the problem.