Oven cleaners are highly effective at removing stubborn grime and dirt from your ovens. Due to that, it can be tempting to see if they can be used on your kitchen countertops.
These countertops can quickly get very dirty with the build-up of dried food, grease and oil.
Does that mean you can use oven cleaners on countertops? That’s what we wanted to find out.
We’ll look at what’s inside oven cleaners, where they can be used and what effect they’ll have on your countertop. By the end, you’ll have all the information you need. Let’s get started!
Can you use oven cleaner on countertops?
The answer to this question is almost always no. The materials on the inside of your oven are usually a lot more durable than your countertops. Also, you don’t care about the appearance of the inside of your oven and you’ll just want it to be clean.
Oven cleaners are likely to damage your countertops due to the corrosive materials that they contain. Even if you have tough countertops, there is a good chance that you’ll ruin the appearance of them.
This is why it’s usually a terrible idea to use oven cleaners on countertops.
Here we’ll look at the effect oven cleaners will have on your countertops.
Firstly, we’ll look at the common ingredients that are found in oven cleaners and what makes them so effective.
The ingredients of oven cleaners
All oven cleaners are slightly different but most of them have fairly common ingredients that allow them to get good results in such a difficult environment.
Here we look at some of the main ones and see how toxic they are.
- Sodium hydroxide (Lye) – This is in almost all oven cleaners but can also be found in paint strippers and products that remove clogs. It has powerful corrosive properties which make it an excellent cleaner but also make it so dangerous. It’ll quickly break down organic material which is why you’ll need to use gloves.
- Ethers – You can find a few different solvents in oven cleaners and this is another one. They have a high level of volatility and while not quite as dangerous, it can cause many of the same problems associated with sodium hydroxide.
- Ethylene glycol – You can find this material in the likes of brake fluid and floor sealant. It will help to break down that grease but also prevent evaporation of the solution to make it more effective.
- Methylene chloride – This is another effective way to remove grease. It’s a solvent but also a carcinogen and therefore needs to be used very carefully. It can cause many common problems such as headaches and nausea.
- Petroleum distillates – These aren’t as toxic as many of the other ingredients but you still need to be careful with this mild solvent. It’s fairly easy to inhale these fumes and it can cause headaches and nausea along with eye, throat and skin irritation.
The effect of oven cleaners on countertops
Regardless of the material of your countertop, it will most likely have a protective finish over the top of it. This is to protect the material underneath, keep it looking at its best but it also serves other purposes such as preventing the build-up of bacteria.
The oven cleaner is going to start to eat through that protective layer and expose the material underneath. There are a few different consequences to this. One of them is that the surface has now lost a lot of its ability to resist bacteria.
The reason for that is due to natural materials having a lot of microscopic ridges and holes where bacteria can thrive. The protective layer on top is a lot smoother so when you wipe them down, everything is wiped with it.
Another negative effect of the protective layer removal is staining. The oven cleaner can make them look dull and discolored. Often you’ll have what looks like a white stain that goes away when you apply water. This is usually a sign that you’ll need to reseal the countertop.
There is also the effect on your health. Breathing in only a small amount of fumes from oven cleaner can cause headaches and stomach upset. Prolonged exposures to these fumes can even more serious issue so caution is always advised.
There is also the risk of having residual oven cleaner on the surface when you then go to prepare your food. This can cause you to consume oven cleaner which would also lead to your having several problems.
Effects of notable ingredients
Lye is perhaps going to have the most damaging effect on your countertops due to its corrosive abilities. This can be especially damaging for wood as it will start to eat through those organic compounds. To show you how bad it can be, lye has been used in the past to dissolve animal carcasses.
Even if your wood has a protective layer, it will start to work its way through that too. It’s still eating through protective layers which also makes it so damaging for tougher surfaces such as stone, Formica and metal.
Along with having those corrosive materials, lye can also discolor almost every surface it will come into contact with. This means that even the toughest of materials aren’t going to survive contact with your oven cleaner.
The alcohol contained in these cleaners is one of a few substances that can lead to discoloration of your surfaces, especially synthetic materials.
Rubbing this into the surface can make it quickly lose color and completely ruin the appearance.
How different countertop materials are affected
Not all countertop materials are going to be affected in the same way by oven cleaner. Here we look at how each type of surface is going to react.
- Wood – This is going to be the material most affected by oven cleaner. It will start to eat away at the material along with removing any protective cover that’s over the top of it. You should especially avoid oven cleaners if you have wooden countertops.
- Stone – Any type of stone is going to be quite resilient to the corrosive effects of oven cleaner. That being said, their protective covering isn’t going to be so tough. Once this gets removed, the surface is much more likely to breed bacteria. Oven cleaner can also discolor the surface.
- Metal – Stainless steel may be called as such but that doesn’t mean it can’t be stained. Lye will react with the surface and cause it to be discolored. It can also release harmful chemicals that aren’t going to be pleasant.
- Laminate – Similar to other materials, oven cleaner will quickly start to remove the protective coating and also ruin the finish. These surfaces are usually fairly easy to maintain which is why you should always avoid oven cleaner.
What to do if you get oven cleaner on your countertop
You might be reading this as you’ve already exposed your surfaces to oven cleaner and you may be wondering what you can do. Thankfully there are steps you can take that may avoid any permanent damage to those countertops.
Applying acid – We’ve already established that oven cleaners contain sodium hydroxide which is a highly corrosive substance. For those who paid attention in chemistry class, the fact it is corrosive means it’s either a strong alkali or acid.
