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Self-Cleaning Ovens VS Steam Cleaning Ovens

By Aubrey Lockard, Appliance Specialist

The two most popular self-cleaning methods for ovens today are pyrolytic self-cleaning and steam cleaning. Some ovens are one or the other and some utilize both cleaning methods.  According to most reports, less than half of the consumers who have a self-cleaning oven actually utilize the feature.

How pyrolytic Self-cleaning ovens work

In 1963 General Electric introduced the first pyrolytic cleaning range, used synonomously with the term “Self-cleaning”. That’s technical talk for heating the residue until it carbonizes and turns to ash. This type of oven has a smooth enamel coating that makes it easier to remove the residue and ashes after cleaning.  They have a timed cleaning cycle usually ranging from 2-4 hours and a temperature range of 900-1000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pros & Cons of pyrolytic Self-cleaning


As you can imagine the energy required to clean an oven at that temperature for that long is quite high.  The oven gives off a smell like barbecued roadkill, and the fumes can even be toxic to birds. The oven can also be very hot to the touch, so make sure to keep kids away. It also locks up your oven and your burners if it’s a range, until the cleaning cycle is complete.


Ovens get really dirty, and if you’re like me, I let it get to the point where I’m setting the fire alarm off every time I use it due to the food residue on the bottom burning and smoking. Who really wants to get down on their hands and knees and scrub like mad or use toxic chemicals to clean their oven? Instead, the self-cleaning cycle can do a great job at cleaning the whole oven cavity – even the hard to reach places – and it’s easy enough to wipe up once complete.

How Steam Cleaning ovens work

Like pyrolytic ovens, a steam cleaning oven uses heat, but it also adds water to create steam which helps release the residues in the oven cavity. This oven also has an enamel coating in the cavity to help with easier clean up. The cleaning time is under and hour and typically uses a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pros & Cons of Steam cleaning


I personally own a steam clean range and I can attest to this disadvantage.  They do a great job at cleaning the bottom of the range (I think it’s because that’s where the water sits and gets hot) but are not so good at cleaning the sides and back of the range. I do lots of roasting in my oven, which creates a lot of oil splatter all over the sides and back of my oven. After doing the steam clean the nasty burned residue on the bottom wiped right up but I gave up on scrubbing the sides and back. Luckily the residue on the sides doesn’t affect the performance in any way, it just looks un-clean.


Steam cleaning is much quicker than self-cleaning. Mine was only a 20-minute cycle.  Since the oven only gets to around 250 degrees Fahrenheit there is no smoke, fumes, or smell, and you can still use the burners if it’s a range. Since it’s a lower temperature for a shorter time it uses less energy.

Quick tips for using a Self-Cleaning oven:

–       Read the “USER”S MANUAL”, every oven has different instructions or suggestions.

–       Remove the oven racks unless they’re enamel coated.

–       Remove larger food residue before cleaning.

–       If you’re using pyrolytic Self-Cleaning, turn your vent on and open the windows.

–       To cut down on cleaning your oven and to help prevent spills and messes in the future, I highly recommend using silicone oven liners (never put aluminum foil on the bottom of your oven). They’re about $30, dishwasher safe, and will catch all spills that would otherwise go on the bottom of your oven.

Whether you have a pyrolytic Self-Cleaning oven, a Steam Cleaning oven or a model that has both, they’re designed to make your life easier by eliminating one of your least favorite chores.

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