a woman wearing yellow gloves cleaning white cabinets with a spray bottle

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets

By Cabinets Direct USA  on  May 2, 2024
cleaning kitchen cabinets


When cleaning the kitchen, cabinets are almost always an afterthought, if they are remembered at all! Most people clean their sinks, counters, floors, and appliances, but often forget to wipe down their cabinets. Cabinets require regular attention and upkeep since they hold our silverware, dishes, and serving materials. The outside of cabinets also happen to catch a lot of dust, grease, splatters from cooking, and fingerprints. While cleaning cabinets is often overlooked, it’s an easy task. When cleaning your cabinets, be careful to use the right products that will work with the materials that your cabinets are made of.

Cleaning Different Cabinet Materials

Depending on the material used and different stains or splotches on your cabinets, various cleaning supplies are needed. While certain spills require special clean-up, some household items you may already have lying around. Detergent, vinegar, baking soda, and all-purpose cleaner can be mixed with water when needed for a quick clean. Test the chosen supplies on a small, not easily seen area before moving to more noticeable sections to avoid ruining the finish or color.

How to Clean Solid Wood

Solid wood is the most common material used for cabinets. It’s common because it has so many premium qualities such as longevity, durability, solidity, and each piece’s natural, uniqueness. Common types of solid wood used for cabinets are alder, cherry. hickory, walnut, white oak, maple, red oak, and poplar. Solid wood cabinets can often be high maintenance and need both sanding and priming when being finished. When choosing a cleaning material, make sure to use a gentle cleaner that will not damage the finish of your solid wood cabinets.

In many cases, most spills can be wiped off wooden cabinets with a damp paper towel. For areas that accumulate large amounts of oil or grease, homeowners can use any grease-cutting dish or laundry detergent mixed with water. A good rule of thumb when mixing is to pour two cups of water with every cup of detergent.  If you don’t have liquid-based detergents, vinegar and water or baking soda and water can help remove layered grime. Similar to liquid detergents, pour the mix with a 2:1 ratio.

To protect your cabinets, the best way to clean wood is to use an oil-soap wood cleaner. Available in most hardware stores, this relatively cheap wood soap will scrub away the mess without affecting the color of the wood.

How to Clean Wood Veneers

Wood veneers are a popular choice among homeowners as a beautiful, solid wood appearance can be achieved for a lower cost. Wood veneers are composed of a fine piece of solid hardwood, attached to other common cabinet materials to create wood-like panels. While wood veneers are often resistant to warping, they can be subject to water damage. Due to this quality, choose a cleaning agent that works best when applied to cloth first, rather than applying it directly to the cabinet. Also, make sure to not oversaturate your cleaning towels when wiping down your cabinetry. 

How to Clean Painted

Painted cabinet clean-up varies depending on the type of base used in the paint. On one hand, oil-based paints are much more durable than just wood alone. Its finish adds a layer of protective coating allowing it to take a good scrubbing without warping. Any of the DIY home solutions mentioned above work well on oil-based paints as well. When it comes to water-based paints, use caution when scrubbing. Avoid using baking soda as the paste may scratch the surface. Warm water and a non-abrasive all-purpose cleaner work best for water-based paints.

How to Clean Plywood

Another common material used in cabinetry is plywood. Plywood is made up of layers of very thinly sliced pieces of wood. These pieces get layered in opposite directions, bonded together, and then covered with wooden veneer for a more decorative look. While plywood is very cost-effective for homeowners, it is not very strong or durable and it may split easily. When choosing a cleaning solution, choose one without harsh or damaging chemicals to avoid this.

How to Clean High-Density Fiberboard (HDF)

High-density fiberboard (HDF) is a man-made wood variant that is made of resin, glue, and wooden fibers. HDF is extremely hard and dense but costs less than materials like plywood. While HDF is stable and dense, it can be easily damaged by water and it does not have a long lifespan. For HDF cabinets, take care not to let water pool in the interiors, and you’ll want to make sure they are fully-aired out after finishing cleaning.

How to Clean Metal

With the exception of water mixed with baking soda, most cleaners will remove dirt and stains from metal cabinets. Catching the mess when it happens as opposed to cleaning after it has set prevents unwanted discoloration. Wiping the surface dry after cleaning will help prevent rust.


