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How dangerous is oven cleaner?


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12 replies to this topic

#1 skyhskyh

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:23 PM

Hi all,

How dangerous is oven cleaners? I read on the label, it has corrosive sticker with number "8"

Is it appropriate for kitchen staff to use it? The boss asked some kitchen staff to use it for plates that are becoming too dirty overtime, is it illegal to do so?

Or am i just making it too big of a deal myself?

Thanks

Ps yes we can wear gloves....

#2 Mjx

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 12:00 AM

In terms of risk, there is no way of actually knowing exactly, without knowing the formulation of the oven cleaner, but there should be plenty of information about that only. The ones I've used definitely were only to be used in well-ventilated areas, with skin well-protected from it.

Using it on plates sounds wrong, oven cleaner isn't designed for that use, and generally, when plates can't be cleaned, even by scrubbing, there's a chance that the glaze is thin, and I can't even imagine what oven cleaner would do to that.

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#3 skyhskyh

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 05:24 AM

It does indeed can clean plate quite well, i amnrefering to some plates which havent been properly eashed for long time

But i am not concern whether it cleans plate good or bad...

I am only concern and would like to know how dangeours is it...

And is it supposed to be for restaurant people to use or it is only for "cleaning companies" to use?

If it really is unsafe and not supppsed to be for kitchen staff to use, may be next time i will politely execute my rights and refuse to do it.

#4 Mjx

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 05:39 AM

Without knowing what you are using, it is impossible to know whether it is something that is intended for use by a specific group of professionals, or for consumers.

Your best best is to look this up online. Go to google or something, and input 'name of product' and 'safety'.

I have no doubt oven cleaner does a great job on gunked up dishes, but I'd guess there's a fair chance that it's also damaging the surfaces, so that each time they're cleaned this way, things stick to them and they stain more easily, afterwards

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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#5 David A. Goldfarb

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 05:41 AM

Oven cleaner is usually a foaming lye spray. It won't damage stainless steel, glass, or glazed ceramics like your plates, and it's fine on enameled cast iron. It will oxidize copper quite heavily.

Lye turns fat into soap, so it's great for polymerized grease, but you don't want to get it on your skin or in your eyes. Gloves are a necessity, and eye protection is a good idea.

#6 Mjx

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 05:54 AM

Oven cleaner is usually a foaming lye spray. It won't damage stainless steel, glass, or glazed ceramics like your plates. . . .


It shouldn't damage glazed ceramics, but thin/low-fired glazes (often seen on cheaper ceramic-ware) do tend to be a lot more vulnerable to pitting and erosion.

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#7 Snadra

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 07:20 AM

Oven cleaner would almost certainly be classified as a hazardous chemical and so should be listed in your workplace's hazardous materials register. In NSW (Workcover) this means that it must not only be correctly stored and labelled, but also that your employer must provide you with clear guidelines and any necessary training in its safe use as well as any required safety equipment, according to the material safety data sheet for the chemical. The legislation should be similar in Victoria (WorkSafe).

If you have concerns about safety practices In your workplace, you really should contact WorkSafe.

#8 haresfur

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 03:21 PM

I won't get into the legalities, and I certainly wouldn't hesitate on using oven cleaner at home if I had to. Lye (sodium hydroxide) and other strong base/caustic/high pH chemicals are IMO more dangerous than acids and particularly dangerous to eyes. Not something to joke around with but safe enough if used properly. You are right to ask questions. When I was using sodium hydroxide in large quantities in an industrial setting the emphasis was on eye and skin protection.

On a side note, sodium hydroxide dissolves aluminium.
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#9 ChrisZ

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 04:19 PM

Just to emphasise everything that Haresfur said - most spray on oven cleaners use caustic soda (aka sodium hydroxide / aka lye) as the main active ingredient.
As I noted in the dishwasher thread, this is also the main active ingredient in dishwashing powder. Dishwashing powder and tablets have always been one of the top causes of household poisonings.
When I worked at Coles we'd use cans of oven cleaner (just Mr Muscle, off the shelf) to clean the bakery oven glass every week. No-one liked the job, and we always wore rubber gloves, but it never to occurred to us that we might have the right to refuse doing it.
Have you looked at the website for the company that manufactures the stuff you're using? They might have guidelines and warnings there.

