Pyrolytic vs Catalytic Oven Cleaning – What’s The Difference?
When we talk about pyrolytic or catalytic ovens, we’re talking about the type of self-cleaning function that the ovens have.
We all like the sound of a self-cleaning oven! No one likes cleaning an oven by hand, but understanding the different types will help you choose which one is best for you.
In this post, I’ll explain what pyrolytic and catalytic ovens are, the main differences between them as well as some other common questions about the topic.
Let’s get into it!
In a hurry? Here’s the quick answer:
🔥 Pyrolytic Cleaning: Uses extremely high temperatures to reduce food residues to ash. It requires a dedicated cleaning cycle and offers thorough, chemical-free cleaning.
🧼 Catalytic Cleaning: Features special liners inside the oven that absorb and break down food splatters over time. Cleaning occurs passively during regular cooking, making maintenance simpler and more energy-efficient.
Read on to learn more…
What Is Pyrolytic Cleaning?
Pyrolytic cleaning is an oven self-cleaning process where the oven’s temperature is raised to between 400°C to 500°C (752°F to 932°F), causing any food residues or grease inside to undergo pyrolysis. (You can see where they got the name from!)
This high heat breaks down organic materials into ash, which can easily be wiped away, leaving the oven spotless without the need for manual scrubbing or chemical cleaners.
Now, you might be thinking: why doesn’t this happen during regular cooking?
The answer lies in the temperature. While cooking, the oven rarely reaches the extremely high temperatures required for pyrolysis. The residue left from cooking might char or burn, but they don’t break down fully into ash.
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500ºC! Is that safe?
Don’t worry, when the pyrolytic function is turned on the oven door will lock preventing anyone from accidentally opening the oven and exposing themselves to the extreme temperatures.
Similarly, the door is designed so that the outside doesn’t get too hot. Even when the function has finished, the door will stay locked until it has cooled to a certain temperature that is safe to open.
The pyrolytic cleaning function often takes 1hr 30 – 3 hours to fully complete. This will depend on the cleaning mode selected. (Light/Medium/Heavy)
During this time, it is advised that you have the room well-ventilated. Strong smells are a common feature of this process, as grease and crumbs are burning off inside the oven.
Top Tip: Given that the door will lock and the cleaning process cane take 1-3 hours once activated, make extra sure that you (or your family) don’t turn this setting on if you need to use the oven soon!
Pros of Pyrolytic Cleaning
- High Cleaning Efficiency: Pyrolytic cleaning doesn’t just give your oven a superficial facelift; it dives deep. The elevated temperatures ensure that even the most stubborn, baked-on residues are thoroughly transformed into ash.
This ensures your oven not only looks clean but genuinely is, down to the microscopic level.
- Minimal Manual Intervention: Remember the days of arming yourself with scrubbing brushes, putting in elbow grease, and spending hours to get rid of every speck of grime? With pyrolytic cleaning, those days are history.
Once the cycle is complete, a simple wipe-down is all you need to have an oven that looks brand new. No scrubbing, no sweat!
- Reduces the Need for Chemical Cleaners: Chemical oven cleaners can be abrasive, emit strong fumes, and aren’t always the best choice for the environment. Pyrolytic cleaning eliminates the reliance on these chemicals.
By using just heat, it offers a greener and healthier cleaning solution, making it a win for both the environment and those sensitive to strong cleaning agents.
Cons of Pyrolytic Cleaning
- Higher Energy Consumption: The effectiveness of pyrolytic cleaning has an energy cost. Achieving the temperatures required for pyrolysis means higher electricity usage. This factor is crucial for those mindful of their energy consumption or monthly bills.
- Time-Consuming Process: Pyrolytic cleaning isn’t a quick fix. The process can span 2 to 4 hours, depending on the oven’s condition. So while there’s no elbow grease involved, you do need to plan around not using your oven for a substantial chunk of time.
- Potential for Temporary Odors: Decomposing food residues at high temperatures can produce some distinctive smells. Although they aren’t harmful, they can be unpleasant. Proper kitchen ventilation is advisable during the cleaning cycle to help clear any resultant odours.
- Higher Initial Cost: Pyrolytic ovens generally come with a heftier price tag compared to catalytic models. This is due to the additional engineering required to ensure the oven can safely reach and sustain the high temperatures of the cleaning cycle.
This added complexity in design and manufacturing translates to higher retail prices.
- Preparation Can Be Tedious: Before running a pyrolytic cleaning cycle, some preparation is needed. In many models, this includes removing shelf supports, which can prove to be a fiddly and sometimes challenging task.
The inconvenience might deter some users from running the cleaning cycle as often as they should.
Top Tip: For most ovens, you must remove everything before you start the pyrolytic cleaning function, including trays, racks, and even the sidebars that hold the racks.
What Is Catalytic Cleaning?
Catalytic cleaning involves ovens equipped with special catalytic liners that absorb and break down food splatters and grease. You can recognise a catalytic oven as the liners will be rough to the touch.
As the oven is used and reaches temperatures typically above 200°C (392°F), the liners oxidize these spills, converting them into water vapour and a small amount of carbon dioxide.
Catalytic liners are usually positioned on the oven’s sides, back, or top. Different models will have more or less of the oven’s interior covered. So it’s always good to check how much of the interior has these liners before you purchase one.
