Kitchen cabinets take a lot of abuse, suffering accidental spills, cooking splatters, and a continuous barrage of fingerprints. Yet those hardworking uppers and lowers tend to get short shrift during regular weekly cleaning, so by the time you realize they’ve been neglected, grease, grime, dirt, and smears may have built up considerably.
This is not merely unsightly: Oft-handled cabinet hardware can harbor germs, and food crumbs hiding in back corners can invite bugs and vermin. Plus, most kitchen cabinets are made of wood, a porous material that can become stubbornly sticky yet calls for a gentler approach than you might use on metal or laminate.
Steps for Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets
To get those crucial cupboards into pristine condition, follow this step-by-step guide—and make cleaning kitchen cabinets an open and shut case!
Step 1: Empty them out
- You may opt to stagger cabinet cleaning rather than attempt it all in one day since you’ll need to remove and temporarily store the contents on countertops or elsewhere.
- Once cabinets are empty, peel off and discard past-its-prime shelf paper if necessary.
- Vacuum or wipe crumbs and dust from the shelves and drawers.
Step 2: Tackle the tops
When cabinets aren’t ceiling height, those few inches atop the uppers can be a major mess magnet. Go at it on a sturdy step stool or ladder. If it’s just dust, deal with it using a long-handled duster or the small round brush attachment of a vacuum.
If grease has combined with dust, removing it may be the nastiest part of your cabinet cleaning mission.
- Squirt the surface with straight white vinegar, sprinkle on some baking soda, and give it several minutes of dwell time.
- Scrub with a sponge, then scrape with a firm straight edge, like an old credit card, wiping off the gunk with a rag or paper towels.
- Spray again lightly and wipe dry with a clean cloth.
Step 3: Mix up a gentle cleaner
The goal is to clean, not damage, your cabinets.
- A few squirts of mild dish soap in hot water is a safe and effective formula to use on painted and finished wood (as well as metal, laminate, and vinyl). It will purge dirt, smudges, and moderate grease buildup; to give the solution sanitizing oomph, add some white vinegar, which has antibacterial properties.
- To use: Mix in a spray bottle, but apply onto a microfiber cloth or sponge rather than directly on the cabinet surface, as it’s best to avoid saturating wood.
Step 4: Clean high to low
- Start with the uppers and work your way down. Do interiors first: the back wall, then the sides, then the shelves and drawers. Give extra attention to corners, spritzing cleaning solution on a toothbrush and scrubbing gently if necessary.
- Follow with a cloth/sponge lightly moistened with plain water to remove any soap residue. Wipe dry completely after rinsing, then close the cabinets.
- Clean the sides of the boxes and do the doors/drawer fronts last.
Step 5: Go at the grease
A mild abrasive paste of one-part baking soda to two-parts water is a natural, cost-effective weapon against sticky, yellowish grease buildup that could do the trick.
- Apply to stuck-on grease, let it penetrate for several minutes, then scrub gently (no scraping!) with a soft-bristled brush.
- Rinse with a moist rag, sponge, or microfiber cloth, then dry.
If opting to tackle grease with a commercial product, spot test first on an inconspicuous area. Be especially cautious with magic erasers; these blocks of non-toxic melamine foam have the texture of super-fine sandpaper that can damage varnished wood and glossy paint finishes.
Step 6: Treat the trim
Grease and dirt love crevices, so both are bound to settle in cabinet trim—the more ornate, the cruddier it can become.
- Patiently purge with your basic cleaning solution and a soft toothbrush or cloth wrapped around your index finger.
- Rinse with a clean cloth moistened with plain water and dry.
Step 7: Handle hinges and hardware right
Go at metal aspects of cabinets properly.
- Wrap a dry cloth on your index finger to clean the hinges. If you encounter stubborn grease, spray a 50/50 water-white vinegar mixture on an old soft toothbrush to scrub it off, then dry.
- Employ the toothbrush approach to metal or ceramic hardware, and the areas around these handles, knobs, and pulls, all of which can accumulate grime and grease.
Step 8: Get the glass gleaming
- If you’ve got glass-fronted cabinet doors, use commercial glass cleaner or a homemade spray solution of one cup of rubbing alcohol, one cup of water, and one tablespoon of white vinegar on inner and outer panes.
Step 9: Clean the contents
- Before refilling shelves and drawers, inspect the cookware, dishes, food packages, etc. to ensure that those items aren’t dusty or dirty. Even if everything looks pristine, giving the contents a swipe with a microfiber cloth will warrant it worthy of returning to your sparkling clean cabinets.