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How Do I Clean Kitchen Cabinets?

Kitchen with hardwood cabinets.
Grime on dirty cabinets can be scrubbed with a baking soda and water mix.
Many household cleaning products leave a sticky residue on cabinets.
Lemon juice can be used to clean kitchen cabinets.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Deborah Ng
  • Revised By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 07 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Cleaning your kitchen cabinets can be a quick, easy task or it can take hours, depending on what kind of shape the cabinets are in. One common problem is that grease, food particles, and smoke can stick to the surface of the cabinets, making them grimy. Since the main culprit is usually grease, it's important to clean kitchen cabinets with products that cut grease but don't create additional buildup. You'll want to choose the best cleanser and consider whether you're going after exterior or interior cabinet grime. Generally, to clean kitchen cabinets, you'll want to start by wiping down the exterior with cleanser; after removing all dishes, food, or other items inside the cabinets, vacuum or sweep dirt from the shelves inside, and then wipe them down as well.

Choose a Cleanser

Dishwashing liquids or mild laundry detergents are effective cleaners for most cabinet materials. To make sure your cleanser isn't too strong, you may want to dilute one part detergent in two parts warm water to make an easy kitchen cleanser. When using laundry detergent, it's a good idea to use one that is specially designed to remove grease and oil.

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You can also use an all-purpose household cleaner to clean kitchen cabinets, but read the label carefully to be sure it won't ruin the finish. It's also a good idea to test the cleaner on a hidden area of one of the cabinets; many commercial household cleaning products leave a sticky residue, and some can cause significant damage to wood finish or paint. Be sure to empty the cabinets before using a harsher detergent or chemical, even on the outside so that your dishes remain protected.

Vinegar is a good, natural, all-purpose cleaner that can clean kitchen cabinets and remove buildup. Try using a solution of half vinegar and half water for cabinets that just need a regular cleaning; to cut through greasy buildup, apply undiluted vinegar. Lemon juice can be used instead of vinegar if you don't like the smell. A paste made of baking soda and water also makes a good natural scrub and helps remove a lot of grime from dirty cabinets.

Exterior Cabinet Cleaning

Clean kitchen cabinets from the outside in by gently scrubbing the exterior surfaces using a sponge or an old washcloth and whichever cleaning solution you choose. Don't use steel wool, scrub brushes, or any other item that can scratch the finish. It's a good idea to start in an inconspicuous area to make sure that your cleaning doesn't damage the cabinet. Once you've started cleaning, pay particular attention to the area around door handles and drawer pulls, as these places tend to be the stickiest. If possible, removing cabinet hardware before cleaning will make it easier to clean these areas.

Interior Cabinet Cleaning

After removing the contents of the cabinet, vacuum, sweep, or wipe up any crumbs or food particles from inside the cabinets. Using a sponge or cloth, use one of the cleaning solutions to clean the shelves, bottom, and sides of the cabinet interior. In some cases, the shelf liners may need to be replaced if they are too dirty or worn. Before putting food or dishes back in the cabinet, make sure you wipe down the interior with a clean, damp cloth and dry it with a towel or washcloth to remove any cleanser residue.

Upkeep

Since kitchens get so much use, cleaning your cabinets on a regular basis can help improve the look — and health — of the space. After a deep cleaning, be sure to give the cabinets a periodic wipe down with warm soapy water in order to keep them looking their best. Cabinets that look dull even after cleaning can be buffed with a furniture wax or polish suitable for their specific materials and finish.

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Discuss this Article

anon241673
Post 20

Sugar Soap removes anything and everything but does not harm the wood. Great for shower tiles where the grout is dirty.

betsyhm
Post 19

The best cabinet cleaner is Parker and Bailey Kitchen Cabinet Creme. If you can't find it at a local hardware store, it can be found at Solutions or Amazon. I first wash my cabinets with Murphy's Oil Soap according to the instructions on their bottle. Then I start in with the Parker and Bailey Kitchen Cabinet Creme using an old cut up bath towel. There's nothing like it!

