What is the Effect of Oven Cleaner on Kitchen Countertops?

Date: December 1, 2020
Author: Jon Smith
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Are you cleaning your kitchen counters, or are you corroding them? What is the effect of oven cleaner on kitchen countertops? Many kitchen cleaners contain chemicals that can damage your kitchen counters’ material and sealant. They worsen the stains instead of removing them, and can leave them permanently dull and discolored.

What is the effect of oven cleaner on kitchen countertops?

Oven cleaners melt away the protective finishes and seep into the countertop material damaging its appearance, weakening its structure, and making it more prone to food contamination. Of all the cleaning products in your kitchen, oven cleaners are the worst cleaners you can use to clean your kitchen countertops.

Even worse, oven cleaners can also damage your health—from instant irritation upon contact, to long-term risks. Some of its chemicals are also found in gas and anti-freeze. You would never dip your food in these products, but you are pouring them on your countertops where you prepare your family meals. Other ingredients have been classified as carcinogens by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Find out more about the effect of oven cleaner on your kitchen countertops, and your health.

Why does Oven Cleaner damage kitchen countertops?

Almost all oven cleaners contain lye (a corrosive that breaks down substances upon contact) and alcohol (which liquifies varnishes and finishes).

Lye

Lye (sodium hydroxide) is one of the most common ingredients in oven cleaners, paint strippers, and drain decloggers. It has also been used to decompose animal carcasses—a clear indication of its powerful corrosive properties.

Since lye has been used as a paint stripper, you should never use it on any countertop that has been painted or sealed with a clear finish. This includes:

  • Since wood is porous, all wood countertops are protected with a thin layer of finish that makes it shiny, water-resistant, and prevents absorption of bacteria and other microorganisms. Lye strips away the finish, and may even make it sticky and gummy upon contact. Even if these harden again, there will be permanent stains and you will have to have your kitchen countertops sanded and refinished. The “holes” in the finish will also increase the risk of exposure to bacteria and food contamination.
  • Natural stone countertops made from marble and granite are generally stronger and able to withstand harsh cleansers—but only initially. Since stones are porous, all countertops are sealed with polyurethane to prevent absorption of water and bacteria. After repeated exposure to lye, the protective seal breaks down and causes spotting and discoloration.
  • Lye breaks down the top glaze and weakens the grout which holds tile countertops in place.
  • Aluminum and steel. Lye reacts to aluminum and steel, causing permanent discoloration. It can also release flammable gases, which irritate the eyes and skin, and pose a fire threat. Never use lye on metal counters or containers.
  • Formica countertops are made of thermally fused melamine resin, and then painted or laminated to mimic the appearance of wood or stone. The lye destroys the finish, leaves permanent stains and discoloration, and weakens the material so it’s more prone to chipping.

Alcohol

Oven cleaners can contain either one or both forms of alcohol: ethanol or MEA (monoethanolamine). These are strong solvents that can permanently discolor countertops made of synthetic materials, such as vinyl, Formica, or Corian.

The alcohol is less likely to show visible damage on stone or tile countertops, but it can dull the finish of wooden countertops.

What are the health risks of using oven cleaners?

There are different ways that chemical compounds in oven cleaners can pose a health and safety risk.

  • Corrosive substances can cause chemical burns; in diluted form, they can cause rashes and skin allergies
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) release toxic fumes in the air. Once inhaled, they can cause headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and asthma attacks.
  • Poisonous or toxic substances are dangerous and potentially fatal when ingested. Trace amounts of oven cleaner can remain on the counter, or be absorbed by porous materials like wood or stone.
  • Carcinogens have been linked to a higher risk of cancer.

IngredientsType of SubstanceHealth Risk
Lye (sodium hydroxide)Corrosive
Poison
Skin: Rashes, itching, burning sensation, chemical burn, and permanent scars. Eyes: Burns, swelling, pain, and blurred vision. Ingestion: Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
Source: CDC, CCOHS
Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether (also called 2-butoxy ethanol)Volatile
Carcinogen
Classified hazardous substance  
Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Coughing and wheezing, Nausea, Vomiting, Damage to liver and kidneys, Damage to fetal development.
Source: NJ Hazardous Substance Face Sheet, WHO  
Ethylene GlycolVolatile
Poison  
Eye irritation and swelling, Throat, and respiratory tract irritation.
Source: CDC, EPA
Methylene ChlorideSolvent
Carcinogen
Classified hazardous substance
Classified workplace hazard by the OSHA Poison    
Headaches, Dizziness, Nausea, Eye irritation, Damage to the liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system.
Source: CDC, EPA
Petroleum DistillatesVolatileHeadaches, Drowsiness, Nausea, Eye irritation, Throat irritation, Skin Irritation
Source: CDC
Oven Cleaner Hazards

How do I fix the stains that oven cleaners left on my countertops?

