Tried-and-true tips to clean your kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are subjected to moisture, grime and frequent use. That’s why they need more attention than other furniture. Read on for tips to keep them looking and working great.

Tried-and-true tips to clean your kitchen cabinets

Cooking grease, food spills, moisture, daily loading and unloading — it all takes its toll on your kitchen cabinets. Grime builds up fastest around the handles of doors and drawers that are constantly opened by sticky hands. Frequent cleaning is key to keeping your kitchen cabinets in good condition — grime comes off more easily if it isn't allowed to build up.

Clean those cabinets

Follow these steps if your cabinets are painted wood, metal, laminated plastic or wood-grain vinyl.

  • Prepare a solution of detergent and warm water.
  • Rinse with a cloth or sponge dampened in clean water.
  • Dry with a cloth or paper towel to prevent streaking.

Most all-purpose household cleaners will also work — read the label to be sure the product can be used on your cabinets' surfaces. Test inside a door to be sure it will not harm the finish.

Skip abrasives

Never use scouring powder or other abrasives on painted or plastic furniture — you'll scratch the surface, dulling the finish and making the cabinets harder to clean next time.

  • Use a spray-on, all-purpose household cleaner and elbow grease to get rid of stubborn grime.
  • Rinse well to remove the product.

Take care with natural wood

Natural-wood-finish cabinets can be cleaned with a variety of commercial products, many of which are sprays made for this purpose.

  • Read the label to make sure the product can be used on finished wood and follow the directions exactly.
  • Ensure you have adequate ventilation since these cleaners are solvent based. It's a good idea to remove the drawers and doors and work on them outside if you can.
  • Make sure there is no spark, flame or pilot light burning in the kitchen.
  • Test the cleaner inside a door first, just to be sure. Virtually all modern, commercially made wood cabinets have finishes that are impervious to these cleaners. However, old or homemade cabinets might have a more delicate furniture finish that could be dissolved by solvent cleaners.
  • Dispose of the cleaning cloths in a tightly sealed container, again not near a spark or flame

Tackle tough grime

If there is a heavy buildup of grease and grime on your natural-wood-finish cabinets, commercial cleaners may not get them clean. Straight mineral spirits might do the trick on tough grime.

  • Again, make sure you have plenty of ventilation from open windows and that there are no flames or sparks nearby.
  • Test a small inside area so you're sure the mineral spirits don't dissolve the finish.
  • Dampen a cloth with the mineral spirits and rub the cabinets vigorously.
  • Refold the cloth so it doesn't pick up dirt.
  • Store dirty cloths in a sealed container for disposal.

Wax after cleaning

You usually don't need to wax the finish on modern kitchen cabinets. But a heavy cleaning can leave the surface dull.

  • Apply a paste wax to your cabinets.
  • Buff it off as described on the product's label.

Waxing should have your cabinets shining like new. It will also offer some resistance to future grime.

Kitchen cabinets are notorious collectors of grease and grime. If yours could do with a good cleaning, follow these tips and they'll be sparkling in no time.

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