How To Clean Burned Aluminum Foil From Your Oven

The Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner on Burned Aluminum Foil

This is more than just a straight forward how-to, since it wasn’t me who figured out how to do this, but my girlfriend. I did, however, figure out two ways you CAN’T clean aluminum foil off the bottom of your oven’s drip pan though! And to me, that’s almost better than just a solution! Okay, maybe not really, but at least I can keep you from wasting your time.

I guess you’re not supposed to put aluminum foil to cover the bottom of your oven if there is already a broiler pan in there. This is a pan placed above the bottom coils or burner unit to keep dripping oil, juices, etc from hitting the elements and catching on fire. The logical thing to do would be to cover this to clean it easier. Not so much.Burned Aluminum Foil on Oven Pan

Since the pan and then the foil is directly above the bottom heater element, it experiences intense heat. This actually melts, burns, and fuses the aluminum to the pan, which is usually just enamel coated.

On most of the help forums my girlfriend found on getting this stuff off were just littered with scathing comments on “you should’ve read the manual stupid” rather than actual help. So she removed the pan and after trying a C.L.R. and then a mixture of baking soda and water (also found online) to no avail, she handed it over to me to see what I could do. Since I’ve done all sorts of stuff with cast iron and refinishing stuff on my motorcycle, I figured I could work some garage magic on it.

How NOT To Do It

Since it was metal on metal, I figured a brass bristle brush would pull it off easy. It works for light rust, scale, or burned grease. Nope. A hand brush (looks like a tooth brush) did nothing.

So I turned to a brass cup, that attaches to your power drill. Something like this. This usually takes off paint, thicker rust, and oxidation. That did nothing but lightly scuff the alunium.

Since the aluminum was burned in a thin sheet in some spots and thick, hardened globs in others, I then resorted to the big artillery. My air-powered needle scaler. This thing takes off heavy rust, scale, and thick automotive paint. I used thing ferociously to strip paint off my motorcycle frame. I mean, welders use these to bust off weld splatter. Sailors use these to clean the hulls of naval ships.

Needle Scaler vs Aluminum Foil FAIL

Did it work? …. Hardly.

It did take off some of the larger globs, but it required a few passes and I was running the thing nearly non-stop. It’s also risky to use because if you spend too much time battering a single spot, you may start deforming the base metal itself.

How To Do It

The Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner on Burned Aluminum Foil

So, what did work? A bottle of toilet bowl cleaner called “The Works” that costs less than $5 .My girlfriend found online someone who recommended it. Essentially, it contains hydrochloric acid which undergoes a chemical reaction via replacement with aluminum. Wow, I finally used college chemistry for once. Here’s the reaction equation:

2Al(s) + 6HCl(aq) –> 2AlCl3(aq) + 3H2(g)

The aluminum (Al) gets lifted off the enamel coated pan and bonds with the chloride (Cl) molecules, releasing hydrogen gas. It also releases a good amount of heat. Voila, the magic of science!

Do this outside, or in a very well ventilated area. Use rubber gloves. Pour some of the toilet bowl cleaner on, walk away for 10 minutes. You’ll immediately see bubbles, this is the hydrogen gas. You’ll also see the liquid turn silvery, that’s the aluminum foil going into solution. Rinse this stuff off with water into a bucket, dump the bucket into your toilet and flush it down the drain. You may need to repeat this a few times.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner on Aluminum Foil

Once all the aluminum is gone, scrub it  with soap and water and rinse again. Let it dry for a good long time (it may still smell like bleach). If you put it back in your oven without cleaning it thoroughly, it’s going to stink to high heaven.

Hydrochloric Acid Reaction With Burned Aluminum

I’m sure anything with hydrochloric acid or some hydroxide would work, like Drano, which contains sodium hydroxide. However, The Works is the cheapest solution and it works just the same! You can find it online at Amazon for around $4, or at Wal-mart for about $2!

Hope this helped! Good luck!

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35 Comments

  • Thx for the advice. If I cant remove the bottom of the oven to take it outside to clean it, how do you suggest I ventilate enough to make it safe?

