Woman with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

How to Clean Gunk and Grime from Kitchen Cabinets

Got grimy kitchen cabinets? Don’t think you’re the only one. 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 with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

Depending on just how much grease and grime you’re looking at and the supplies you have available, there are several options to clean kitchen cabinets. At least one should help to get the job done—plus one final suggestion for how to keep your clean cabinets looking gorgeous!

Blue Dawn

Apply a few drops of concentrated dish liquid like 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 kitchen cabinet, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed. Immediately dry the surfaces with a clean cloth to prevent streaking.

Kitchen gunk remover

Bust through hardened, dingy layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda. Mix one-part any vegetable oil to two-parts baking soda. Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth or paper towel. That ugly, greasy, dirty build-up on cabinets will begin to soften and start to disappear. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.

White vinegar

Vinegar is not just for making pickles or drizzling over French fries. It has grease-busting, cleaning ability. 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, but note any still-sticky spots that need a second attempt.

Caution: Vinegar should be used only occasionally, to remove greasy grime, not for maintenance. Its acidic nature may, over time, begin to dull the surface.

 

Woman with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

Soap and paint thinner

This is a heavy-duty, industrial strength solution. Use it on the toughest, most stubborn grease and grime, knowing that it could remove a layer of the finish. Mix equal parts of paint thinner and mild soap, such as 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.

Wood polish and conditioner

After 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’s 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.

CAUTION: Before attempting to use any of these options on any wood surface—painted or natural—test first in an inconspicuous place so you know how the method of cleaning will react.

First published: 3-26-17; Updated with new info and photo credit 5-19-19

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4 replies
  1. Andie Weber Clark
    Andie Weber Clark says:

    I have used the homemade glass cleaner I learned about from you years ago on my cabinets and it works well with the combination of Dawn and vinegar! I use it on painted cabinets, walls, baseboards, etc. It’s my go to for many cleaning tasks!

    Reply
    • Meridee Thompson
      Meridee Thompson says:

      Tried the baking soda and veg oil to no avail. My cabinets are 17 years old, made of hickory. When I deep clean the gunk off the drawers the finish comes off with the dirt. Not happy.

      Reply

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