You should not have to replace the element.
You have to be somewhat gentle with it.
I would heat it up with a hair dryer to soften it and then cut off as much as you can with side cutters
Then gently scrape/wipe off the rest.
I do not have a tech sheet for this unit so do not know if you can force the heater on.
The tech sheet may be behind the kick plate.
If it can be forced on then after it is as clean as you can get it do that and then wipe off more of it once most of it is off by the method above.
Use a rag and be careful not to burn yourself.
Do not let it get too hot.
Also it will stink.