In this case, it’s an alkali. For those really paying attention, they’d know that alkalies can neutralize acids and vice versa. If you have vinegar at home, this can be a good way to weaken the corrosive effect of the oven cleaner and safely remove it.
Baking soda – This magical material can be brilliant at removing a wide range of different stains. You can mix it into a paste and gently rub it on the affected area.
Hopefully, it will remove the stain and restore the natural look of your countertop.
Best methods to clean kitchen countertops
The best method to clean kitchen countertops will largely depend on the material they’re made from but often similar principles apply.
Wooden countertops usually only need a gentle cleaner and often warm water and mild soap will be more than enough. If you have more stubborn stains, then you can add a bit of vinegar into the mix.
Wooden countertops can be quite susceptible to the sealant being scratched so it may need to be resealed if it’s quite old.
If you don’t want a homemade solution then you can get many appropriate cleaners from the store, as long as they’re not oven cleaner! Along with mild soap, a microfiber cloth is a good idea with granite as it will avoid streaks.
For stain removal, baking soda can be especially useful with granite and you can leave it to work overnight. Granite is extremely tough but it still may need to be resealed eventually.
In terms of being easiest to clean, stainless steel would probably be the winner. Soap and water are usually all you need but you’ll still want to be mindful of avoiding any scratches. Again, a microfiber cloth is advised to avoid any streaking.
As with granite, a baking soda and water solution is probably all you need to get rid of stains. You won’t need to reseal stainless steel at any time but you may want to buff it up to bring out its shine.
If you go to a local supermarket then you’ll probably find a dozen cleaners that would be suitable for soapstone. It also another that performs well with a simple soap and water solution.
You’ll have to keep on any deep scratches as they not only can change the appearance but also promote bacteria growth. If the surface does look damaged, then resealing may be the best option.
Cleaning your oven without oven cleaner
After reading this far, you may be wondering whether you should be using oven cleaner at all. If you take the right precautions, then you should be fine.
That being said, there are other methods to clean your oven without using such harsh chemicals.
The first step you’ll want to take is to remove all of the trays and soak them in hot water and soap. Once you’ve left them to soak for a while, a stiff brush should be all you need to get off that baked in dirt. It can be a little tough but after some effort, you should get great results.
For the inside of the oven, you can mix baking soda and water into a paste and coat the inside with it. You can leave this overnight and let it work its magic.
All you’ll then need is a damp dishcloth to wipe it all out. Make sure it’s fully removed before you use the oven again.
Frequently Asked Questions
Oven cleaner is never going to be a good idea on countertops. Regardless of what type of material it is, there is going to be some sort of damaging effect. There are many other types of cleaners out there that are much gentler on these surfaces.
It can be tempting to use oven cleaner on a countertop if you either have no other sprays available or it’s particularly messy. This temptation should always be avoided. Even if it’s not discolored the surface, it’s likely to have worn away at the protective surface.
The demands of cleaning an oven are going to be far higher than countertops. An oven usually has several layers of organic material and grease which have been burnt on time and time again. The cleaners you’d use for other areas simply wouldn’t be good enough.
To be effective, oven cleaner contains the ingredients we looked at earlier which can irritate the skin and be dangerous to breathe in. Even when using it in an oven, you still need to be careful and take the right precautions.
Oven cleaner can make you sick. Even though that is true, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it. There are plenty of other household cleaners that can be dangerous when used incorrectly such as bleach and anti-clog products.
It’s only going to be harmful if you swallow it or breathe in heavy fumes. If you do, then it may cause other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, headache and skin irritation. It’s always vital to follow the instructions from the manufacturer to ensure safe use.
The best way to clean kitchen countertops will be dependent on the material they are made from. You can either choose to get a store-bought cleaner that is suited to the task or you can make your own home solution.
Usually, the dirt on kitchen countertops can be cleaned fairly easily. Often you’ll only need to use mild soap and a cloth. if stains are a little more stubborn then soaking them in the soap solution for 15-20 minutes will usually be enough.
The first step to take to remove oven cleaner from granite is to simply try and remove as much solution as you can, as soon as possible. You can do this with any absorbent tissue but be careful to use protection on your hands.
Another effective solution can be to pour some vinegar on the oven cleaner. The cleaner will be a heavy alkaline solution and the acid from the vinegar can help to neutralize it. When you’ve removed it, make sure to wash the surface with a regular countertop cleaner.
If you find that the granite has been stained then it may not be the actual stone itself that has been stained, rather the sealant that’s applied over it. If you have a stain that simply won’t go away then you may need to reseal your countertop.
It’s a good idea to clean your countertops as often as you cook. You shouldn’t let food settle on the surface. Not only will removing it quickly cause less damage but removing it quickly also makes it much easier for you to clean.
If you only cook in there twice a week, then there’s no point in cleaning it every day. Wipe down your surfaces after each meal to keep a clean and healthy surface. Even if you don’t cook, you should clean them once a week due to the build-up of dust.
So what effect will oven cleaner have on kitchen countertop? Well, it’s never going to be good news. The damage done will depend on the type of surface you have and also how long the oven cleaner was sitting on there.
At worst you’ll have a permanent stain and a ruined countertop. At best, you’ll have a stain that you can hopefully remove. What is clear is that oven cleaners should only ever be used for one purpose and that is cleaning ovens, and you should always closely follow safety advice.