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Scott, traditional oven cleaner is simply LYE. There are many lye-based cleaners on the market and they are all caustic. They'll take off paint, grease, varnish, any labels, degrade rubber parts, and soften or stain fiberglass if left on too long.
I file lye cleaners under "Nuke 'em!" and try to avoid them.
I'd suggest a bucket of hot water and Liquid Tide laundry detergent. Being a laundry detergent, it isn't caustic and won't eat flesh or rubber parts. But it is strong enough to dissolve Cosmoline, and that's an excellent grease. A scrub brush or toilet bowl brush and a little encouragement, and the engine will be clean. Without collateral damage.
"Brake pad degreaser" spray sold in auto shops, also will strip everything right off. Not caustic since it evaporates so quickly, but not so good ot breath, either.
Whichever you use, you're likely to get some rusting afterwards on any unpainted iron parts, unless you put some type of wax or polish protection on them to replace the grease. Endust, Pledge...anything that's handy, or the rust will surprise you.
Last edited by hellosailor; 05-06-2011 at 03:18 PM.