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Kitchen Liquidators

The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

Banish grease and grime from kitchen cabinet surfaces with the right materials and techniques.

By Michelle Ullman

You probably spend the majority of your kitchen cleaning time focusing on the big three—sink, counters, and floors—but your cabinets require regular attention too, especially the doors. That’s where tiny droplets of cooking grease, food splatters, and steam tend to settle, and then attract and hold dust, leading to dingy, dull, or streaked surfaces.

Luckily, while a bit tedious, cleaning kitchen cabinets isn’t difficult, nor does it call for smelly or potentially toxic chemicals. Whether your cabinets are painted or finished wood, they’ll perk right up with a few common household items and a bit of elbow grease. Just take care not to damage their finish with an overzealous approach. Here’s how to do the job right.

RELATED: How To: Remove Grease From Kitchen Cabinets

DO use a gentle cleaning solution.

Leave the abrasive cleaners and scrub brushes to your sink; harsh scrubbing can damage kitchen cabinets’ finish or paint. Instead, prepare your own gentle cleaner by mixing one part mild dishwashing soap with two parts hot water, or the same ratio of distilled white vinegar to hot water. (The heated water helps soften grunge and grease so you’ll be able to wipe it away more easily.) Pour your cleaning mixture into a spray bottle, and you’re ready to go.

DON’T soak your cabinets.

Spray the cleaning mixture onto a microfiber cloth or soft rag until it’s damp but not drenched. Too much moisture can damage your cabinets’ paint or finish. Now, wipe each cabinet door from top to bottom, paying extra attention to any trim or molding where dust and grime tend to accumulate. Don’t forget to wipe handles and knobs, and the insides of the cabinet doors, as well. Spritz more cleaning solution onto your cloth as needed, but never let the cloth get wet enough to drip. Squeeze excess into the sink if necessary.

DO tackle tight spots with an old toothbrush.

Some cabinets have ornate trim or deep grooves that a rag just can’t access. In these cases, dip an old toothbrush into your cleaning solution, and use the toothbrush to gently scrub those hard-to-reach spots. Don’t forget the areas around the cabinet handles or knobs, and the edges of the cabinet doors, which can be tricky to reach with a rag.

DON’T let water run into the hinges.

Although your cleaning solution is safe for finished or painted wood, as well as laminate, it’s not intended for your cabinets’ hinges. You don’t want your time spent cleaning kitchen cabinets to leave you with rusted hardware. Instead, use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe away dust and grime from the metal. If there’s a particularly greasy or grungy spot, spray just a drop or two of cleaning solution onto your cloth, scrub the dirty spot, and then wipe the metal dry.


DO remove the cleaner with a final rinse.

Once you’ve cleaned your cabinets, go over them once more with a clean cloth lightly dampened with warm water. This removes any lingering cleaning solution or grime. As with your cleaner, it’s best to work from top to bottom to avoid leaving any drips behind.

DO dry the cabinets after cleaning.

Letting cabinets air dry after cleaning can damage or bubble the finish or paint. Instead, use a soft cloth to dry all damp surfaces and encourage a shine.