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Self-clean or self-destruct? Utah woman says oven feature left her with a hefty repair bill

Jun 27, 2024, 10:27 PM | Updated: 10:56 pm

MOUNTAIN GREEN – Arbra Wall’s kitchen has two ovens, and they were put to good use during the holidays. So much so, that she decided to use the self-cleaning feature on both appliances for the first time.

“It locks the oven, and the heat comes on and I guess the heat cooks the grime,” she said. “It went fine. They looked sparkling new.”

But now, Wall wishes she never used the self-cleaning tool. “When I went to use my oven, nothing worked.”

The ovens each got so hot during the self-cleaning, they burned out an internal fuse. The repair costs totaled $821 for the pair of ovens.

“Sometimes you get away with it,” Ronnie Haywood of Famous Appliance Services, who repaired Wall’s ovens, said. “Sometimes, you don’t.”

Self-destruct?

Haywood said they have a different name for an oven’s self-clean button.

“We call it self-destruct,” he said. “You are legitimately playing Russian roulette with your oven if you use your self-clean.”

He said Wall is lucky that the high-limit fuses in her ovens are all that burned out. When self-cleaning, ovens can get so hot for so long that they sometimes burn up sensitive electronics, which can be really expensive to fix.

“You’re just taking a risk if you use it,” Haywood said. “Personally, I would never use it at my own home.”

While it could have been worse, Wall certainly would have preferred her oven did not need to be repaired at all.

“We read through the book,” she said. “There was nothing that ever said anything about them burning out.”

Frustrated, she asked the KSL Investigators to investigate.

The hot debate

Searching online, we found a raging debate about the self-cleaning feature on ovens. For every comment or article denouncing self-clean over something that can go wrong, there seemed to be another article that lauded the self-cleaning feature for how well it works and that issues are either outliers or caused by users.

On an official level, thoughts on self-cleaning are also a mixed bag.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is in charge of keeping dangerous and defective products off the U.S. market. Searching “self-clean oven” in the CPSC archives, we found close to 16,000 complaints. Some are official recalls for things like “it gets too hot” or even “poses a fire hazard.”

Others are complaints about the oven having similar issues to Wall, like this one which reads, “Consumer reported that recently electric oven stopped heat up after self-clean function was used.”

But through the smattering of recalls and bad experiences, self-cleaning ovens have been deemed safe enough to be sold.

Manufacturer responds

While this is certainly not an issue exclusive to KitchenAid, the brand of Wall’s ovens, we reached out to its parent company, Whirlpool, to ask about Wall’s experience.

A spokesperson wrote: “If this customer’s fuse tripped as her servicer reported, that means her appliance shut down long before it could cause damage either to itself or to the surrounding cabinetry. While these fuse trips are rare, they can arise from a variety of issues, including installations that violate Whirlpool’s instructions to ensure the surrounding cabinetry does not obstruct the oven exhaust vents.”

Whirlpool said all its cooking appliances “are tested and certified to meet applicable safety standards” including ensuring “that ovens set to a self-cleaning cycle will not overheat and will shut down long before reaching excess temperatures.”

Wall said if she’d known there was a real possibility that expensive repairs could be the result of using the self-cleaning feature, she would have never used it.

“They know that it’s a problem,” she said. “Manufacturers have done a disservice to consumers.”

Alternatives to self-clean

So, what to use instead of your oven’s self-clean function? There are always oven cleaners you can get at a supermarket. Another option is a paste of baking soda and vinegar, among other home remedies. And to help prevent the cleaning from becoming a major chore, use an oven liner on the bottom rack to catch the drips and bits of food before they can become hard-to-scrub grime.

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Self-clean or self-destruct? Utah woman says oven feature left her with a hefty repair bill