Cleaning under duress: The stove top

Guest post by Dootsie Bug

I only clean when I have to. I hate cleaning, and I need a strong motivator to get me going, like an impending visit from a college friend or the soul-crushing screech of my mom’s nagging. Considering that I dislike it so very hard, I’ve created a system of cleaning that gets things looking passable just about as fast as possible.

Cleaning the oven should be done in parts. Cleaning the inside is not only difficult, but also unnecessary in most “I have to clean” situations. The average house guest won’t see inside your oven, and even if they do, they probably won’t judge you too hard about it if the stove top is clean.

I usually only clean the surface area of the stove if someone’s coming over, but if I know they’ll be cooking in my kitchen, I begrudgingly accept that I actually have to clean those nasty drip pans that reside under my oven’s electric burners.

I once had a flat top stove. I can say with all certainty that this tutorial is not for you, flat top stove-havers. This also doesn’t apply too much to those with gas ovens.

Step 1: Get everything off the stove top
Whisk all the pots and pans out of sight. Tilt the burners up to release the pans and weird metal ring thing that the burner sits on. Brush the crumbs and weird burnt bits into the floor, to be swept up later.

Duress Cleaning: Dishwasher Detergent
Step 2: Enact the slow cleaning method
For burner pans that didn’t need too much attention, I let them go for a long soak. Just fill the sink up with hot water and squeeze in some dishwasher detergent. If you don’t have a dishwasher, dish soap should still help. Let them soak while you take care of the next steps.

Duress Cleaning: Baking Soda and Vinegar
Step 3: Enact the tough cleaning method
For the nastiest pans, sprinkle them with baking soda. Then, just like in grade school, pour some vinegar over and enjoy watching science do some cleaning for you. (You can also make a paste out of cream of tartar and vinegar for this purpose, but I don’t know anybody that just keeps that around.) Leave to sit for several minutes while you move on to step four.

Duress Cleaning: After 1
Step 4: Clean the stove top
Dip your sponge in the detergent water and give the stove top a good scrub down. Around each burner, there’s probably a little circle of crud where the metal rings were. Take care of those first, then clean around the oven. Clean your sponge often. If you’re up to it, clean down in the stove beneath where the drip pans rest. If the top of your stove lifts up (it probably does,) this will make cleaning easier. Be mindful of the cords that power the burners—don’t get those wet. If the burners themselves are dirty, clean using only warm water and your determination to see those crispy burnt bits disappear.

Step 5: Scrub. Fo’ real.
Scrub the vinegar pan. Scrub it good. If there are weird splatters of grease, use a spoon to scratch those up, then scrub some more. Then scrub the detergent pans. Rinse everything really well, and let dry. Some of those pans won’t be clean enough. Re-clean if you’ve got the spirit.

Duress Cleaning: After 2
Step 6: Reassemble the stove, and admire your handiwork.
Strike a Superman pose and feel proud that you’ve made your stove totes presentable. And then move on to the next thing you need to clean before someone shows up.

Comments on Cleaning under duress: The stove top

  1. Ugh, stoves. I’ve gotten in the (amazing, can’t believe it’s me doing this) habit of wiping down the stove when I do dishes, which includes taking a swipe across the (completely cooled!) coils with the dish rag. That’s all nice for maintaining surface clean appearance, but I still manage to set my smoke alarm off on the regular because of crumbly bits in the drip pans. I’ve heard Barkeeper’s Friend is supposed to clean drip pans up really well, but I haven’t needed to go that far. Yet.

  2. And sometimes you have to lift up the whole top of the stove to get under where those burner drip pans sit. Just like lifting a car hood, only greasier. 😉 Not all stoves have this, but most do.
    My hubby once spilled milk in there, and I was so desperate to get rid of th smell, I discovered this whole extra space. Also makes it easier to get to the wires (If you have electric) or starters (if you have gas)when there’s a problem.

  3. The best piece of advice I received when moving into my new apartment was to buy burner pans and replace the ones the apartment came with. After the year was up, we still had the original, mint-condition burner pans to put back on the stove making our landlord very happy.