  • Apply vinegar. If you accidentally spilled or sprayed oven cleaner on your kitchen counter, try cleaning the area with vinegar. Vinegar is an acid, which can help neutralize the lye and slow down its damage.
  • Apply baking soda and water. You can remove stains on granite and marble countertops with a paste made of baking soda or water. Don’t scrub, since baking soda is an abrasive. Instead, pat it on the affected area, cover with a plastic wrap, and leave for a few days. (Remember that you should always spot-test any homemade paste or cleaner on a small, hidden area to check if it will affect the stone’s finish and color.)
  • Mix baking soda and dishwashing soap. You can remove light stains from steel countertops with a paste of dish soap and baking soda. Rub into the affected area with a soft cloth, making sure to move in the direction of the grain.
  • Buff in beeswax. For white stains left on wood and laminate countertops, buff in beeswax. This helps restore shine and leaves a protective film that blocks off water and bacteria. Tinted polishing oils can also help hide discoloration.

These methods can help hide or minimize the appearance of stains left by oven cleaners. However, some stains may be too deep to remove, and discoloration can be permanent. You can have your countertops refinished. This restores them to their original appearance and provides a protective layer that will prevent further damage.

What are the best ways to clean kitchen countertops?

Oven cleaners are for ovens. If you want to remove stubborn stains and dirt from your kitchen counters, then look for the appropriate product for the material that it is made from. Here are some suggestions.

Wood countertops

Use a non-abrasive cleaner, or make one from warm water mixed with a little white vinegar. Scrape hard or sticky residue with a spatula. Wipe counters completely dry after cleaning to prevent water stains. However, if you notice a light discoloration, rub half a lemon with salt on the area and wipe away with the water and vinegar solution.

Regularly apply oil or wax to wooden counters to strengthen the protective seal and prevent warping, cracking, and staining.

Stone, marble, and granite countertops

One of the benefits of natural stone is that it’s durable and easy to clean. You just need soap, water, and a microfiber cloth. Avoid abrasive or acidic cleaning products and tools, which can scratch the stone. Never use vinegar on this type of surface, because it dulls the finish.

To maintain stone countertops in top condition, have them resealed at least once a year.

Quartz countertops

Quartz resists scratches and stains, but you need to be careful about damaging the resin. You can clean it with water and soap. If you need to use a stronger cleaning product, look for one that is PH-balanced and rinse it off right away.

Laminate countertops

Laminates are very low-maintenance and can be cleaned with just water, liquid detergent, and a soft cotton cloth. Don’t use any cleansers that contain acids or alkali, which can cause discoloration.

Steel countertops

Keep steel countertops clean and shiny with soap, water, and a microfiber towel. You can buy cleaners that are specially made for stainless steel, which can help remove stubborn smudges.

What are the best cleaning products for kitchen countertops?

  • Meyer's Clean Day Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner. Made from natural ingredients that won’t damage your kitchen counters or your health. It is environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free, and offers a selection of pleasant scents such as verbena, lavender, and honeysuckle.
  • Better Life All-Purpose Cleaner. This plant-based all-purpose cleaner does not contain any chemicals or alcohol that can damage your kitchen surface or irritate your skin.
  • TriNova Granite Cleaner and Polish. Designed to clean stone counters like granite, marble, and quartz without leaving streaks or dulling the finish. It can also be used on laminate, Formica, Corian, and more.
  • Miracle Wipes for Granite and Stone. Quickly and conveniently wipe away any stains from your counter. The PH-balanced formula won’t dull the stone finish, and help reveal the beautiful veining and color patterns of your countertops. It is also free of sulfates, parabens, alcohol, and others.
  • Cerama Bryte Stainless Steel Polish. Removes dirt, fingerprints, streaks, and stains. It also contains mineral oil to protect the surface and leave your counter looking shiny and streak-free.

Instead of using oven cleaners to remove stubborn stains, just wipe your kitchen counter with a gentle but effective cleaner every day.

Conclusion

Oven cleaners can damage your kitchen countertops and your health. Find better options for cleaning your countertops and when in doubt shoot me an email using the contact page.

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About Jon - Website Owner

Jon Smith

Hi, my name is Jonathan Smith. I have been in the granite business for many years and have worked my way up from an installer helper to an installer and then a countertop business owner. 

I started my countertop company with very little and grew extremely fast because of my knowledge and helpfulness. I started this countertop resource for 1 main reason. That reason is that there are no countertop websites with all the correct information and none of them are from an industry expert like myself. 

I am still in the trade every single day installing countertops, educating people on the type of material they are using for their homes, and making people's dream kitchens a reality.

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