#10 Karri

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 05:48 PM

Hey skyhskyh,

First off: oven cleaner be it black, orange or green, the color or what it is made of is irrelevant; the fact is it is a heavy duty cleaning chemical. I have worked with many different kinds, currently I'm cleaning with ovencleaner from a company called Johnson Diversey. I have worked in Africa and Europe, and all the places I have ever worked, cleaner manufacturing companies are by law required to provide their clients with 'Material Safety Data Sheets' or MSDSs. This is a chart that shows you all of the active components, the steps to be made for a safe application, the no-nos, etc.
Now I would advise against contacting your local authorities about possible unsafe working conditions, even though it might be the right thing to do, from experience I can tell you, you will not end out as 'the good guy'.

I know a lady who worked as a sculler for 30 odd years in Africa, and she was unaware, or she didn't care about how strong oven cleaner is, and she used it without the mask, without gloves, without eye protection, she would just splash it in the oven, on the hot stove, etc. She was about 60 when I met her, and she was black all over else but her arms had started to fade and she was told by the doctor that she had permanently scarred her lungs with the chemicals she worked with. I learned then to use a mask and wear gloves, and not those latex examination gloves, but real thick ones that go up to the elbows.

The most dangerous thing about the oven cleaner are the fumes, when you splash it on a hot stove to get the dirt out, or spray it in a hot oven, it starts to vaporize, and inhaling this is extremely dangerous. If you get it on your arms, it will start tickling, and then it will start hurting, and after you wash it off you will notice a rash forming, but it will disappear in a day or two.

Do you work in a hotel? It is common practice for the maintenance department to keep all MSDSs on record. And if your company does not have them, it is considered a severe health hazard for the employees. And usually a violation of work safety statutes.

I would agree with mjx, that ovencleaner to clean plates seems a bit like overkill. And from ovencleaner you can always feel a residual 'slipperiness' on the surface, which you need to scrub off with clean water.

Secondly, What type of dirt is accumulating on the plates? -If it is burning on from the plate warmer or if you keep your plates hot under the pass, I can tell you by experience that stuff will not come off.

Thirdly, we used to clean tea pots by soaking them in nearly boiling water that had vinegar in it. Anyone who owns a ceramic tea pot knows the dark layer that starts forming inside, and can imagine what it will look like with 100 uses a day after a month. What we did was we put all the teapots in a tilting pan in the kitchen, we poured in a few bottles of vinegar, covered with water and brought up to slightly below boiling point. Kept there for 2 hours and after we took them out, the dirt came off with a paper towel, without damaging the ceramic one bit.
The perfect vichyssoise is served hot and made with equal parts of butter to potato.

#11 skyhskyh

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 08:04 PM

Thanks...

My intention is not just bring down the company or sue them or anything if it really has unsafe practises.

My main reason is want to:
1. Protect my health! And any health issues i might have accumulate by doing the "could be dangerous" activities
2. If i do find out it is truely unsafe, i will refuse to do it because it is the right thing to do.

Now... Thanks for the input and info, i guess the steps i need to take now in order to determine is it safe to use it:

1. Look up google, for the company name and find its msds?
(not sure whether i should ask the restaurant to give me, it may imply i am planning / thinking something bad, etc)

2. If the msds or whatever states require gloves, try not to inhale, be careful not to get in the eyes, ... Does this mean as long as if i use gloves, be careful not to get in my eyes, ... Then i am "safe" to use it?

...

Another thing is:
I am still curious whether it is common that restaurant staff need to use these strong chemicals to clean ovens, canopies..?

I want to know because first:
- i wonder if this company is just doing normal common thing or i am just too sensitive about these...making too big of a deal out of this
- secondly, i do plan to open my own in future some years later, so i should budget for this if it is common practise to actually get cleaning professionls to do it rather than do ourselves

Thanks

#12 Snadra

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 08:45 PM

I just want to reiterate, you really should contact Worksafe. This is not about dobbing in your company (and contacting them does not require you to dob them in) but about checking whether the task you are being asked to do and the way you are asked to do it meets local safety guidelines. You can get advice on how to do the task safely from a source that will be more reliable than a google search. I cannot speak to other countries, but here WorkSafe/Workcover are there to assist you and help keep you safe first and foremost.

#13 Karri

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 04:01 AM

I use oven cleaner to wash the oven in the kitchen every night, I use all the equipment when I use it. It comes down to your contract, is it stipulated? Are you part of regular cleaning activities, or however it is worded?

It is a cleaning chemical, and as long as you follow the safety guidelines, you will be safe, as long as you don't, you know, hold the bottle the wrong way around and squirt it in your mouth by accident.

And this I have noticed is two-way, it is either scullers or the cooks who clean the ovens. Depending on the restaurant.
The perfect vichyssoise is served hot and made with equal parts of butter to potato.