    • Hi Amber,

      I would first try using your oven’s self cleaning mode, if it has one, to help burn up or incinerate any food remnants are make the aluminum a little more brittle. I would then just open up some windows, kick on your stove fan, and also set up a home fan nearby your oven to help push the air out. Make sure to rinse the bottom with a sponge and water after its all cleaned up! Good luck!

    • You could, I wouldn’t recommend it just due to the fumes. If you must do it in the oven, I would recommend you judiciously rinse the surfaces afterwards, or it’s probably going to stink up your house and ruin the taste of your food the next time you use the oven!

  • I had the same problem! My oven was fairly new, and I had put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom to catch some drippings. I was shocked when I saw that it had melted and fused to the oven floor. I tried everything everyone had recommended, but nothing seemed to work. I saw a suggestion that said to buy “The Works” toilet bowl cleaner, and try that. I purchased “The Works” at Walmart for $1.34, and a plastic scraper for 98c. My oven does not come apart, so I just poured some of “The Works” directly on the oven floor. (Be careful of the fumes, and be sure you have good ventilation.) The floor of my oven curves down slightly, so it held it fine. Immediately it started to work, foaming on the aluminum foil. I hardly had to use the plastic scraper at all! I let it sit about 5 hours, and it came completely off! This stuff really does work.

    • Here is a good one for you, I’m house sitting and my clients just got a brand new stove. I thought I would place foil on the bottom of the oven to protect it from spillage… Bad mistake. The foil fused to the bottom of the oven. This has NEVER happened to me before so now I’m freaking out. Saw the forum on “the works” toilet bowl cleaner I prsy it works…

  • I just cleaned burned-on foil on the bottom of my oven using 409 and a razor. I first scraped the pieces of foil that came up easily, then sprayed a lot of 409 on the bottom and let it soak for about 5 minutes…then I scraped the foil up. I repeated the application and scraping until all of it came up. Be very careful scraping and collecting the foil because it is very sharp (I wore thick rubber gloves in case my hand slipped), Good luck!

  • When I lifted the aluminum foil off the bottom of my oven it did not stick …. but left what looks like etched lines. Will “The Works” damage the bottom of the oven ?

    • Hey Gail,
      If there are etched lines in the oven, it’s likely from something else besides the tin foil. The toilet bowl cleaner shouldn’t damage the oven bottom as long as it’s not left on for a long time. Since it is an acid, it will react with any uncoated aluminum, so if the etching has taken off the protective coating, there may be a reaction.

  • I just finished cleaning the bottom of my oven with The Works, and it was amazingly easy. I’m very happy that I found this forum and I’m not the only person who made the dreaded mistake of using foil. Thank you for the remedy, my oven is beautiful once again!!!

  • Wow, going to try this. My oven is brand new, and it’s so upsetting as I messed it up, trying yo keep it forever clean, but making it permanently damaged, with the foil I put at the bottom.

  • The Works didn’t work for me. I did find Vani-Sol toilet bowl cleaner that is 23% acid versus 9.5% for the Works. It got the melted aluminum off fairly easily, but we are left with a hard brown layer of who knows what that has defied everything I’ve tried including Drano, stripper, acid and various oven cleaners. I haven’t tried self-clean yet because I don’t want to make it worse! Any ideas?

  • “The Woks” worked on the foil but after repeated cleaning with soap and water I now have a white residue that I can’t seem to get off. It must be the epoxy on the blue enamel which looks fine when it is wet but when it drys out the white residue reappears. Is there a way to get rid of that?

  • Hello, I also managed to overlook the sign about no foil on the bottom of Auntie’s self-cleaning oven… will try the hydrochloric acid route, but a question first. Can she use the oven meanwhile with the remnants of the foil still stuck? She lives 50 Km away so I will not be able to go back there for several days… Thank you!

  • Brand new oven + hungry hubby who hasn’t read the directions + frozen pizza + aluminum foil to catch any crumbs and cheese = ANGRY WIFE to the power of 10. We are trying The Works aka Get Out of the Dog House experiment now. Fingers crossed for his sake.

    • Try THE WORKS. Toilet bowl cleaner on a cool oven. The foil will come off. I tried it on mine, as I had the same thing brand new oven, and the foil melted and stuck to the bottom of my oven!
      It’s not perfect, but a lot better!

