Self-cleaning ovens operate by generating excessive amounts of heat. Exposure to these excessively high temperatures reduces food debris to cinders; accordingly, as the materials are incinerated, they tend to smoke, smolder, flare and flame. While this may seem alarming, it is no cause for concern; it is simply how the cleaning cycle works. However, if the flames last for more than a few seconds, stop the cycle and resolve the issue; a safe home is more important than a clean stove.
Though it is commonplace for small fires to break out during the self-cleaning cycle, heavily-soiled ovens can lead to major flare-ups, which can be considered a fire hazard. Should a large fire break out during the self-cleaning cycle, turn the oven off. Pull the plug, if necessary, to stop the flow of power. When the cleaning cycle is activated, the door auto-locks as a safety measure; the door cannot be opened until the interior cools. Wait at least two hours to give the oven time to cool then wash the interior with hot, soapy water, removing as much debris and food residue as possible, then restart the cleaning cycle.
If the fire seems to be raging out of control, grab a box of baking soda and stand at the ready until the flames die out. Baking soda is the main ingredient in commercial fire extinguishers; toss a handful onto the flames to quell any flare-ups that appear outside of the oven. Small fires can also be smothered under wet towels, sand or cat litter, or doused with water.
To keep the oven from bursting into flames during the self-cleaning cycle, scrub the interior before starting the cycle. Wash the oven with a solution of 2 cups warm water, 1/2-teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar, 1/2-teaspoon of liquid dish soap and 1/2-teaspoon of chlorine bleach. Rinse well and wipe dry with a soft towel.
Conventional Oven Cleaning
The self-cleaning system works well for some, but other homeowners may be more comfortable with conventional oven-cleaning methods. To tackle this task the traditional way, make a heavy paste by combining equal amounts of vinegar and baking soda, then add a few drops of dish washing liquid to the mixture and spread the paste evenly over the interior surfaces of the oven. Work the paste into any soiled areas by rubbing gently with a damp sponge. Let the treatment dry for an hour or so then wipe the residue away with a damp cloth.