While each manufacturer has their own system for initiating self-cleaning, these usually involve engaging a lock to keep the oven from opening, setting temperature dials to the self-cleaning setting, and starting a timer. In some cases, the self-cleaning cycle is self-regulated and the appliance automatically stops once finished.
A self-cleaning oven uses intense heat to burn off food residue. For this reason, pans and other utensils should be removed, and large food deposits scraped away before the self-cleaning cycle begins. While active, the oven may emit smoke and bad odors, so users should open windows or engage exhaust fans to keep fresh air circulating through the kitchen. These fumes can be harmful to small animals such as birds, so pets should be kept away from the oven until the cycle is complete.
While it can be tempting to clean an oven just before a major cooking holiday such as Thanksgiving or Easter, it can also lead to problems. Due to the intense heat and high current involved in a self-cleaning cycle, any damaged or weakened components are likely to fail during this time. Since many homeowners across the country feel the urge to clean their ovens before these holidays, it can lead to large numbers of oven failures and a shortage of replacement parts to fix them.