How To Clean Kitchen Cabinets

how to clean kitchen cabinets

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When it comes to your kitchen cabinets, it can be hard to know how to keep them clean. Different cabinets are made out of different woods and materials – some are also painted or laminated. The type of wood cabinets and the type of stain can determine the cleaning method you need to use.

It can get a little confusing!

There is some good news though – you don’t always need fancy wood cleaners and cleaning products for your wood cabinets. With a few simple household items like vinegar and baking soda, you can get those cabinet surfaces sparkling in no time.

So, without further ado, here we present 7 methods for washing kitchen cabinets, as well as some general cabinet-cleaning tips!

7 Methods For Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

If you’re working with an unusual wood type or a painted/laminated surface, look into specific cleaning instructions for your specific kitchen cabinets type (we don’t want scratches!)

For most everyday kitchen cabinets, these 7 methods will do the trick!

1. Hot Water and Dish Soap

Sometimes you just need a simple cleaning method, and this is the one. If you’ve got dirty kitchen cabinets but they’re not THAT dirty, then a combination of hot water and dish soap should do the trick.

You’ll need:

  • Hot water
  • Dish soap (such as Dawn)

Start by mixing the ingredients together in a small bowl, around 95% water to 5% dish soap. Make sure you use a relatively mild detergent and feel free to make bubbles if you’ve got soft water.

Use a soft cloth and soak it in the soapy solution, gently wiping down your kitchen cabinets a few times to remove all the built-up grease, grime, and food particles.

Once you’ve cleaned, consider going over with plain water and then dry the surface with a paper towel or dry cloth.

2. White Vinegar and Warm Water Spray

In case you didn’t know, vinegar is a really good ingredient when you need to clean kitchen cabinets, glass windows, and various other things on a budget.

You’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray Bottle

Mix vinegar and water in the bottle at a ratio of around 50-50. Squirt the solution onto your kitchen cabinets and allow it to sit for a few minutes before wiping it off with a clean cloth.

Use a soft cloth or paper towel to dry the cabinet surfaces after, getting rid of any vinegary smell that’s left over.

Also, some people like to add a few drops of Dawn to the mixture to give it a little extra power. This might be a good idea if you’re dealing with grease and grunge.

3. Toothpaste, Baking Soda & Warm Water

This is an unusual one that uses a few different household items to great effect.

You’ll need:

  • Toothpaste
  • Baking Soda
  • Water

Use around 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of toothpaste, and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Combine all of this in a small bowl and mix it together.

When mixed together, dip a cloth into the solution and use it to scrub areas of the cabinets that need a little more abrasive action to get the dirt off.

4. White Vinegar and Salt Paste (Good for Stains)

When you think of salt and vinegar, you might think of fish and chips or potato chips, but this combination of classic British condiments also makes for a great cabinet cleaner.

You will need:

  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Old toothbrush

Combine a small amount of vinegar and salt in a mug or small bowl. Adjust the ratio until the two form a paste. Dip an old toothbrush into the paste and use it to scrub areas of your kitchen cabinets that are stained.

When you’re done, rinse the paste off with clean water and then use a soft cloth to dry off the surface.

5. Olive Oil, Vinegar & Water (for Wood Cabinets)

Olive oil is sometimes used for cleaning wood cabinets because it’s a non-drying oil that makes the wood look nice and hydrated. However, it’s still a non-drying oil, so use this with caution as it can lead to problems with bacteria growth in the long term.

You will need:

  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Sprayer bottle

Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 5 tablespoons of vinegar, and then fill the rest of the bottle with warm water. Shake the mixture well before each squirt, as the oil and water won’t mix easily.

Spray onto an already-clean cabinet door (made from wood) and then gently buff into the surface with a micro cloth. Use gentle circular strokes to really work the mixture into the wood, penetrating the surface.

This is great for polishing wood cabinets on a budget, but you should consider a wood polishing product if possible.

6. Orange Oil Wood Cleaner

Orange oil cleaner can be bought online or in your local superstore – it’s designed for cleaning wood and it usually comes in an orange sprayer bottle.

Apply this product to your empty kitchen cabinets liberally, then allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes once applied.

This way, the product has time to melt away all that built-up grease and unwanted food drips.

This product is one of the easiest ways to get your kitchen cabinets looking as good as new without spending a ton of money.

7. Brazilian Carnauba Wax

Look for a cleaning product that has Carnauba Wax listed as one of the main ingredients. This wax is often found in car waxing product lines, so you might be able to double up by using car wax on your cabinets.

We all love to save money!

After cleaning and drying the cabinets, simply apply the wax product using a cloth and buff it out in circular motions, making sure to get rid of any excess. Once you’re done, the wood in your kitchen cabinets will boast an undeniable shine.

This product is great but it needs to be used on surfaces that are ALREADY CLEAN – don’t leave any drips or food particles in the way before polishing your kitchen cabinets with this stuff!

8 Tips for Kitchen Cabinet Cleaning

While there are many different methods for cleaning cabinets in your kitchen, there are also lots of little tips and tricks to help make the process more effective. Here are some tips for cleaning your kitchen cabinets!

Buy a Microfiber Cloth

When it comes to cleaning products, you can’t try to be cheap with your cloths. A soft cloth is essential when you need to wipe down the wooden surfaces with a damp cloth, and a microfiber cloth is great for drying and polishing the wooden cabinets after cleaning.

