Welcome to the Take Charge of Your Home series from Direct Energy! Hiring a professional to perform household maintenance may offer convenience and peace of mind, but you can do many of these jobs yourself with no experience or special tools. And in the process, you’ll save money, learn about how your home works and gain a sense of accomplishment from a DIY task done well!
For some home cooks, there’s no replacement for the open flame of a gas range. But there are distinct advantages to an electric cooktop, whether it’s a self-cleaning coil burner stove or a sleek and shiny glass range.
In many ways, electric cooktops can be easier to clean and maintain than gas ranges. But if you go about this upkeep incorrectly, you could end up damaging sensitive finishes or electrical components.
Go By the Book
Not all electric ranges are the same. Even among flat cooktops, the surface material may be glass, ceramic or a composite, and some are more sensitive to certain types of spills, cleaning solutions and textures than others. So it’s important to familiarize yourself with the warnings and directions in the owner’s manual of your exact stove model.
If you don’t have a copy of your range’s manual, don’t worry – virtually all appliance manuals are available online. You’ll need to find the manufacturer name and model number before you can look it up. The manufacturer should be easy to verify; most ranges feature a prominent badge with a brand name. The model number is usually printed on a sticker in a hidden area of the stove or stamped directly into the metal. Once you know the manufacturer, you can look on the official website for information on where to find the model number.
Clean As You Go
One piece of universal advice for all cooktops is to clean up drips and spills as quickly as is safely possible. If you never allow these messes to harden or penetrate the stove’s finish, routine cleaning should be a breeze.
But that leads to a second piece of universal advice: never clean any part of the stove while it is still hot. It’s one thing to wipe up a spill from a warm area of the stove, but if you use a damp cloth to wipe a spill directly off a hot burner, you could burn your hand in an instant.
To give yourself a hand with future drips and spills, buy several small, cheap, lint-free cloths that you can keep in a neatly folded stack next to your stove. When messes happen, just grab a rag, mop up the mess and toss it aside.
Maintaining Electric Coil Cooktops
Electric stoves with coil burners present a real tradeoff. On one hand, coil burners heat up slower and offer less heat control than other types of ranges. On the other hand, they’re cheap, durable and easy to maintain or even replace.
Coil burners are considered self-cleaning because they’ll burn off any stuck-on food if you turn them to their highest settings for a few minutes. If you spill food onto a burner, this is usually the first thing you should do after you finish cooking — but beware that the food may smoke as it’s burned off. You might want to temporarily disable your smoke detectors. Just be sure you remember to reactivate them afterward!
After all of the burners have completely cooled, you can further clean individual burners by first removing them from the stove. Most burners pull straight out from their sockets, but you should refer to your manual if it’s not clear how to remove them.
Taking care to keep the electrical contact points dry, scrub the burner with warm, soapy water and a nylon scouring pad. If there’s stubborn, cooked-on food, make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply that to the area. Let it penetrate for half an hour before scouring again. Rinse the burner when it’s clean, but don’t submerge it.
The rest of the cooktop should clean up quickly. The drip pans below the burners can be removed and thrown in the dishwasher or washed in soapy water. The rest of the stovetop should be wiped down once daily with a damp cloth and cleaned thoroughly once per week with an approved cleaning solution.
If your burners or drip pans get in really rough shape, they’re fairly cheap to replace. Individual burners can usually be purchased for less than $10, and sets of four can be found for $30 or less. Drip pans cost a couple bucks each.
Maintaining Flat Cooktops
With flat cooktops, it’s even more important to follow the advice in the owner’s manual. Depending on the cooktop material, the use of nylon scouring pads, heavy utensils or certain types of cookware can scratch the surface. Most manufacturers recommend a special type of cooktop cleaner that is applied similarly to car wax.
Daily maintenance is much like that of a coil burner stove; a good once-over with a damp cloth should collect crumbs and minor spills. But for deeper cleaning, you’ll likely need to apply a coat of cooktop cleaner, let it dry, and buff it out with a microfiber cloth. It’s worth the wait, though – a polished flat cooktop is a focal point in any modern kitchen.
You’ll also want a scraper designed for flat cooktops. These scrapers use razor blades to carefully shave burned-on residue without scratching the surface, so use caution when handling these sharp tools.
On some flat cooktops, pitting can occur if sugary liquids like syrup or jam are dropped onto a hot surface. When this happens, immediately turn off the heat and remove all cookware from the area. Wearing an oven mitt, use the scraper to move the spilled substance to a cool area of the stove, then wipe it up with paper towels. Remove as much of the spill as possible using this method, then clean the cooktop thoroughly after it has cooled.
All In the Details
The job isn’t done when the cooktop is clean – there’s still the matter of those burner control knobs. On most models, these are easily removable and can be washed in warm, soapy water. But take care when cleaning the area around the control knob ports to avoid getting any moisture in the cracks. This could potentially cause a short in the electrical components.
Speaking of cracks, many cooktops have crevices where crumbs inevitably collect. For a complete cleaning, refer to your manual to learn if and how your cooktop “opens”; most models are hinged and open just like a car hood. With the range raised, you can easily access those hard-to-reach crumbs and maybe some messes you never knew were there.
Maintaining your electric cooktop properly is worth the effort and will help you extend the life of the appliance as long as possible. But if you notice real problems with your range – scorched or smoking burner sockets, flickering displays, electrical shorts – don’t take any risks. Shut your stove off at the circuit breaker and call in a licensed electrician to make it safe to cook again.