What is the Effect of Oven Cleaner on Kitchen Countertops?

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As tempting as it is to use one cleaner for everything, different cleaners do different things by design. Oven cleaner is very specialized, and while it is a very effective cleanser, it’s not suitable for your countertops. 

Using oven cleaner on your countertops can damage the material of your counters by causing discoloration, corrosion, and fading. 

It doesn’t just cause superficial damage. It can also ruin sealants and other protections on your countertops that can make them virtually unusable. Oven cleaners break down the structure of your countertops and can make them a site for food contamination. 

Why is Oven Cleaner So Damaging to Countertops?

Of all the household cleaners to use on countertops, oven cleaner should be the last thing on your mind. Oven cleaners break down the worst grime in our ovens, and it uses the harshest of chemicals to do it.

In particular, lye – a corrosive ingredient that breaks down substances easily – is in almost every oven cleaner available. You can also find it in other harsh products like paint strippers. Other main ingredients, like butane, are used for other hazardous products, such as heating fuel and lighter fluid.

Depending on what type of countertop you have, oven cleaners can have varying harmful effects.

  • Wood countertops are covered with a clear coating because wood is a porous material. Since lye is also in paint stripper, oven cleaners containing lye corrode the protective layer. Once the countertop is exposed, it becomes porous, ruining the countertop and giving microorganisms and bacteria a place to grow.
  • Aluminum and steel countertops react with lye to cause discoloration and release gasses that can be a fire threat. It can also damage your health because these gasses can irritate skin and eyes.
  • Natural stone countertops are the most likely to be relatively unaffected by lye. Granite and marble are not prone to discoloration, but quartz countertops are artificial, and oven cleaners can heavily tarnish them.
  • Formica countertops – somewhat laminate – are a durable surface, but oven cleaners still ruin the finish and make it more prone to chipping over time.
  • Tile countertops are at risk of having the grout marred, and therefore the grout can’t hold the tiles in place.
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No countertop is immune from the damage of oven cleaners. The permanent structural damage and food contamination hazards resulting from using products with lye are a severe concern. It isn’t good for your home and health.

What Damage Does It Do to Our Health?

The chemical compounds in oven cleaner that do damage to countertops can also harm your health.

Substances with corrosive properties can result in chemical burns or skin rashes in small dilutions. 

Toxic substances in oven cleaner can be absorbed into porous countertops and can be fatal if ingested. Certain compounds can also release toxic fumes in the air and cause dizziness, difficulty breathing, and headaches.

There are a whole host of other health hazards. Coming into constant contact with these ingredients can affect your organs, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and more.

Better Ways to Clean Countertops

Tough stains are frustrating, and it feels easier to reach for the cleaner that needs a minor amount of elbow grease and can do all the work. But there are other options to cleaning your countertops that aren’t as harsh.

Baking soda is a classic (and natural) method to get rid of tough stains. 

Try making a paste with white vinegar and baking soda and apply to the stain. Let it rest for 24 hours before wiping it off. The mixture will lift the spot right off without any scrubbing. 

You can also use some mild bleach and cotton ball for a targeted clean. Dip the cotton ball in bleach and work the stain for a while. Stop if you notice any discoloration; that’s when you know it’s been on too long. Then, you can clean the counter as usual.

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If you’re looking for something you can buy at your local store, all-purpose cleaners are great for kitchen counters, and you can use them everywhere else too. If you’re worried about introducing more chemicals into your kitchen, there are many great all-natural products that you don’t have to make yourself.

Best Products to Use on Various Types of Surfaces

The material of your countertop matters; some different products and techniques are more effective on some surfaces than others.

For natural stone countertops, it’s effortless to clean. All you need is some mild soap and warm water. Depending on the type of stone you have, there are specialized cleaners you can seek out if you want something more involved, but you should avoid vinegar on this surface. It would help if you also considered getting a polish for your granite to keep it shining.

Tile counters are becoming less popular, but those who still have them are facing frustration. Cleaning the tile is easy with a little bit of soap and water, but the grout is usually the problem. You can get a specialized tool that can remove the top layer of the grout, or you can get an old-fashion toothbrush to do it yourself.

The lowest-maintenance countertop is arguably laminate. 

It can be cleaned with just water, detergent, and a cotton cloth or some all-purpose cleaner – things you already have at home.

Steel countertops might call for specially made cleaner for the tough smudges, but soap, water, and a microfiber towel will do the trick otherwise. You can even try a combination of hot water and vinegar for a natural cleaner.

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Final Thoughts 

You don’t have to tackle tough stains with harsh chemicals. Just by using some gentle cleansers every day, you can prevent a lot of damage and stains to your countertops. When you need the extra-powerful stain fighters, choose a less damaging alternative.

If you have vinegar or baking soda in your cupboard, you have a strong stain remover already. It just takes a little bit of patience to clear your countertops again

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Lori Ballen, REALTOR®

Lori Ballen, Realtor

Hi! I’m Lori Ballen REALTOR®. My team serves the Greater Las Vegas area from Summerlin to Boulder City, and everything in between. You can reach us at 702-604-7739.

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