What is the best way to clean my aga?
The answer divides into two parts:
1. aga ON
WARNING: TAKE CARE WHEN WORKING ON OR CLEANING A HOT aga!
Cleaning the vitreous enamel top and front:
By far the best advice is to mop up spills as they happen
. This is best achieved with a damp soapy cloth (a touch of Fairy Liquid on an old flannel or similar is fine) because, for small spillages or splatter, the cloth softens the deposit as it is removed (and the thickness of the flannel gives some limited protection from the heat and retains more moisture than a J-Cloth).
vitreous enamel cleaners or mild cream cleaners such as Cif work well, but the high temperature of the aga top makes this quick work! After cleaning, buff the surface with a dry cloth. If you do not seem to be making progress with a spill, or it is obviously baked on, do not despair - see the section below on cleaning a cold aga.
The flue and the vent cover at its base should be treated the same way as the top and front of the aga and cleaned accordingly.
The chromed lids can be cleaned in the same way. A proprietary chrome cleaner gives a good final finish. The underside of the chromed lid is made of pressed aluminium and dents and scratches easily. It also gets splattered and can look unsightly. A mild cream cleaner on a nylon scouring pad can improve the appearance. But see instructions below on cleaning a cold aga.
Do not experiment! Any acid-based cleaner should be avoided, and fruit juice, milk, vinegar should be cleaned off immediately because they will permanently mark the enamel.
These do not need the traditional form of oven cleaning, because spills are baked to death and can be brushed out hot or cold (take great care though to ensure that you don’t get burnt). Deft work with a tapered vacuum cleaner hose is also effective on cremated remains, providing you do not loiter too long in the hot oven!
The warming oven (bottom left on a 4-door aga) is cool enough to be cleaned with a damp cloth.
2. aga OFF
When your aga is turned off for servicing, you have an ideal opportunity to ‘deep clean’ it. The best advice is to clean and service it yourself immediately
, so that it is ready to relight when a cold snap reoccurs. The techniques are rather different to cleaning a hot aga, so read this guidance carefully. It may sound like refurbishment, and you could reduce the effort expended. But a properly maintained aga – despite daily use and lots of cooking, animals and children – can be kept looking very new. It just takes discipline and technique.
Use an Allen key to unscrew the bolt on the right hand side of each lid hinge. Carefully lift the lids (they are heavy) and the spring assembly and place them safely away from the work area. Next, lift the circular steel rings away from the hot plates. These should be wire brushed, lightly oiled with cooking oil, and placed to one side.
If the lids are hinged on pins, this indicates an older model, and these pins are hard to remove. You might do better to clean the lids in situ, rather than trying to remove them.
The hobs must be attended to in a similar way. First, wipe them clean. Then scrape them with a palette-type knife to remove any lumps of baked food. A paint scraper is just as good. Then rub the surface with a mild emery cloth in a circular motion to clean the surface properly. Vacuum, wipe and dry the surface and then lightly oil it without getting oil on the insulating packing around the edge. (If the surface is badly pitted and obviously corroded – see the section below on Restoring the hob surface
You now have access to a major area of accrued surface splatter.
Start by cleaning the area with a propriety non scratch cleaner such as Cif. Baked on areas will gradually soften (you can lay a damp cloth on them to maintain the damp contact). Try not to spill water into the insulating packing around the hob plates. Methodically work your way around the top surface of the aga. It takes time. You may be tempted to take a knife or more abrasive approach. DO NOT! The maximum leeway you should allow yourself is the use of a nylon pad, but with care because the enamel is softer than it once was. The only real way is patience and elbow grease. But the results can be spectacular.
The edges of the lids are cleaned up in a similar way. The chrome lids can be polished and protected by use of chrome cleaner. As the scratches become painfully clear you will see why indiscipline with the placement of a pot or lid or other implement creates lasting damage. Finally, the aluminium undersides of the lids can be rubbed down with a fine emery cloth to restore their appearance.
Put the plate rings back. Reattach the lids. Ensure the hob and ring surfaces are still lightly oiled because this protects them from rust that can emerge when the lids are left down, due to poor air flow.
Finally, a few words on a very rare
occurrence: SWEEPING THE FLUE.
agas, properly set up and maintained, operate at an impressively high efficiency in the way the oil is burned. There are very few deposits created, and most flues are left untouched for years. Most aga service engineers do not try. But, in case you have had some very sooty experiences, here is what to do: Cover the cool aga top with a layer of newspaper and then an old rug. You can sweep the flue yourself using a flue brush (available from most hardware stores and email order firms) with a very flexible set of connecting shafts. The technique is to remove the flue access panel (which can be sited in a variety of ways), slide the first section of the brush in a short way, place the vacuum cleaner hose just inside it, and then place (or tie) another old rug around the flue to trap the soot and dust into a confined area. Then turn on the vacuum and work the brush up the flue in short circular movements, adding sections, until you reach the cowl. Do not knock the cowl off! For an oil fired aga, there should be very little soot. Slowly withdraw the brush and clean up. But, before you remove the newspaper, vacuum around the overheads above the aga. THEN ENSURE THE FLUE ACCESS IS PROPERLY RESEALED TO ENSURE NO EXHAUST VAPOURS CAN ENTER THE HOUSE.
How do I restore the hob surface?
If the hob surface is badly pitted, corroded or uneven, this is usually caused by the hob covers being left down for lengthy periods with the aga off, when condensation and corrosion can play havoc.
Removing the central hob for cleaning/replacement or refurbishment
READ THIS IN FULL FIRST!
This job is difficult for one simple reason: the hob is a very large piece of iron and is very heavy!
Why would you want to remove it? For replacement, to clean around it, or to refurbish it out of situ. To take it out (obviously the aga needs to be off and cold) remove the circular plate rings (they just lift off), prise clear the heat resistant packing and place it carefully to one side (you may need to buy a bit more to ensure the seal is re-established on return), expose the lifting holes on either side of the hob. On older versions there are no holes but the lip is sufficient. Select a suitable and strong tool to fit snugly into these holes or under the lip, and long enough to give you some leverage (say 12”-18”). Place newspaper around the top to protect the enamelled surface. Select two pieces of wood (about an inch square and six inches long) to act as a pivot for the lifting tool you have selected. Now, when you lever together with these tools, the hob will lift clear and level, and you can then jamb it in the half removed position. TO LIFT IT OUT FULLY, YOU WILL NEED TO PROTECT YOUR BACK BY EMPLOYING PROPER LIFTING TECHNIQUES. PUT CRUDELY, YOU MAY NEED TO CLIMB UP ON YOUR Aga!
Refitting is the reverse but, remember, one slip and you will damage yourself or the beautiful enamel surface you have lovingly maintained for years.
Finally, in this section, if your aga is a much older design which was converted from solid fuel you may have to remove the barrel to get at the burner, not something for the weak.
The hob surface can be restored reasonably easily in situ by using grinding paste and an oilstone or suitably shaped flat piece of steel. But, what ever technique you use, don’t get the paste on the enamel surface!
You will need to purchase the instructions for further TECHNICAL information and answers to questions like:
How often should I service my aga?
What basic checks should I do first?
What does the Fire Valve do?
Does it matter what sort of oil I use?
Why is it hard to get an aga relit?
Why does the oil flow reduce?
Does it matter how the wick is inserted?
Why does my aga make a popping sound?
What does a yellow flame mean?
How does the Control Valve/ Regulator work?
How do I test for the maximum flow rate?
Can I change the thermometer?
What sort of cowl is necessary at the chimney head?
How do I get spare parts?