Try to have more than one clean cloth on hand when cleaning your cabinetry – a cloth for cleaning products, a cloth for rinsing, and a dry cloth for polishing!

Keep water out of the cabinet door hinges!

The hinges on kitchen cabinets can get full of grease and grime over time, but you should try to keep them dry if possible. Don’t let your spray bottle accidentally soak the hinges, as damp metal can encourage rusting and other problems in the future.

We don’t want that.

If the hinges on your cabinet doors are particularly dirty, put a small amount of cleaning solution directly onto your cloth and then carefully spot-clean the hinges and dry them THOROUGHLY.

You don’t want to risk leaving the metal damp or wet.

Rinse cabinets to remove cleaning products

After you clean wood cabinets with some kind of cleaning solution, it’s important to wipe away the solution and then use a fresh, clean cloth and some lukewarm water to rinse over the clean wood. This helps to remove the wood cleaner and any small food particles that may be hard to see.

Remember, clean means “nothing”, not “a cabinet full of dried-in dish soap”.

Leaving a layer of cleaning products inside your kitchen cabinets is almost as bad as leaving them dirty – use water to remove ALL grime, grease, and cleaning products from the wood, leaving it clean.

Truly clean.

Dry the cabinets quickly (don’t let them soak!)

On a similar note, don’t allow your wooden cabinets to be soaked in water for too long. Some homeowners think that they should let their cabinet “soak” in a water-based cleaning product solution for a while to help clean greasy stains.

This is a bad idea.

The longer you leave a water-based mixture on your cabinet surfaces, the more likely it is to seep into the wood and start to cause rot down the line. You can also have problems with mold and mildew developing due to wooden cabinets left damp with water for too long.

Use a clean, dry cloth to dry the cabinets quickly. Make sure they’re not damp before you put everyday home items back inside.

Try an old toothbrush for hard-to-reach spots

Got a spot of grease on your wood cabinets that is refusing to go away?

If your soft cloths are no longer doing the trick, it may be time to break out an old discarded toothbrush, scrub brush, or nylon pad.

Scrub brushes and nylon pads work better on large areas in wood kitchen cabinets, whereas a discarded toothbrush is better for getting a hard-to-reach spot, such as the back corners, the hinges, or spots in between the cabinet door and the frame.

Very handy.

If you happen to have an old electric toothbrush lying around, even better! These moving toothbrushes take the elbow grease out of the equation for you, making it easy to just turn the brush on and let the rotating head do all the work on that tough greasy spot!

Use baking soda paste on tough cabinet grease

Get a cup or small bowl and try mixing 1 part baking soda to 2 parts water.

This forms a paste that can be very effective at removing tough kitchen grease and grime stains that simply won’t go away. Leave the paste on top of the affected area for a few minutes, then wipe it away with a new cloth and clean water.

Most of the time, the baking soda will successfully absorb the stain. This can be a lifesaver when vinegar, wood soap, oil soap, or wood cleaner sprays haven’t fully removed a grease layer.

Deep clean your kitchen cabinets every 6 months

Even with regular kitchen cleaning, there will slowly be a buildup of grease and grime that we can’t see in kitchen cabinets, as well as other things like dust accumulating on top of your wall kitchen cabinets. Long-term dirt buildup can quickly ruin the feel of your kitchen if you’re not careful.

This is why periodic deep cleaning is so important!

Every 6 months or so, take out all of your products, dishes, and appliances from your wood cabinets and give them a thorough deep clean. This is the time to ditch the soft cloth and really get in there with scrubbers and slightly more abrasive cleaners (if it’s safe to do so).

Be sure to get on top of wall cabinets to clean off any dust that has accumulated. Also, don’t forget to try and clean hard-to-reach areas like hinges, back corners, and any intricate carvings or edge in wood cabinets, for example.

Wear rubber gloves

It’s common sense to many people, but you should really wear rubber gloves when cleaning kitchen cabinets, especially if you’re using a mixture with lots of harsh or abrasive chemicals.

Dish soap is for grease stains, not your skin!

Cleaning kitchen cabinets without wearing rubber gloves can dry your skin out and aggregate conditions such as eczema and sensitive skin – always use protection.

Be extra careful with painted cabinets

While you might not think about it, cabinet doors adorned with paint or laminate are a little more sensitive than their 100% pure wood equivalents. Sanding, scrubbing, or using abrasive cleaners on painted wood cabinets could actually remove the finish, giving you a big problem.

Be careful cleaning painted cabinet doors!

If you’ve got difficult grime and grease stains on painted wood surfaces, look for non-abrasive cleaning methods such as the baking soda and water paste we mentioned earlier. This can help remove tough stains without the need for dangerous scrubbing.

Bottom Line – Cleaning Wood Cabinets Isn’t Easy!

Cleaning your kitchen cabinets isn’t easy at the best of times, and it’s made even more difficult if you’re dealing with tough grease, grime, and dried-in stains.

To add to that, if your cabinet surfaces are painted, laminated, or otherwise sensitive to certain types of cleaning, then you’ve got a whole other set of considerations to take into account too.

Washing wood isn’t always easy!

Still, hopefully our list of cabinet cleaning methods and everyday tips can help to keep the wood in your kitchen looking great for years to come. Whichever one of these methods you decide to try, we hope you found the way that works for your home!

Good luck!

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