Can Self-Cleaning Ovens Kill You? (How They Work & Safety Tips)

I love any appliance that makes cooking easy. And at first, the self-cleaning oven was just one more life hack that helped me save time, or so I thought.

Once I started using my oven’s self-cleaning feature on a regular basis, I realized the prep and clean up necessary to use it was more work than simply cleaning my oven manually.

However, what bothered me more than the added labor was the potential risks to my family’s health. I learned from friends that the risks of self-cleaning ovens likely outweigh the benefits.

Using a self-cleaning oven is generally safe, but it’s important to understand and mitigate potential risks. The high temperatures used during the self-cleaning process can potentially release fumes from food residues or the oven’s materials, which may be harmful if inhaled in large quantities or in poorly ventilated spaces. These fumes can cause respiratory irritation but are unlikely to be fatal. To ensure safety, it’s crucial to ventilate the kitchen adequately during the self-cleaning cycle and consider using a carbon monoxide detector as an additional precaution.

To learn more about the ins and outs of self-cleaning oven safety, or lack there of, continue reading this article.

We’ll cover how to use a self-cleaning oven as well as if it’s even worthwhile in light of its hazards.

Can You Turn Off a Self-Cleaning Oven Early?

In general, you can stop the self-cleaning feature early. To do this, you will need to hit the stop knob on the oven’s control setting.


After switching the knob to stop, follow these easy steps:

  1. Press cancel or off button on the oven’s digital keypad.
  2. Next, press the timer button twice. The timer button can be marked as either “Timer Off,” or “Timer Set/Off.”
  3. Finally, press the control lock button and hold for three seconds.

After completing these steps, the oven door will unlock and you can resume usage after cleaning the ash.

Stopping the self-cleaning cycle will not damage the oven provided you follow the steps properly and clean the residue once the oven door is unlocked.

Is it Bad to Stop a Self-Cleaning Oven?

Aside from the cleaning cycle not being completed, stopping the self-cleaning feature mid cycle does not pose additional risk.

Just be sure to completely turn off the feature before opening or using your oven again.

Additionally, you must wipe the ash from the inside of the oven with a damp sponge or cloth.

Even though the self-cleaning cycle was not completed, there is still likely ash left over.

Failure to remove the excess ash from inside of your oven can pose a fire hazard.

You also must wipe the exterior and interior of the oven door, as the self-cleaning feature does not complete this step.

Is it Okay to Let Oven Self-Clean Overnight?

While there is a method to “self cleaning” your oven over night, it does not involve the self-cleaning cycle.

If you choose to use your oven’s self-cleaning feature, you should never leave it unattended.

This is because the self-cleaning feature uses extremely high temperatures that are potentially unsafe if unsupervised.

Additionally, the self-cleaning cycle creates smoke and potentially dangerous fumes. If left unmonitored, these fumes can build up and precipitate a potentially deadly situation.

What Is The Overnight Self-Cleaning Method?

Unlike the self-cleaning feature, the overnight self-cleaning method is done while your oven is off.

There is no heat involved in this method, so there is no threat of toxic fumes or fire hazards.

To use this cleaning method, place ¼ cup of ammonia into an oven-safe bowl. Place the bowl on one of the racks with the oven and oven light off, and leave overnight.

In the morning, remove the bowl and wipe down the insides of your oven. The thought behind this method is that the ammonia breaks up the buildup on the inside of your over.

In the morning, it will be easier to wipe off and provide a better clean.

Can I Leave Racks in When Oven is Self Cleaning?

Generally, it is best to remove oven racks before initiating the self-cleaning cycle. The extreme heat used during the cycle is prone to causing the racks to discolor and erode the finish.

Inside of an Oven

Additionally, leaving the racks in can cause them to lose a special coating that helps them slide in and out of place.

Damage to this coating will make them harder to remove or insert for everyday purposes.

While it’s best to be safe, some manufacturers assert that their oven racks can safely withstand the self-cleaning cycle.

For example, GE assets that it’s gray, porcelain coated oven racks can be left in without worry during self cleaning.

However, GE specifies that this is only true of those specific racks. GE recommends removing their stainless steel oven racks during self cleaning.

Failure to remove stainless steel racks could cause discoloration and issues with friction.

Do Self-Cleaning Ovens Emit Carbon Monoxide?

While manufactures claim the self-cleaning over is safe if used correctly, there is mounting doubt about safety.

The Northern Iowa Cooperative Association revealed there is a potential for carbon monoxide build.

This occurs from food spillages that are charred to the inside of your oven during normal use.

The high temperatures during the self-cleaning feature heats up this substance, which can produce carbon monoxide.

To sidestep this hazard, it’s recommended to clean your oven without heat.

Are Self-Cleaning Ovens Safe?

The ease promised by self-cleaning ovens comes with a price. Despite all of their conscience, self-cleaning ovens are notoriously unsafe.

This is because the self-cleaning feature uses incredibly high temperatures, over 800F, to complete its cleaning cycle.

Consistent exposure to this tempura can cause your oven to produce harmful smoke and fumes.

