Woman with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets and Keep Them Looking Gorgeous

Kitchen cabinets are for storing dishes, not grease. Unfortunately, wood cabinets—painted or natural with a clear finish—are prone to all sorts of grease, grime, and gunk from simply being in the kitchen.

woman-cleaning-supplies-clean-gunk-grime-kitchen cabinets

Depending on just how much grease and grime you’re looking at and the supplies you have available, here are four methods to get those cabinets clean and gorgeous. At least one of these will help to get the job done—plus a Bonus for how to keep them looking that way!

Slightly greasy

Vinegar is not just for making pickles and salad dressing. It has amazing grease-busting, cleaning ability, too. Dampen a clean, dry cloth with undiluted white vinegar and wipe down greasy cabinets. Rinse your cloth with warm water, wring out most of the moisture, and use it to rinse the cabinetry. Dry the damp surfaces with a paper towel, noting any still-sticky spots that need a second attempt. Repeated applications of vinegar may, over time begin to dull the finish. However, occasional use as suggested here, will not be a problem.

Medium greasy, dirty

Apply a few drops of Blue Dawn, into a bowl of warm water. Dip the soft side of a sponge in it. Squeeze the sponge until suds form. The cleaning agents in Dawn absorb grease just as well on kitchen surfaces as they do on dishes. Apply to the dirty cabinet working on a small area at a time, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed. Immediately dry and buff the surface with a clean cloth to prevent streaking.

Sticky, dirty, gunky

Bust through hardened dingy layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda. In a bowl, mix one-part any vegetable oil to two-parts baking soda (example: 1/3 cup oil and 2/3 cup baking soda). Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth, paper towel or your fingers. That ugly, greasy, dirty build-up on the cabinet surface will begin to soften, fall off and begin to disappear. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.

Worst case scenario

This is a heavy-duty, industrial-strength solution. Use it on the toughest, most stubborn grease and grime, knowing that depending on the age and condition o that cabinet, it could remove a layer of the finish (which can be reapplied)—we’re talking worst-case scenario.

Mix equal parts of paint thinner (not mineral spirits, not lacquer thinner—paint thinner!) and full-strength Murphy Oil Soap. Apply with a sponge or paintbrush. Wipe the solution away with a rag to clear the dirt; you’ll likely remove a thin layer of varnish or shellac, because the grime may have melded with it. Considering the alternative of living with the dirty cabinets, I’d go with clean and a slightly less finish. As always, test first in an inconspicuous place.

Bonus: Wood Polish and Conditioner

Following rigorous cleaning, wood cabinets are thirsty for moisture and protection. But you want to be careful that you don’t make matters worse by using something that will create a new kind of build-up that becomes a magnet to kitchen grease and grime!

You won’t find a better product to do that than Howard Feed-n-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. It contains beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil to keep the wood from drying out, while at the same time repelling kitchen grease. Fantastic for all of the wood surfaces in your home—not only kitchen cabinets.

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12 replies
  1. Martha says:

    My range hood is greasy & fuzzy! The wood has clear shelac (I think that’s what it is). I tried a commercial cleaner (Orange Power) and it took the finish off. Which of your methods would you consider to be the best for my situation?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Try this: Make a paste of coconut oil and baking soda. Use your fingers to rub and work this into that fuzzy (?!!)k wood hood. It will begin to drop off so place a towel or something below it. If you see the residue falling off appears dark and dirty … Bingo! Continue until its clean. Now buff well with a clean soft cloth.

      Reply
  2. Mary Hunt says:

    A weak water/Blue Dawn solution is what I advise—fill a spray bottle with water and add 5-10 drops Blue Dawn. As always, test in an inconspiculous place first, just to be sure. Blue Dawn is awesome, and I’ve never had an occurrence where it damaged any surface. Still, test. Please.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      A weak water/Blue Dawn solution is what I advise—fill a spray bottle with water and add 5-10 drops Blue Dawn. As always, test in an inconspiculous place first, just to be sure. Blue Dawn is awesome, and I’ve never had an occurrence where it damaged any surface. Still, test. Please.

      Reply
  3. Mary Riethmiller says:

    I have non wood cabinets with a plastic type bonded to the wood of the original cabinets. I don’t know what they call it – it might be formica. Nothing seems to get the grease off of the cabinets. Will any of these work for that type of surface. Anything you can tell me will be a help!!! Thank you for all of your “hints”. I read them all the time and forward to friends and relatives that I think that they will help.
    Thanks again, Mary. What a lovely first name. I am named for my maternal grandmother. What about you?
    Mary

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’d start with a weak solution of Blue Dawn and water—fill a spray bottle with water and add 5-10 drops Blue Dawn. That’s very mild, but will do wonders against grease. Always test in an inconspicuous place first. If I was named after anyone, I was never told 🙂

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Give it a try on the inside in an inconspicuous place first! You want to know how your particular surface will respond.

      Reply
  4. Faylinn Byrne says:

    My husband loved this article, especially the part where you talked about how important it is to have a white clean cloth and some vinegar to make sure you can clean your kitchen cabinets, and also disinfect them. We are building our first home, and we are trying to design the kitchen and what we want it to look and feel like. Since he loves to cook more than I do, he is in charge of cleaning as well, and we are trying to make sure we do not overexert ourselves in this area.

    Reply
  5. Beck says:

    Howard’s Feed and Wax is outstanding!! It was a little hard to find I think I had to buy it at a hardware store but so worth it!! Thanks Mary!!

    Reply

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