  • The Works actually works but you need to leave it on for a few hours. Unfortunately I also have white residue stains like John from June 13, 2015

  • Hey I have the latest oven and I can’t take out the bottom part of the oven and also it’s a GAS stove so idk if that’s very safe or not so would that work?

  • So happy to have found this post!! My husband just melted aluminum foil all over the bottom of our oven. He felt so bad! Feeling much better about it now that I found this article. Can’t wait to try it! Thanks!!!!

    • I would contact kitchen aid or whirlpool, or whoever the manufacturer is, and enquire if there is a paint product that obviously is non toxics fire proof etc that you could spray, or coat the oven bottom with. This way it looks brand new. Call their 1-800 # and share the response you get.
      I have same prob with 6 month old oven, I was so mad with myself too, tried all the suggestions, but ended up with the same spotty film. Looks messed up, not new!!

  • Rented an apartment with a fairly mew oven and had this same Aluminum Foil issue. I tried everything, then read these suggestions and finally ordered THE WORKS. But it didn’t work at all..not sure if the foil is too baked into the porcelain or I needed to leave it longer, but now I have a huge patch of White Film that I can’t remove. John in June 2015 had the same issue but no one replied with any suggestion of how to remove those new stains. Now the owner of the apartment wants to charge me for a new oven…any further ideas??? Appreciated, Thanks Ken

    • Hey Ken, sorry for the delay in responding. I’m unfamiliar with the white residue you’re speaking of. It might be something in the cleaner reacting with a component in the porcelain (do you mean enamel?) coating. I would try a very light grit wetdrysandpaper and some water(made for automotive enamel paints) on a small area. Try it in a small area and see if it takes anything off (if some comes off, its probably a residue, if none comes off – its the enamel coating itself). Let it dry and see how it looks before continuing. I’ve never done this on the oven, but I’ve done it with enamel paint on my motorcycle. Hope this helps.

  • Thank you so much for posting this! I just removed pieces of foil from the bottom of my oven. Turned exhaust fan on high. Yes, folks, you can actually see the chemical reaction with bubbling and fumes. Of course used rubber glove. So thankful!

  • I just used this product “The Works” for burned aluminum foil on the bottom of my new oven. It does exactly what the brand name reads “WORKS”: I am totally amazed!!! Thank you so so much I just knew I had ruined my new oven. I opened two windows and the back door and the smell wasn’t bad at all.

  • Well I have a brand new Samsung oven-range and I put heavy duty aluminum foil in the bottom when I first used the oven in February. This is my first hidden element oven and I had Discussed with the Home Depot appliance rep that I always ad aluminum foil on the bottom to keep it clean and he did not advise me or tell me not to put foil in the bottom. I don’t use my oven very often but when i cooked a roast at 375 a couple weeks ago and after i was done. I did not know until the next day that the foil had stuck to the bottom. It only stuck where the burner was under the bottom of the oven. I could see a pattern of where it stuck was in the shape of the burner element. Today I took the advise of a few of the reply’s on here and used the “Works” . I let it stay on the bottom of the oven for 5 hours with the door closed. Then I tried to remove the aluminum foil with a rubber and plastic utensil. Some of the foil came off but not all of it. I may try using it a couple more times and hopefully all of the aluminum foil will be gone.

  • Sad to say I did use the Works and it removed the foil. However, I am left with a white residue shadow and large black areas that were under the foil. Very upsetting in a brand new expensive oven. Any suggestions? Love to hear them!

  • Sending my hubby to go buy The Works today. Ruined my brand new oven as well. I even called GE to see if I could just purchase a replacement for the bottom piece. They don’t even sell it! I’m not buying a whole new oven because GE is are a bunch of a$$holes that know this happens and don’t want to help out the customer. I tried the baking soda and vinegar soak overnight trick and it didn’t work at all. Fingers crossed The Works will work for me.

  • OMG…This worked. I was devastated when I noticed the foil had melted to the oven bottom. I had used foil in this oven before but when I chose the Convection Bake option. I decided not to one time and I had a hot mess in my oven. It took several times but I was ok with it. Thank You so much for your advise!!

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