Can You Use Oven Cleaner On Kitchen Countertops?
What is the effect of oven cleaner on kitchen countertops? We hashed it out with a pro, and this is what you need to know.
Although we can clean our ovens with baking soda and vinegar or take our chances with the self-cleaning feature, many of us continue to reach for a can of oven cleaner. That’s despite the safety and usage precautions about the chemicals inside.
So if oven cleaner takes care of baked on gunk, should you use it on dirty countertops where you prepare food?
Maybe you just moved in and need to get rid of those mystery stains from the previous tenant. Or maybe you spilled dye all over your white countertop. Whatever the reason, let’s find out if using oven cleaner on countertops is a good idea.
What Pros Say
“It is definitely not a good idea to use an oven cleaner on countertops,” says Dan Deonarain, owner of Galaxy Maids, a New York City- and Boston-based residential and commercial cleaning company.
Oven cleaners contain sodium hydroxide, aka lye, a caustic substance you might have learned about from true crime documentaries on Netflix. (Lye decomposes bodies.) Lye has a pH of 14, making it a strong base and highly corrosive. Bases dissolve organic material like food, grease and hair. They’re also used in drain cleaners.
Even if it feels like you’ve tried everything, oven cleaners are just too powerful for countertops. They remove burned-on food from coated metal surfaces like ovens and barbecue grills, says Deonarain. “Your countertops will never see that level of stains,” he says.
Oven cleaners are toxic, too. The National Capital Poison Center recommends extreme caution when using oven cleaners. These can cause burns to skin, eyes, mouths and even your airway and digestive tract.
Bottom line: Oven cleaners break down greasy food and baked-on gunk. For countertops, it’s just not an efficient or smart way to clean.
Damage to Countertops
“I’ll wear rubber gloves,” you say. “I’ll open a window.”
If you’re determined to give oven cleaner on a countertop a try, consider the damage to your countertop. Here’s what can happen:
Quartz is a common composite that contains seven to 30 percent resins and other binders, according to the Natural Stone Institute. Oven cleaner’s harsh chemicals can eat away at these additives, exposing the porous stone. This makes your quartz and similar composite countertops more prone to staining.
Marble’s main enemy is acid, but oven cleaner isn’t good for it, either. It’s not the rock itself but the sealant, which can be applied to the countertop to resist staining. (Marble is a porous stone.) Oven cleaner wears down this sealant over time, leaving your countertop discolored or uneven.
Granite is stain resistant on its own, according to the Natural Stone Institute, but granite countertops are often sealed for extra protection. Harsh oven cleaners break down that sealant, which can cause discoloration. These are our tips for how to clean granite countertops.
Solid-surface countertops like Corian resist stains and look gorgeous, but they don’t hold up to oven cleaner. Manufacturer DuPont states right in its user manual not to use oven cleaner on Corian, and Avonite comes with similar instructions.
Plastic laminates like Formica are less expensive and tough, but oven cleaner will dull, scratch and eat away at the finish. Formica’s cleaning tips explicitly warn against using oven cleaner due to the risk of permanent damage. These are our tips for cleaning laminate countertops, and how to remove permanent marker from laminate.
Wood countertops like butcher block don’t stand a chance against the harsh chemicals of oven cleaner. First, it will eat away any protective coating on the countertop, then it’ll start on the wood itself. These are our tips for cleaning wood countertops.
One trendy use for oven cleaner is stripping wood furniture. Keep in mind it’ll do the same to your wood countertops.
Soapstone and slate
These materials were traditionally used for chemistry lab bench tops. This means they’re tough, heat-resistant and impermeable to chemicals. You might get away with trying oven cleaner on these, but why take the chance?
The Best Way To Clean Kitchen Countertops
Deonarain says dish soap and warm water should be your go-to for cleaning kitchen countertops. Non-abrasive and a strong degreaser, dishwashing liquid cleans well and won’t damage countertops. Dish soap and water works on stone, laminates and solid-surface countertops.
Avoid using acidic cleaners, even weak ones like vinegar and lemon juice, on any natural stone. Keeping butcher block clean and sanitized takes a few extra steps.
Use a soft sponge or microfiber cloth and wipe up spills immediately. Even if messes remain too long, dish soap and elbow grease usually does the trick. After cleaning your counters with soapy water, rinse away any residue with a clean microfiber cloth.
When in doubt, check with the manufacturer of your countertops about the right cleaner to use.