Self-cleaning ovens work by sustaining very high temperatures for one to four hours, incinerating dirt and debris on the oven's surfaces. After the oven has cooled, the resulting ash is simply wiped away, leaving behind a nice, clean oven.
Commercial oven cleaners are caustic sprays that contain corrosive alkalis like sodium hydroxide that react with the grease and grime splattered on the oven's surfaces to form a water-soluble wipeable foam.
Oven cleaners typically are applied to ovens that are 200 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler and left overnight in the cold oven. The manufacturers do not recommend using oven cleaners in a hot oven and especially not during the self-cleaning cycle, when temperatures can reach 900 Fahrenheit.
Using the self-cleaning feature frequently can be costly in terms of energy use and may shorten the life of the oven. But both self-cleaning oven and oven cleaner manufacturers do not recommend using oven cleaners even in a cold self-cleaning oven because of the potential of the cleaners to cause damage to the oven's surfaces.
Alternatives Between Cleanings
A paste of baking soda and water can successfully remove excess burned food before running the self-clean cycle or to keep the oven clean between self-cleanings. Setting a bowl of ammonia in the oven overnight and wiping the surfaces with warm water the next day also extends the time between cleanings.