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The range is one of the most-used appliances in your kitchen.

Regular and careful cleaning will help it give you years of trouble-free service. Here's how to clean electric and gas ranges or separate ovens and cooktops:Cooktops

-Always turn off a range and let it cool before cleaning it. But remember, it's easiest to wipe up cooking spills and spattered grease while the cooking surface is still warm.

-To avoid scratching exterior surfaces, never use harsh chemicals, oven cleaners or abrasives; a mixture of mild dishwashing detergent and water is best. Use the same mixture to clean food from around and under the surface heating elements and burners.

-On an electric range, the heating elements usually clean themselves. If you spill on one, turn it on "High" to burn off the spill. If any charred material remains, scrape it off with a plastic tool, not a metal one.

Regular gas and electric ovens

-Wipe up spills as soon as possible. Otherwise, they will harden and become more baked-on each time you use the oven.

-Commercial cleaners are effective for a heavily soiled electric or gas oven. Many of these cleaners are very caustic. Follow manufacturers' directions precisely and handle with care.

-Clean oven racks by placing them on an old bath towel in the bathtub and soaking them in a solution of ammonia and hot water.

Self-cleaning ovens

-A self-cleaning oven has a special cleaning cycle that lasts about 1 1/2 hours. During the cycle, the oven temperature rises to nearly 900 degrees. This incinerates spills and splatters. When the cleaning cycle is finished and the oven cools, wipe up the light gray ash that remains with a damp cloth. Refer to the owner's manual for your model and follow the instructions carefully.

-On some models you can put the reflector or burner bowls from the cooktop in the oven to clean them at the same time. However, never try to burn the charred food off pots and pans with the self-cleaning setting. The oven system cannot handle this.

Wipe the frame and the part of the door liner that's outside the oven seal before starting the cleaning cycle. These areas aren't reached during automatic cleaning, but they do get enough heat to bake on the soil, making it harder to remove.

Continuous-cleaning ovens

-A continuous-cleaning (catalytic) oven has a special rough-texture lining that gradually burns off spills and splatters as you use the oven. Because scrubbing or applying oven cleaner will damage the lining, manufacturers usually recommend removing heavy baked-on deposits by running the oven empty at 400 degrees or more. On many ranges, the oven floor and door have a standard porcelain finish that can be cleaned with regular abrasive or caustic cleaners.

Broiler and grill

-For easy broiler cleaning, put a few cups of water in the bottom of the broiler pan before broiling.

-To clean the broiler pan, remove it from the oven before it cools off completely and pour out any drippings. Invert the grid over the pan and pour in strong dishwashing detergent. Then fill the pan with hot water and let it stand for an hour or two or overnight. Scrub later with a steel-wool soap pad. Repeat the process if necessary.

Microwave ovens

-To clean a microwave oven, cover any spill with a damp paper towel, then operate the oven on "high" for 10 seconds. When the oven is cool, wipe it clean.

-Do not use metal tools to scrape up food because they seriously damage the interior of the microwave. Don't use commercial oven cleaners or remove the cover in the top of the oven for cleaning.

-Deodorize your microwave occasionally. With the oven turned off and cold, wash its inside surfaces with a solution of four tablespoons baking soda in one quart warm water.