A bit of housework won’t hurt you! Or could it?

I can’t recall the number of times I have heard my mum extoll the virtues (provide a lecture) of the importance of regularly cleaning your oven.  More than once, she has used the rationale that an unclean oven is hazardous, explaining potential fire and smoke risks to both the cook as well as the food.  But what are there hazards when we DO clean our ovens?

The main ingredient in commercial oven cleaning products is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as caustic soda or lye.  Sodium hydroxide is a highly corrosive chemical that can cause severe skin burns and eye damage upon contact.  It can cause serious damage to the respiratory tract if inhaled, resulting in extreme pain to the nose and throat.  And although unlikely when properly used and stored, if the product is ingested it can cause corrosion to the gastrointestinal tract.  Think about your pets and children!

Other common chemicals in oven cleaners include Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether and 2- Aminoethanol, which are classified as irritant chemicals and cause eye and skin irritation and add to the effects of the sodium hydroxide. As oven cleaners are aerosols they contain Butane gas, which is extremely flammable and may explode if it gets too hot.

The good news is that all of these harmful risks can be controlled.  Now that you are aware of the hazards, you can use the hierarchy of controls below to determine the risk control method that works best for you.  You could:

  • eliminate all the hazards by using a natural solution that doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals, such as vinegar, bi-carb soda and water.
  • substitute by using an alternative non-toxic commercial product.
  • Implement administration controls such as following the directions for use and storage e.g. Use in a well ventilated area, store appropriately.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) – long gloves, eye protection, a suitable face mask and protective clothing.


Be Safe, Be Clean and enjoy your smoke free dinner!

Submitted by Sally Hibbert