When a Whirlpool oven's self-cleaning cycle begins, the oven's temperature increases to extremely high levels, burning away any food residue. Many of the company's newer models offer "Aqua-Lift" steam cleaning, which heats water inside the oven to steam clean the interior at a lower temperature.
In traditional self-cleaning models, the oven's element heats to well over 500 degrees Fahrenheit, burning any food residue inside the oven to ash. This cycle can take hours to complete, and may involve several heating and cooling cycles. During this process, the oven may emit smoke and foul odors, and these fumes can be potentially hazardous to small animals. Pets should be kept away from the oven during the self-cleaning cycle, and windows or ventilation systems should be used to ensure a flow of clean air through the kitchen.
Aqua-Lift technology uses a gentler cleaning cycle and takes advantage of the solvent properties of water. To use this system, the bottom of the oven must be filled with 2 cups of distilled or filtered water before the cycle is engaged. The oven heats up to a lower temperature than a traditional self-cleaning cycle, boiling the water and filling the oven with steam. Once the cycle is finished, any grime should be loose and easy to remove with a sponge.