A little girl standing in a kitchen

How to Deep-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.

Rear view of standing brunette ready to clean the kitchen with yellow gloves

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.

  1. Dampen a clean, dry cloth with undiluted white vinegar and wipe down greasy cabinets.
  2. Rinse your cloth with warm water, wring out most of the moisture, and use it to rinse the cabinetry.
  3. 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

The cleaning agents in Blue Dawn absorb grease just as well on kitchen surfaces as they do on dishes.

  1. Add a teaspoon or two Blue Dawn to a bowl of warm water.
  2. Dip the soft side of a sponge in it. Squeeze the sponge until suds form.
  3. Apply to the dirty cabinet working on a small area at a time, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed.
  4. 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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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 of that cabinet, it could remove a layer of the finish (which can be reapplied). We’re talking worst case scenario.

  1. Mix equal parts of paint thinner (not mineral spirits, not lacquer thinner—only paint thinner!) and full-strength Murphy Oil Soap.
  2. Using a sponge or paintbrush, wipe the solution away with a rag to clear the dirt. You will 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 modified 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.


Updated Re-published 6-11-22


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  1. Patti T says:

    Our leather furniture looks terrible on the arms and the ottoman, anywhere that has consistent contact with our hands/arms/feet. We were told to just wipe with a damp cloth to clean the leather when we bought it. Well that didn’t work and we are fighting with the warranty company because they don’t want to fix it. What can I do to remove this buildup? Thank you.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Patti … click on the search icon (round, blue) on the lower right corner of any page on this site. Type in “leather.” You’ll find at least six posts that respond to your situation. Hope that helps!

  2. Jenny says:

    Although I make most of my of cleaning solutions, thanks to Mary for many, not only to save money but to avoid triggering migraines, there’s one I buy that dissolves grease, saves time and doesn’t trigger: Krud Kutter. It works on glass ware, stoves and hoods, cabinets, vent filters, you name it, and it’s available locally at home improvement centers; a smaller one even began carrying it at my request.

  3. Cally Ross says:

    I plan to paint my cabinets after a thorough cleaning, stripping some of the varnish would be helpful for the paint to stick. Thanks for the info!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      That would be considered a clear finish, so these methods are ideal. However … ALWAYS test first in an inconspicuous place to see how your exact situation reacts.

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