    • Agreed. It’s probably a waste of money, but when I had gas stoves, I just bought new burner pans when they got really gross instead of cleaning them. I am lazy that way.

  4. If for some strange reason you’re interested in seeing the rest of the before/after pictures, they’re here on mah Flickr.
    My secret shame has been revealed to the world. I can no longer pretend to be a domestic goddess.
    (In my defense, I didn’t do ANY of the cooking that resulted in this mess.)

  5. Drip pans are of the devil, I swear to it. I’m currently using an old school method of covering the big one (my apt-rented stove is funky and only has one big one and three small ones) with foil. I have replaced the pans too many times because they become too difficult to clean. The smaller ones seem to be less of a pain than the big one.

    • Now if you ask me, that’s a completely valid method.
      Just do be sure to change the tin foil if it gets grody in there. The stuff on the tin foil can catch fire if it gets hot! Since tin foil’s not really that expensive, I advocate changing often.
      PSA: Just don’t cover the floor of your oven in tin foil. It can damage the coating of the oven and changes the way the oven heats. If you expect to be cooking something drippy, just line a pan with tin foil and set that on the rack under whatever you’re cooking.

      • My grandma always had hers covered in foil, a habit I inherited. But now our local dollar store sells foil inserts that fit perfectly! Thought I might be able to find a link on Amazon, but alas, I cannot! I admit I pay for these because it saves me the effort of making the foil lie flat and punching the hold for the connecter-y part.

        …My problem is more that the previous tenants let the stove drip pans get so gross no amount of cleaning helps, so I cover their unsightliness. Really I should probably just replace the drip pans.

  6. Thanks, Dootsie! I know I should clean those drip pans, and hopefully this tutorial will give me the kick-in-the-pants to just do it. 🙂

    But cleaning the oven, ugh! When a roommate and I were doing our moving-out-so-need-to-clean-to-get-our-deposit-back cleaning, I cleaned everything in the whole apartment in the time it took her to clean the oven – not because she was dawdling, but because it’s such a beast to clean! Anyone have tips for tackling the dreaded oven?

  7. If your drip pans are burned on crusty spraying them with oven cleaner and letting them sit works wonders. Kind of toxic though which is why we only break it out for the ‘move out’ clean.

  8. I always forget to clean the drip pans until it’s too late and they can’t be scrubbed clean again! I don’t know why because I keep the rest of the stove spotless. I’m hoping the vinegar/baking soda method will work ’cause I think mine are looking pretty funky.

    • If it’s some pretty baked in crud (like mine) it won’t bring them back up to silvery and shiny. Try mixing the baking soda with peroxide for shinier results (toothpaste for your stove!)
      The best way to get them close-to-new again is to spray down with oven cleaner, stick in a garbage bag and let sit as long as you can.

      • I will try that! I’ve found that switching the back tins to the front helps, too. I mainly use the two front burners so they’re the ones that get the dirtiest. Of course, I say that but I never actually do it..

  9. I have a gas stove with the metal grate-y things. I hate it because things fall through the grates and then when you lift off the top, there’s all this nasty food and stuff underneath.
    True story, one time we found a squirrel in there.

      • One time, there was a squirrel in my stove.

        That’s really the whole story. Mostly. I came home, heard weird scritch-scratchy sounds, and figured out they were coming from underneath the grates. I figured it was a mouse. So I cautiously lifted up the stove-top, and there, curled up in a little squirrel ball, was a squirrel, eating a piece of pasta that’d fallen through the grate.

        I was like “Hey! A squirrel!” (Like you do when there’s a squirrel in your stove) which startled him, so he jumped up, gave me QUITE an angry look (he’d been so comfy” and then he ran off of the stove, onto the floor, and squeezed between the broken screen and the frame of the window in the pantry.

        Then I was sad because there wasn’t a squirrel in my stove any more.

    • Once a mouse popped up out of one of the burners and looked at me, then dove back in. I don’t have a critter problem anymore, but sometimes I still wonder if I’ll find a baked mouse in there alongside a pan of cupcakes.

  10. I don’t have this type of stove any more but in the past I also got good results using oven cleaner on the pans. (Yes, for those of us who actually hate the earth and can’t wait to move to Mars.)