Made from a porous material, the liners are treated with a unique chemical coating that has the property of absorbing and oxidizing grease and food splatters.
As you use your oven, it’s inevitable that some food will splatter or spill. Instead of allowing these spills to harden and become a baked-on mess, the catalytic liners get to work.
The catalyst in the liner accelerates the breakdown of these organic compounds, converting them into water vapour and a small amount of carbon dioxide. This process ensures that grease and food particles don’t accumulate over time, reducing the need for frequent deep cleans.
The beauty of catalytic cleaning lies in its passive nature. Unlike pyrolytic cleaning, which requires a specific high-temperature cycle, catalytic cleaning happens in the background during regular cooking.
Which is why they are sometimes known as ‘continuous cleaning’ ovens.
However, it is advised that, if you rarely cook at temperatures above 200°C, once a month you heat the oven to 220°C for 30 minutes to keep the liners in good working order 👍
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Pros Of Catalytic Cleaning
- Energy-Efficient: One of the standout features of catalytic cleaning is its energy efficiency. Since the cleaning process occurs during regular oven use, there’s no need for separate high-temperature cleaning cycles. This means you’re essentially getting two jobs done at once: cooking and cleaning, all while consuming regular amounts of energy.
- Continuous Cleaning Action: With catalytic liners doing their magic every time you cook, there’s a consistent reduction in food splatter accumulation. This continuous cleaning ensures that grime and residue don’t build up as quickly as they would in traditional ovens.
- Odor-Free Process: Unlike some other cleaning methods, catalytic cleaning is almost stealthy. There’s no release of pungent smells or odours, ensuring your kitchen remains fresh and inviting even during the cleaning process.
- No Tedious Oven Prep: Say goodbye to the chore of removing shelf supports or other oven parts before initiating a cleaning cycle. With catalytic cleaning, there’s zero prep work involved. Your oven is always ready to clean as it cooks.
- It’s Quick!: While catalytic cleaning is an ongoing process during regular cooking, if you feel the need to give your oven a more focused cleaning boost, it doesn’t take long. Just set your oven to 220°C, and in a mere 20-30 minutes, the self-cleaning function gets the job done.
This is especially useful for those who don’t often cook at temperatures over 200°C.
- Budget-Friendly Option: When it comes to the wallet, catalytic ovens typically have an edge. They tend to be more affordable than their pyrolytic counterparts, making them a preferred choice for budget-conscious homeowners.
Cons Of Catalytic Cleaning
- Liner Replacements: Over time and with regular use, the catalytic liners might wear out and lose their efficiency. This means, that occasionally, you’ll need to invest in replacement liners, adding to the maintenance cost of your oven.
- Struggles with Heavy Soiling: While catalytic liners are pretty adept at handling regular splatters and spills, they might meet their match with larger spills or heavy soiling. In such instances, the passive cleaning might not be sufficient, requiring some extra attention.
- Manual Cleaning Still on the Cards: Even with catalytic cleaning in play, you might not escape the need for some old-fashioned scrubbing now and then. This especially holds true for areas not covered by the liners or for tougher stains.
- The Sugar Conundrum: Bakers, take note! Catalytic cleaning has a sweet tooth issue. The process isn’t hot enough to tackle sugar spills, which means any sugary concoctions that drip and crystallize in the oven won’t be addressed by the catalytic liners.
It’s a point worth considering if your oven sees its fair share of cakes, pies, or other baked delights.
- Partial Coverage Issues: Not all ovens are created equal. Some might boast catalytic liners only on the sides, leaving surfaces like the top and bottom exposed. This selective protection means that while certain areas enjoy the self-cleaning benefits, others (unprotected regions) would demand manual cleaning.
Pyrolytic vs Catalytic Cleaning Comparison Table
|Time taken for cleaning
|2 to 4 hours for a dedicated cleaning cycle
|Continuous during regular oven use; 20-30 mins for a quick boost at 220°C
|Consumes more energy due to high-temperature cleaning cycles
|Energy-efficient as cleaning happens during regular oven usage
|Removal of shelf supports before cleaning; occasional deep cleaning
|Possible liner replacements; occasional manual cleaning for uncovered areas or tough stains
|Typically more expensive due to advanced engineering
|Generally cheaper than pyrolytic ovens
|Higher energy consumption can lead to a larger carbon footprint
|More energy-efficient, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint
|Coverage inside the oven
|Complete interior exposed to high temperatures
|Partial coverage; some areas may be unprotected
Which Oven is Right for You?
Pyrolytic oven cleaning gives you the best results and requires little to no manual effort. However, the cleaning cycle takes longer and the appliance type is usually more expensive.
Catalytic oven cleaning is quick and easy as it cleans while you cook (if at a high enough temperature) and the appliances tend to be cheaper. However, you don’t get as good of a clean and it will require you to still manually clean the oven.
Personally, if you have the budget and hate cleaning the oven by hand (who doesn’t), go with pyrolytic.
If you are trying to make some savings and don’t mind a bit of oven cleaning now and then, catalytic ovens are still a great option.
There you have it! Pyrolytic vs Catalytic oven cleaning.
Each choice comes with its own set of pros, cons and considerations. That’s why understanding what they are and their differences is crucial to helping you make the best decision for your personal needs.
Pyrolytic or Catalytic, ultimately, both are great options whichever you choose!
Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.