Top Tips for Cleaning Cabinets

1. Use a gentle cleaning solution

When cleaning your cabinets make sure to pick a cleaning product that will work well with your cabinet materials. Using the wrong product for your cabinet type can damage the hardware, finish, and wood of your cabinets. We recommend always picking a gentle cleaning solution as well, as this will guarantee that your cabinets will stay in good condition.

2. Don’t Saturate your Cabinets with Water

Make sure to be careful with any cleaning products or water when wiping down your cabinets. Try not to oversaturate your cabinets with any liquid as large amounts can damage your cabinets. Applying too much cleaning solution or water can ruin the finish, staining, paint, wood, and hardware of your cabinets. We recommend starting with a small amount and adding more if needed. It can also be helpful to apply the liquids to your cloth or towels, instead of applying it directly to the cabinets.

3. Use a fine brush to reach crevices

For larger areas of your cabinets such as the doors, and inside shelving and walls, it is best to use a microfiber towel or cloth when cleaning. For small crevices such as corners, trimming, groves, or areas surrounding hardware a small brush can be a great help. A fine brush will be able to reach small areas that a cloth will not be able to get to. Using a small detailing brush will guarantee a clean cabinet, especially in small areas where grease and dust can collect and buildup over time.

4. Wipe Cabinets Dry

After cleaning your cabinets, don’t forget to wipe them dry. Allowing cleaning solution or any type of liquid to sit on your cabinets for a prolonged amount of time can be damaging to the materials. Dust can also get stuck in any liquid left remaining on your cabinets which can ruin the cleaning you did. Use a small amount of warm water on a clean cloth to wipe away any excess product or drip marks left behind. Make sure to wipe all cabinets dry before moving on to your next cleaning task.


What About Deep Cleaning Your Cabinets?

When deep cleaning your cabinets start by emptying all drawers and shelf space. Clear out any dishes, silverware, or serving materials. Avoid emptying all cabinets and drawers at once, as this can cause things to break and crowd your cleaning area. We recommend starting at the top and working your way down. Start by using a microfiber cloth towel and a gentle all-purpose cleaner. Thoroughly wipe down both sides of the door and the inside, including all shelves. Then go back in and keep an eye out for any trimming, grooves, or corners that may collect grease and dust. For this, we recommend using a toothbrush or small cleaning brush to guarantee that those small spaces will get clean. After this, wipe down the knobs outside and buff the cabinets dry.

If you’re doing your annual Spring cleaning, you might want to check out our tips on Spring cleaning your kitchen here.


How Often Should You Clean Your Kitchen Cabinets?

How often you clean your cabinets will be different for everyone, depending on how often you cook, clean, host, or even if you just have a busy household. No matter what your circumstances are, cleaning your cabinets regularly can be beneficial for everyone. If you cook daily, you should probably aim to do at least a quick wipe-down of your cabinets daily as well. This will allow for less frequent deep cleaning and it will clean up any spills or splatters that may have occurred while cooking. Every month, you should aim to wipe down at least the front of your cabinets to remove any fingerprints, dust, or grease that may have accumulated over time. As for deep cleaning, one to two times a year is recommended.

Keeping Cabinets Clean in Cold Dry Climates

If you live in the New England area, you know that the cold and dry winters can take a toll on our homes. For states that experience a lot of snow and cold air like New York and New Jersey, home maintenance in the winter is no stranger. In colder weather, materials can shrink due to a drop in temperature. Dry conditions can also lead to cracking or chipping of wooden materials. In order to regulate the dry, cold conditions, you can use a humidifier to keep the air from becoming too dry. When cleaning your cabinets in the winter, be careful not to not leave any excess water or solution and dry your cabinets thoroughly.

Keeping Cabinets Clean in Humid Climates

If you’re living in a more humid environment like Florida, the warmer air can also play a large role in caring for your cabinets. In more humid climates, materials can often expand which can impact the finishing or any coatings that have been applied. In humid climates, we recommend using fans and dehumidifiers to regulate temperatures in your home. If you cook on the stove and see lots of steam, be sure to wipe away any extra moisture from your cabinets,


Buy New Kitchen Cabinets in NJ or FL

If you are looking for new cabinets for your kitchen, visit Cabinets Direct USA at one New Jersey or Florida showrooms. As the leading supplier of kitchen cabinets, we offer a wide selection of top brands to choose from. Contact us today for more information on our exquisite selection!