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How to Clean Wood Cabinets in the Kitchen

How often do you clean your cabinets? If you are like me, you don’t even think about the cabinets unless you have company coming!  Why is that?  They are a huge part of the room and probably riddled with drips, grease and sticky messes.  Yet, like the forest and the trees, you just don’t really see them.  

Unlike countertops and sinks, cleaning your wood cabinets is an often-overlooked step in regular cleaning routines.  However, removing the grime will extend the life of the cabinets, preserve the finish, and make all the difference between visually clean and actually clean kitchen.  It’s sort of like your kids shoving all the toys under the bed and saying, “all done”!

I’m not going to lie, if you haven’t cleaned them recently, and depending on the size of your kitchen, it may take a little time to get the cabinets back to ship shape.  Using a good cleaner makes all the difference in between minutes and hours so pick a good one! 

Many people use a mixture of vinegar and water.  Unfortunately, regular use of vinegar will strip the finish off the cabinetry and leave them dull and damaged.  If your cabinets are painted white, extended use of vinegar may leave them yellowed and dingy. To avoid damage to the cabinetry, a neutral pH cleaner is a much better choice.

Use a cleaner that is specifically made for finished wood surfaces.  Plus, since you are cleaning the kitchen where food and little hands are present, a safe, nontoxic cleaner is imperative. I also recommend choosing a cleaner that will not leave a residue.  You won’t have the extra step of rinsing after cleaning and future grease and grime will not be as likely to stick. Additionally, unless the manufacturer instructs otherwise or it is a concentrated formula, use the cleaner undiluted.  Adding water may cause water spots and clouding. 

Once you have your cleaner, choose two clean cloths that have not been washed with fabric softener.  I personally like microfiber cloths because they do not leave behind fabric or lint like cotton and paper towels.  Also, I use two cloths; one is for light cleaning and the other is reserved for really dirty, greasy or sticky messes.  Now you are ready to clean!

I start with the upper cabinets, furthest to the left and work my way around.  Then repeat the pattern on the lower cabinets.  That way I do not forget where I left off if distractions pull me away from the task.

  • Spray a liberal amount of cleaner onto each of the cloths (not the cabinet). 
  • Open the cabinet door and wipe the inside of the door and then the edge of the door. 
  • Wipe the fixed cabinetry between, above and below the doors. 
  • Close the door and wipe the front. 
  • Don’t forget to wipe the pull, handle or knob

Alternate the cloths as needed, based on the level of dirt present.  As you clean, your cloths may become soiled.  Rinse them out with hot tap water and wring out as much liquid as possible.  Reapply the cleaner and continue.  If the cabinets become too damp, grab a third, dry cloth to wipe off the excess moisture.  You never want to let the cabinets remain wet to air-dry as excess liquid leaves streaks, spots and potential clouding.

For exceptionally dirty areas, make your cloth as hot as you can stand and press over the dirt for 30 seconds before lightly scrubbing.  Do not use a scrub brush as it may scratch the surface.  If the sticky grease will still not budge, you may have to use a tiny bit of degreaser and VERY QUICKLY wipe it on the soiled area followed by the cloth with wood cleaner.

In a perfect world, you would clean your cabinets weekly.  However, if you clean them even monthly you should pat yourself on the back!  Your cabinets are a very expensive component of your kitchen and should be maintained not only for the aesthetics and cleanliness but to protect your investment. 

Note: this method of cleaning also works for bathroom cabinets and wood furniture too!

If you need an effective cleaner that is non-toxic, pH neutral, leaves no residue and is fragrance free, I highly recommend BreezMate Floor and Multi-Surface Cleaner.



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