“Self Cleaning” Your Oven

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Self Cleaning is the feature in electric or gas ovens, that the house keepers were waiting for a long time. It’s just a miracle! No more scrubbing your oven from inside out! You press the button, wait for around four hours, then open the oven door and simply swipe away the burnt leftovers.

Sounds like a good plan, but…. hmm, there is a small catch. What is that catch? –  You ask. Oh, it’s very simple – each time you put your oven on “Self Clean”, you need to have an appliance repairman ready to come. Why is that? It’s easy to explain. As people who often see ovens when they are in the “FIX ME” condition, we try to understand the factors which contributed to the failure of the system or a certain part. And in ovens we found a curious relation – about 85% of the service calls for oven repairs happened immediately or shortly after a customer was using the “Self Cleaning” feature.

So before we pay you a visit and perform a complicate (and often expensive) service, we would like to share some information and knowledge for your consideration.

PART ONE – What happens in the oven when you put it in the “Self Clean” mode?

First phase of the “Self Clean” mode

The locking system is activated. There is always some kind of a latch which will move and lock the oven door. Usually it is an automatic system which has an electric motor and switches, and very rarely you should lock the latch by a manual mechanism. The latch is mandatory in all the ovens, because it is an important safety element.

Second phase of the “Self Clean” mode

In this phase, the top and bottom heat elements are activated. In order to burn all the leftovers into black scales and dust, the heat in the oven must get to a much higher level than the one required for a conventional cooking. The heat inside can reach up to 600-700 degrees Celsius (above 1000 Farenheit) and stay at this temperature for 3-4 hours.

Third phase of the “Self Clean” mode

This phase includes cooling down and unlocking the oven. The automatic system will wait for the temperature of the oven to drop down to the safe level for opening the oven door, and only then the latch will unlock.

PART TWO – Parts and systems that potentially can be damaged during the “Self Clean” mode.

1) The locking mechanism. It’s very common for an appliance technician to get a call after the oven door has “stuck” immediately after the “self cleaning” procedure.

2) Safety elements – thermostats or thermal fuses. They are real “watch dogs” for an excessive heat. They sit atop or on the oven walls, and when the temperature is too hot, they just pop, stopping an oven from working.

3) The control units, “the brain” – electronic boards and touch panels, which often are located atop of the oven and absorb some of the heat. Strong heat and gentle electronics don’t make a very healthy combination for your stove. “The brain” literally goes crazy, showing you error codes, starting or stopping the oven by itself or simply not responding to your orders. At this point the “self cleaning” that made your life so much easier, gets you to the very expensive visit of a “brain surgeon” a.k.a. an appliance technician.

4) Wires and contact terminals. Bundles of wires go through the stove in various directions and shapes, distributing the electricity. Of course, they are protected from the heat by a special thermal insulation. And still, the heat of the “Self Clean” mode could be too strong and too prolonged even for those well protected parts. The insulation melts, the wiring gets damaged. It is extremely hard to diagnose this issue and sometimes it takes a number of visits to fix that kind of a culprit.

5) Everything that you see inside the oven cavity – light bulbs and their glass housings, thermal sensors, even the layers of enamel, all this could crack or get worn.

Inside the oven after the Self Clean mode

Inside the oven after the Self Clean mode


No, that is not a picture from fire fighters archives. Here is a little example how the locking system and the wiring look after number of “Self Cleans”. By the way all this is functional, that is just how it looks behind its shiny stainless covers.

Now to the big question – should you abandon the “Self Clean” feature and go back to “old school” hands-on-scrub-and-wash feature?

This decision is completely yours. It is your oven and it is up to you how you maintain it. Our goal is to provide you with the appliance repair service if needed.

Good luck.

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