  11. The easiest way that I found to clean the drip pans was to stick them in a big bag with about half a cup of amonia. Let it sit overnight and fumes magically disolve the cooked on grease stains. Then you can just wipe it off.

    For the bottom of the oven, you can get one of those teflon baking sheet liner and stick it in the bottom of the oven. Just pull it out and wipe it off and the bottom doesn’t get so groady.

  12. Interesting, I think a gas stove might be easier to clean – fewer pieces. Just take off the metal grate things, which can be soaked a la same slow-cleaning method, then scrub out the little wells they sit in & the rest of the top. While the grate things are soaking, I spray the crap out of the entire stovetop with cleaner of choice, leave it for 10-30 min, come back, & most everything comes off w/out needing massive scrubbing.

    I’ve never cleaned the inside of any oven anywhere I’ve lived, incld. the house I now own. If that makes me a bad person, I’m OK with it.

    • The ONLY thing I liked about my crappy apartment gas stove was how much easier it was to clean. I never even needed to clean the grates, honestly. Mostly, I just took a rag and wiped around the burner itself.

      Maybe I’m some sort of cooking wizard, but I can think of MAYBE two times I’ve ever spilled something in an oven. So cleaning the inside of an oven? Haha thanks but no.

  13. Sudsy ammonia on really dirty drip pans, then tie them up in a trash bag outside and leave them for as long as you can, works really well if they’ve reached critical funk, if you can stand the smell of ammonia.

    Also, we have cats, and as much as I wish there was a machine that I could install in the kitchen to administer a slight electric shock to them every time they put their nasty little poo feet anywhere near someplace my food touches, there is not. I use burner covers, which you can buy at the dollar store, to cover the burners when the stove is not in use. This keeps cat nast and hair out of the burners, preventing the accumulated cat hair from becoming a fire hazard. (And it can catch on fire. Trust me.)

    • I don’t know what I did well in a past life, but my cats don’t jump on countertops or tables. I feel like I won the cat lottery. But burner covers are a RIGHT ON idea for that situation–just please don’t be like my mother and constantly turn on your burners with the covers on. (Spoiler alert: the paint melts off onto your stove and won’t come off, and sometimes it scalds the surface of your stove.)

      • It’s a running joke in my family to buy my mother a new pair of burner covers every Christmas because by that time, Dad’s almost sure to have already burnt the ones she had on there.


        • Yeah, my mom did that a few times when I was growing up. So far I’ve managed to avoid it, even though I’m absent minded most of the time. However, I did find out the hard way that if you set a hot tea kettle off the burner on top of a burner cover, it will make a nasty burn ring on it.

          Also, the only burner covers I’ve been able to find anywhere are suuuuuper country with ducks or fruit or something on them, so I just paint them with spray paint in a solid color and it seems to work OK. We’ve not died yet, anyway.

        • I cannot confirm nor deny, but my former roommate may or may not have burnt two holes into a beach towel and a spiral into a wooden cutting board, by using the front of the stovetop for drying dishes and trying to make tea on the back burner but turning on the wrong burner. I came home and started to ask why this towel hanging on the door had perfectly-placed boob holes in it, but as soon as I saw the burnt cutting board I put 2 + 2 together. After the THIRD time she tried to burn the house down by turning on the wrong burner, we had to make the rule that no one could dry hand-washed dishes on the stovetop anymore. Seemed easier than making the rule of moving things off before turning on the stove.

  14. So, um, I bought some metal burner covers at a yard sale thinking they were mini pizza pans. I told the lady how excited I was to use them and she gave me a strange look. Later, someone did tell me what they were but I used them as pizza pans anyway. They worked perfectly.

  15. You might try, also, instead of the baking soda/vinegar paste thing, using just baking powder and water… if, for some reason, you wanted to, I guess.

    Also, your kitchen looks, seriously, just like the kitchen in my old apartment in Austin. Same sink, same stove, same countertop, same stove placement (which, incidentally, was annoying as fuck to cook in, because I’m left-handed and I was always bumping against the wall).

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