Easy Steps to Deep Clean Kitchen Cabinets

woman reaching into Kitchen Cabinets
Leren Lu / Getty Images

Our kitchens are a meeting place for our friends and families. They are a place where food, conversation, and connections flow freely. With the amount of use our kitchens get, there are some obvious places that need to be cleaned frequently. But our kitchen cabinets sit off to the side quietly collecting dirt, dust, splatters, grease, and other residues. Over time, this mixture sticks to cabinet surfaces like a tacky glue that can be difficult to remove. The key to cleaning our kitchen cabinets is simple regular maintenance. But if it has been awhile since they've been cleaned it is still possible to restore your cabinets to their former glory.

Supplies to Clean Cabinets

  • Cleaning cloths
  • Dish soap
  • Specialty cabinet cleaner or cleaner with orange oil
  • All-purpose cleaner (optional)
  • Vacuum cleaner (optional)

Regular Cleaning: Exterior

Most cabinet types, including metal, plastic laminate, painted wood, and vinyl cabinets, can be cleaned with a solution of liquid dish soap and warm water. This simple and mild solution is enough to get food smudges, dust, and mild grease build-up off of your cabinets. Dish soap works as a degreaser and can even remove some tough buildup on the exterior. Don't forget the edges and sides of your cabinets. Rinse thoroughly with another clean cloth, before drying with a final cloth. You don't want to leave a lot of water on your cabinets which can discolor and damage them. An all-purpose cleaner can be used to clean cabinets too, but it's important to test cleaners in a hidden spot to make sure that they won't damage your cabinet's finish.

how to clean kitchen cabinets
 Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

Heavy Duty Cleaning: Exterior

For heavy build-ups of grease and dust, your best bet is a commercial cleaner designed to be used on wood kitchen cabinets. My favorites are cleaners with orange oil. They have a way of breaking down the thick grime that can accumulate on cabinet surfaces. Be sure to read the instructions before using, and test first in a hidden spot. Begin at the top and work your way down each cabinet. For tough cabinets that are empty, you can spray directly onto the surface, otherwise, spray onto a cleaning cloth and then wipe the cabinets down.

Interior Cleaning

Empty each cabinet, beginning with the highest one. Remove any torn or discolored shelf lining if necessary. If the interior cabinets have a lot of crumbs and residue, it may be a good idea to vacuum the cabinets out after they've been emptied, before wiping them down. Wash the interior of the cabinets with warm water and a mild detergent. Rinse with another clean damp cloth. Wipe dry with an additional cloth to make sure no standing water is left to damage the cabinet surfaces. Repeat this process with each additional cabinet.

Cleaning Cabinet Contents

Wipe down dusty cans and containers with warm water and dish soap on a dampened cloth. Throw out any items that have expired. Dry items thoroughly before replacing them in the cabinets. Leave the cabinets open for 1-2 hours to fully dry, before replacing the contents of the cabinet.

How to Remove Thick Grease Buildup

Sometimes the buildup of grease on our kitchen cabinets is so thick that it can be seen but not easily removed. If a thick orange or yellowish sticky substance seems to be attached to your cabinet, you know what I am talking about. An orange oil cleaner can help, especially if it is allowed to sit and penetrate the grease for 2-4 minutes. This may need to be repeated a few times. You can also try a soft bristled brush and a baking soda and water paste to gently scrub the area. Depending on the finish of your cabinets, a magic eraser might be a good option. But because magic erasers can actually scrub away the finish of surfaces, you'll need to test it in a hidden spot on your cabinets first. Avoid trying to scrape away the grease since this increases the chance that you will damage the cabinets finish permanently.