Overzealous Cleaning Burns Out an Oven


When Robert Ellis, president of Pro Food Equipment Service in Clemmons, N.C., was called out to a fast-causal restaurant for a problem with a double-deck convection oven, he first thought it looked like a pretty easy fix. The customer couldn’t start the oven, which was why they called Ellis. Upon getting to the restaurant, he saw moisture in the oven had gotten to the igniter and starting component. “I was pretty sure the moisture was the problem, and the oven wouldn’t turn on until those parts dried out,” Ellis says.

The immediate solution was to dry things out. Ellis took a towel, dried the components and also blew warm air in the oven to get the bottom oven working. Then, he turned it on to heat up the top oven to dry it out.

The question was, what caused the moisture? “You’re going to get some moisture when cooking, but the oven was fairly new, so the exhaust system and vents should have been working correctly,” Ellis says. He checked over everything, including the seals on the doors, and found it all to be in working order. With the oven back on, he left a satisfied customer—until the next day.

A call came in, and the exact same thing had happened. Ellis returned to the restaurant, and just like the day before, once it was dry the oven started right up.

“I couldn’t figure out what was causing this moisture,” Ellis says. “I talked with the manager each time, but all he said was maybe it’s from the food. We couldn’t figure it out.”

It was on the third day, when Ellis was called back for the same problem, that he found standing water pooled up in the pan of the bottom oven. “This time I knew for sure it wasn’t moisture from the food,” Ellis says. Once everything was dried out it worked fine, and a thorough check found no leaks or seal problems. Luckily this time a different manager was on duty. “I asked him about their cleaning routines, and found out that every night they took a hose to the oven to clean it,” Ellis says. “They were lucky they hadn’t caused a bigger problem. Too much water could have caused the ignition modules and controllers to short out. Then you’d be spending a lot of money to replace those parts, rather than just drying things off.”


The Takeaway

Hosing down equipment might seem like a fast and easy solution to clean up at the end of a shift, but as this customer learned, it’s extremely important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper cleaning techniques.


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