During the busy holiday season, your range can start to look like something in a restaurant kitchen—sauce-splattered burner grates, gunked-up controls, and an oven window so covered in grease you can barely see inside.

Revel in the mess! It means you served your family and guests well. But don't let the grime linger too long or it could start to have an effect on your range’s performance—and possibly attract unwelcome critters looking to dine on the leftovers. Here’s the how-to from the cleaning pros at Consumer Reports.

Step 1: Clean the Cooktop

If your range has a gas cooktop, start by removing the cast-iron grates and burner covers. Small spills can be removed with hot, soapy water. If the grates and covers are badly stained, slip them into a plastic bag or other sealable container along with a quarter-cup of ammonia, and leave overnight. The strong alkaline is also a mild grease solvent so it will break down the stains, making them easy to remove with soap and water.  

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Warning: Whenever working with ammonia, make sure the area is well-ventilated, and never combine the liquid with chlorine bleach or the mixture will give off dangerous fumes. For good measure, put the bagged burner grates in the garage or an isolated area in your home. 

Wipe the burner top with hot, soapy water and a plastic scrub pad. Stay away from steel wool and abrasive cleaners, which can scratch the surface.

Got an electric smoothtop cooktop? Watch this how-to video on caring for the surface.

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Step 2: Clear the Burner Ports

"If a burner is having problems lighting, it could be due to a clogged ignition port," says Tara Casaregola, who oversees Consumer Report's range tests. "You can clean the port with a wire or a safety pin." Don't use wooden toothpicks or other materials that can break inside the ports. 

"If the burner slots have soil in them, the flame won't be even," she adds. "You can clean around the slots with a toothbrush."  

Step 3: Degrease the Controls

After being pawed for days with food-covered hands, your range controls will be ready for a good wash. Most can be removed and cleaned in the sink with hot, soapy water, or even popped in the dishwasher. Clean the control panel where the knobs sit with a damp—not wet—sponge, being careful not to let any liquid find its way into the electronics.

Step 4: Wipe Down the Oven Interior

Most new ranges have self-cleaning ovens, which Consumer Reports tests by slathering on a mixture of eggs, cheese, cherry pie filling, lard, tomato purée, and tapioca onto the oven cavity, door, and window, then baking it at 425° F for an hour. A majority of the top-rated models in our range ratings scored Very Good or Excellent. But others have a harder time. Also keep in mind that the oven will be out of commission for several hours during the self-clean cycle and your home might take on the smell of burning grime, so it's not ideal if company is on the way. 

You might want to skip the self-clean cycle and wipe down the oven by hand with hot, soapy water and a plastic scrub pad. Cover stuck-on stains with a wet cloth to loosen them, and then hit them again with the scrub pad.

And last, clean the oven door with a sponge or cloth that's damp but not saturated. You don’t want water or cleaning solution to drip down and leave streaks inside the glass, because that might require disassembling the door.

Step 5: Polish the Exterior

Complete the job by wiping down the exterior. For ranges finished in black or white, use soapy water and a sponge. For stainless steel, you’ll get the best streak-free results from a cleaner specially formulated for it, such as Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish. Regular glass cleaner is also effective at removing built-up grime as well as smudges and fingerprints. Whichever cleaner you use, apply it with a soft cloth in the direction of the metal’s grain.  

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