The second best is a product called Cabinet Magic that can be found at Lowe's or Home Depot. But, your cabinets won't shine as well or have your work last as long. Your wood cabinets will look like they were just installed.

anon123202
Post 18

I did use the dawn dishwashing soap and a sponge with the green backing. Oh my gosh1 My 11 year old cabinets look like new! I wouldn't want to use the scrubby sponge very often but it sure worked to get the buildup off the little routed ledges! I finished up with some lemon oil that I wiped off lightly and I am so delighted! I'm so happy!

anon117208
Post 17

This is the worst advice I've ever heard. Don't try these suggestions on your cabinets. Why on earth would the author suggest using a green scrubbing pad on cabinets? That is much too harsh and will eventually ruin them!

anon106723
Post 16

I used the natural citrus ant spray at base and under edges of oak cabinets and the directions say to leave it on. So I did, but after a few days the ants were gone and wanted to clean off the gunk. Surprise -- it became part of the finish and now I have sticky everything.

What will remove the oily residue without stripping the finish -- or if it does, what can I use to keep the wood from moisture damage until I can afford to refinish the cabinets?

zmiller
Post 15

I just heard that there is another product out there calling itself a rejuvenator. Make sure you only buy The Victorian House Products. They don't have the silicon and wax buildup because they were invented for Antiques and even are used in museums and castles in England.

anon72986
Post 13

Where can i purchase The Victorian House Rejuvenator Finish. Help? It sounds like exactly what i need!

anon66909
Post 12

ok..i just simply used some warm -almost hot water, and a little bit of mr clean..smells great and cleans everything great..after a bit of man power..and its all dry..i used old english...that stuff is a miracle. im not kidding..its messy on your hands/gloves but the end result made my cabinets look like brand new..a lot of people noticed!!

anon36637
Post 11

#9-We own an apt. bldg. and had the same thing happen to us- walls, cabinet,etc. I used warm ammonia water and dish soap, like Joy, Dawn, etc. and used a damp cloth to wipe them down- it was magic, and the water was dark brown when I finished, it really works. I learned this from my mother and remembered she washed walls down using ammonia water. *Good luck.*

npersinger
Post 10

I have new white cabinets and was wondering what cleaning product or products would be best to keep them from turning yellow?

anon32244
Post 9

I had a tenant that smoked for 14 years. Her kitchen cabinets went from light to golden. Is there any way to get it back to it's almost natural color?

maya11008
Post 8

Can someone help me please? My kitchen cabinets are only 4 years old and I just tried using the Rejuvenate Cabinet Restorer and my cabinets are terribly streaky. I have tried 4 applications and they only look worse. I am sick about this. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get the streaks out? They looked better before I even tried this. Thank you so much for your help on this.

zmiller
Post 6

I have tried the fantastic, and citrus oil products and all I get is gum.

Use The Victorian House Finish Rejuvenator to remove the grease and bring back the shine. It takes care of the faded water damage on any wood. Kitchen cabinets and bathroom cabinets are the worst areas to start getting faded out. This product was invented for antiques so I use it on any wood that has buildup or scratches and white faded areas. It's easy to use and you only have to use it once and it lasts for years. Miller

zmiller
Post 5

Cabinets or furniture of any kind has a clear finish, varnish, lacquer, etc. That sticky stuff is buildup and to add to the build up with anything with water or soap is going to make gum (the professional term is *gunk*). The best cleaner and repair for the faded finish is one made of the same kind of oil as the finish--petroleum base oil penetrates into a petroleum base finish. Not lemons or oranges--oil.

anon19984
Post 4

Ok, did you make your one-year-old scrub the cabinet? 13 years later, she's requesting tips on this board.

anon16600
Post 3

How do you repair water damage on oak kitchen cabinets?

anon15508
Post 2

ok um i am 13 years old and my mom left me to do the kitchen cabinets and i can't! i am using the dishwasher thing but it doesn't work well sort of but u have to work like really hard to get the dirty grimy blackish brownish thing of. i am using "fantastik" the only cleaner i can find in the house and well it sort of works but i still can't get the greasy thing off = [

olittlewood
Post 1

i will try these suggestions. i notice that if i use my regular cleaner, it makes the cabinets feel gummy, like the finish is being affected. unfortunately, the previous owners of my house must have used some very harsh cleaners because all my lower cabinets are nearly stripped of their finish. the house is only 13 years old, so it's not like they're very old.

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