Burnt bits of food naturally accumulate during regular use. Heating the inside of your oven to such extreme temperatures will cause these bits of food to burn.

What Are The Dangers of Self-Cleaning Ovens?

Unfortunately, self-cleaning ovens pose many dangers. By burning, this will produce smoke, which can be hazardous to people with asthma and respiratory diseases. \

Secondly, this can release carbon monoxide emissions.

Using this high of a temperature can also cause a fuse to blow or damage your control panel.

It can also cause left over grease to spark, which could start a kitchen fire.

Can You Get Sick From Self-Cleaning Ovens?

People with asthma and respiratory diseases are especially susceptible to being sickened by the self-cleaning oven.

This is because of the smoke and fumes produced by the self-cleaning feature. This is exacerbated by the Teflon coating inside of your oven.

Even if you remove the racks, there is still a Teflon that coats the inside of your oven.

This coating can safely withstand normal baking temperature, 225-600F, but not the extreme heat of the self-cleaning feature.

When these fumes are emitted, they can cause coughing, chills, trouble breathing, and other flu-like symptoms for people with respiratory ailments.  

Can Fumes From Self-Cleaning Ovens Kill You?

In extreme cases, it is possible for the self-cleaning oven feature to kill people. This can occur by the emission of carbon monoxide.

This would require a substantial amount of food build up inside the oven. However, it is possible and should be taken seriously.

Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so you might not be able to tell if it is being leaked without a carbon monoxide detector.

If you’re sleeping near your kitchen, or have all of your doors and windows shut with poor ventilation, this could cause carbon monoxide to reach deadly levels.

At-Risk Groups For Self-Cleaning Ovens

While adults can generally withstand the fumes of self-cleaning ovens, there are certain groups that are particularly susceptible.


The by-product carbon monoxide is the greatest risk to the health of these groups. Oftentimes, the steps necessary to preventing carbon monoxide emissions equate to cleaning the oven manually.

This makes using the self-cleaning function unnecessary and easily avoidable.

Can Self-Cleaning Ovens Make Children Sick?

While the fumes from self-cleaning ovens are unlikely to kill children, there is a chance it can make them sick.

When it comes to fumes and toxins, children are often more susceptible than adults.

According the CDC, children are more likely to experience adverse effects from fumes than adults.

These can include headache and nausea. If you use a self-cleaning oven and your child experiences any symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Are Self-Cleaning Ovens Dangerous For Pregnant Women?

Pregnant women should avoid and not be exposed to self-cleaning ovens. While severe consequences occur only if carbon monoxide is emitted, the risk is too serious to chance.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, exposure carbon monoxide is highly correlated to adverse effects in both mother and fetus.

Are Self-Cleaning Ovens Dangerous For Elderly People?

The CDC maintains that the elderly are an especially at-risk group for adverse effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

This risk doubled when compounded with pre-existing conditions like heart disease and anemia.

Although carbon monoxide is not an inevitable by-product of self-cleaning ovens, it is best to be conservative.

To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide emissions to virtually zero, the oven would need to be thoroughly cleaned.

This negates the efficiency of the self-cleaning function, and elucidates that it is best to skip altogether.

Can Self-Cleaning Ovens Kill Pets?

Self-cleaning ovens are also a threat to pets. In addition to carbon monoxide, the self-cleaning cycle can release polytetrafluoroethylene, abbreviated as PTFE.

PTFE is especially dangerous for birds because of the rapidity that oxygen is sent to their brain.

When PTFEs are released in the self-cleaning cycle, all pets are susceptible to PTFE toxicosis. This causes illness like lethargy, loss of appetite, or other flu-like symptoms.

Do Self-Cleaning Ovens Use Much Electricity?

Self-cleaning ovens require higher temperatures than traditional ovens, so they must use more electricity, right?

Despite this logically sound argument, this assumption is mainly incorrect. Because self-cleaning ovens are better insulated, they retain heat better than conventional ovens.

This means that they use about the same amount of electricity as any typical oven.

How to Get Rid of Self-Cleaning Oven Fumes?

The best way to get ride of fumes from the self-cleaning cycle is to be preemptive.

Open windows in your kitchen before starting the cycle to increase ventilation, and consider turning on a fan.

This will help disperse any potential fume emissions instead of letting them build up in your home.

If being preemptive isn’t an option, you can also boil, or bake, a pot of water at 400F. To do this, set your oven to 400F and boil a pot of water on the stove while waiting for the oven to heat.

Once both the water and oven are ready, pour the boiling water into an oven-safe receptacle.

Then, place the pot on the lowest rack of your oven with the lid on and bake for about an hour.

This trick will help you get rid of any fumes or odors after the self-cleaning process is completed.

Final Thoughts

Whether you love them or hate them, self-cleaning ovens come with a slew of dangerous risks.

Always be sure to never leave your kitchen when your oven is set to the self-cleaning cycle, and always open a window.

While it might be easier to just clean your oven manually, if all of these threats are headed using a self-cleaning oven can be safe. Happy cooking!

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