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Truths & Myths of Oven Cleaner Fumes

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toxic_1There’s a reason oven cleaners you can obtain around the counter are already infamous. Inhaling oven cleaning fumes after cleaning has been known as quite dangerous, resulting in painful cough and sore throat. Reading the sticker you might find that ingesting them is lethal. So how come they are so toxic and yet easily acquirable? Why are they marketed as something that you can clean your stove with if in it is where you cook food for yourself and your family? Are these fumes there to stay and are over cleaner dangers underrated?

All good questions and it’s time we give you some answers by getting to the bottom of it.

The truth about oven cleaner fumes

toxic_2It does not matter if it’s sold as no fume oven cleaner or not. They are toxic to humans for a good reason. See, the active ingredient is concentrated lye (caustic alkali, also known as a base). When the stuff is concentrated it is highly corrosive to organic materials. Guess what persistent food deposits in your oven are. Precisely, a success oven cleaner should be able to dissolve them. Unfortunately humans are also entirely organic material. This is why it is of utmost importance to use protective gear when using the nasty chemicals.

Oven cleaner poisoning is very common although fatal cases are a rarity. You are probably wondering why would anyone use such thing in their stove or anywhere else in the house for that matter. The thing with lye is that it is only dangerous if it’s a concentrate. If it is dilute enough (which is what happens after you clean it off) it is completely safe and harmless. Turning on the oven for a couple of minutes after the cleansing will pretty much eliminate what’s left. After-fumes are also harmless so long as you’ve carefully wiped the cleaner off. The old cliché of “the dose makes the poison” applies here.

A rather fun fact is that lye is also used in some food processing such as making olives less bitter or in the making of pretzels.

Conclusion

Oven cleaners fumes are toxic, but they are mostly caustic. After the cleaning is done the chemicals are gone and since it’s not the Natrium or Potassium causing the damage, small amounts of the active ingredient are not a threat.

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11 Responses

  1. Kelvin Nelson says:

    What would happen if a oven cleaner gel wash accidentally put in a dishwasher which cleans ingredient tubs. Then the tubs were used to make cakes. Would it be harmful?

  2. admin says:

    Hi, Kelvin! From what your hypothetical story tells us we’re assuming this:
    The tubs presumably were DRY enough after the wash to store ingredients, right? If this was the case then hypothetically you’d have no issue with that cake. Oven cleaners are dangerous when they’re not diluted. If the gel was washed away in the process of dishwashing and the tubs have dried out before use you should be fine.

  3. John Nash says:

    Hello, the other day my family and I were making pizza on the oven and after we finished warming it we left it on the table. The thing was that then a family member decided to clean the oven using an oven cleaner while the pizza was about a 1.5 meters away from the can while it was being used. The fumes didn’t touch it or at least the visible ones (I am not sure if all the fumes are visible), anyway the fumes rose to the top of the room and disappeared there. The area was unventilated but there was a door open to another room and now I am afraid that the fumes might have condensated and fallen over the pizza or maybe that some invisible chemical was released and as well fallen on the pizza (by horizontal movement). I’m I right to be worried? (I live in the UK)

  4. admin says:

    Hi, John! Thank you for your question. Second most important rule when cleaning with an oven cleaner (right after wearing a protective gear) is that the room should be ventilated! Theoretically your pizza should be fine, because it was far enough and also because the fumes have evaporated. Fumes are only dangerous when they’re visible (because that’s when they’re dense enough to cause light damage to sensitive organic issue). However, safety first! When cleaning always make sure the room is well-ventilated.
    Conclusion: the pizza should be fine, really. Next time you clean your oven either use special eco-friendly detergents (which are hard to find if you’re not a company with access and knowledge of the market) or cover any food and ventilate while cleaning! Stay safe!

    • John Nash says:

      Thank you for answering my question, but I was also wondering what would happen with the non-caustic chemicals that are still toxic.
      Could they have reacted with the pizza (Cheese, meat, bread) and created byproduct toxins that I could have then ingested? Could I even have ingested the oven cleaner toxins themselves?
      Or would they just stay at the top of the room without causing any trouble?

    • John Nash says:

      As well could particulates be created as a result of the reactions between the gas and the air that could have then fallen on the pizza?

  5. admin says:

    Hi again, John, hope you are feeling well?
    1. The fumes did not stay at top of the room, they’ve dissipated there.
    2. The only reaction an oven cleaner does with food is to erode it, but that happens inside your oven when you are cleaning it and when the stuff is concentrated.
    3. The fumes do not react with the air.
    4. If there was something wrong with that pizza and you consumed it anyway, the symptoms of oven cleaner poisoning would be long gone by now (a week after).
    When inhaling the fumes, people usually cough for a couple of minutes and have a sore throat for a night (if it was a light inhalation, which frankly is often the case, because you start coughing the moment you inhale the stuff).

    Did we help?

    Stay safe!

    • John Nash says:

      Yes, thank you for your help. I guess I was overthinking it too much, but yes I found the article and your help really useful. Have a nice day!

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    As the admin of this website is working, no doubt very rapidly it will be famous,
    due to its quality contents.

  7. […] “It does not matter if it’s sold as no fume oven cleaner or not. They are toxic to humans for a good reason. See, the active ingredient is concentrated lye (caustic alkali, also known as a base). When the stuff is concentrated it is highly corrosive to organic materials. Guess what persistent food deposits in your oven are. Precisely, a success oven cleaner should be able to dissolve them. Unfortunately humans are also entirely organic material. This is why it is of utmost importance to use protective gear when using the nasty chemicals. Oven cleaner poisoning is very common although fatal cases are a rarity.” (Source: “Truths and Myths of Oven Cleaner Fumes.”) […]

  8. Tawna says:

    Totally stunning photos!

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