These ovens clean themselves by oxidizing (burning off) soils at a high temperature. Wipe up spills promptly to avoid excessive smoke during the cleaning cycle. Especially wipe up spills of sugar (i.e., pie fillings) and other carbohydrates (i.e., casseroles) which become very firmly attached to the surface and sometimes damage the porcelain enamel glaze as they are burned off.
Follow directions in your manual exactly, as oven models and brands vary.
Pre-clean the areas not reached in the self-cleaning cycle: the frame around the oven opening, and the edge of the door outside the gasket. NEVER clean the gasket with anything!
Use hot water and detergent or a paste of baking soda and hot water on difficult spots; rinse well with vinegar water to remove all residue. This prevents the soil from being baked on during the high heat of the cleaning cycle. Re-clean these areas after the cleaning cycle is used.
If your range manual recommends it, you may leave the oven racks in for the cleaning cycle; however, they will discolor, lose their shine, and become hard to slide in and out. If you do leave them in, afterward rub the edges of the racks and of guides on oven walls with soapy steel wool pad, wipe off, and then rub few drops of salad oil on edges for easier sliding. It's probably better to take racks out before cleaning cycle and clean them by hand.
If your range manual recommends it, you may put burner drip bowls in the oven for the self-cleaning cycle; however, high heat will permanently discolor chrome rings into a bluish hue.
If your manual recommends it, you may put a broiler pan in during the self-cleaning cycle, but wipe off all excess grease or it may catch fire.
At end of the cycle and after the oven has cooled down, wipe out the small amount of fine ash left inside with a damp cloth.
NEVER use chemical oven cleaners in a self-cleaning oven. Some residue may remain, and be changed by the high heat into compounds that can etch the porcelain enamel.
This article has been contributed in part by Michigan State University Extension.