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Does Maytag's low-heat, self-cleaning oven get the job done?

Consumer Reports News: June 06, 2012 04:16 PM

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Quicker oven self-cleaning with less heat and no odor is the promise behind Whirlpool's new AquaLift oven-cleaning technology, which just debuted on several of the company's Maytag-brand ranges. But dismal results helped push five Maytag models with AquaLift down in the rankings in Consumer Reports' latest range tests.

The typical oven self-cleaning cycle takes three to six hours, up to 800 degrees F, and lots of smoke and stench to do the job. According to Whirlpool, the AquaLift system uses water and low heat (about 200 degrees F) to activate a proprietary oven coating, allowing moisture to release tough baked-on messes in roughly 40 minutes.

Whirlpool recommends removing racks and other accessories as well as any excess grime. Then you pour filtered or distilled water (two cups for electric, 1 ¾ cups for gas) onto the bottom of the oven, close the door, and start the cycle. Forty minutes later, including cool-down time, you remove the residual water and loosened food with a sponge or cloth and are supposedly good to go.

Of the more than 100 self-cleaning ranges we've tested, the only ranges to score poor in oven cleaning were five Maytag models with AquaLift. They were electric smoothtops Maytag MER8674AS, $770, and MER8880AS, $1,100; an induction range MIR8890AS, $1,650, and gas ranges, MGR8880AS, $1,100 and MGR8674AS, $800.

AquaLift didn't create any noticeable odors and much of the soil that was submersed in the water on the oven floor was easily wiped away, but when we used a sponge to wipe the oven interior, only a little debris came off the walls, door and oven window. Manual cleaning isn't part of our standard self-cleaning oven tests, but we got out the plastic scraper and scrub sponge that come in the AquaLift oven cleaning kit. It took some effort, but we removed quite a bit of the window soil with the scraper, though very little came off the walls—and that was after running multiple cycles.

Our take: While AquaLift can effectively clean the oven floor, where spills are likely to occur, if your style of cooking produces a lot of splatter and grease on the walls and window, you may need to run more than one cycle or clean the oven manually. Resorting to an oven cleaner or other chemicals may damage the porcelain surface, according to the owner's manual.

Self-cleaning ovens have been around for nearly 50 years and yet cleaning an oven is still a hot, smelly, time-consuming affair. And for now, it seems, that's as good as it gets.

Kimberly Janeway

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