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A heads up about self-cleaning ovens

The benefits of self-cleaning ovens are evident – you don’t need to buy toxic & expensive cleaning products and they promise to save us hours of cleaning time.

For all the benefits a self-cleaning oven portrays, there are certain downsides which more than outweigh those benefits. Depending on the type of oven used, utilising the self-cleaning feature on your oven may be more dangerous than you first thought, and may be doing damage to you, your family & even your pets. They might even prove to be more toxic than the chemical-packed oven cleaning products you can buy from the supermarket!

1. Your oven may be coated with Teflon

It is worth noting that a fair number of self-cleaning ovens in the UK are coated internally with a more friendly enamel layer. However, some are lined with Teflon, so it is important that you look into this before buying. Teflon is a synthetic resin. It is very tough, which makes it ideal as a coating for non-stick cooking utensils. In order to bake away the grime and grease that has built up inside the oven, the self-cleaning function causes the oven to reach temperatures of approximately 480 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, once Teflon reaches this temperature, it releases toxic gases.

Teflon’s breakdown chemical is highly controversial, as it is fairly unanimously considered a cancer-causing agent for both humans and animals. It is also a chemical that is “persistent and accumulative”, meaning that it does not break down into a harmless substance over time. Rather, it remains and accumulates. The smaller the body, the more impactful the substance will be so if possible opt for an oven coated with enamel.

2. Acrolein and Formaldehyde are harmful chemicals

On top of Teflon, other chemicals to be aware of in self-cleaning ovens are acrolein and formaldehyde. As humans, we can’t break these chemicals down and they lead to symptoms such as dry and itchy eyes, headaches and lung irritation. They can also worsen conditions such as asthma.

3. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas

Research has found that your self-cleaning oven can produce carbon monoxide during the cleaning cycle. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless and tasteless gas that is often the real cause of many suspected outbreaks of food poisoning or flu. It is extremely toxic to both humans and animals.

There is no way to eliminate the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning while using the self-cleaning cycle, but to minimise it you should remove as much charred food as possible before turning on the oven.

4. Not entirely self-cleaning

On top of all the relevant dangers brought on by using the self-cleaning function, the reality is, self-cleaning ovens do not do all the work on their own. Before the self-cleaning cycle can be effective, the user is required to hand clean any pooled grease or thick spills from the oven floor, door frame and walls plus any large pieces of food should be removed.

Considering all the potential dangers and the preparation work involved, some people consider it just as easy to clean the oven themselves rather than rely on the self-cleaning element. If this is the case, for the benefit of your health it is recommended to use warm, soapy water and an environmentally friendly cleaning solution, bypassing all the potent chemicals included in traditional oven cleaning solutions and those potentially contained in your self cleaning oven!

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