The Best and Worst Ways to Clean Wood Kitchen Cabinets

  • 01 of 04

    Removing Greasy Grime on Kitchen Cabinets

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    My kitchen cabinets were due for a good cleaning, but I had no idea how to get the job done. The problem? There was a thick layer of greasy grime stuck on the cupboard doors. I tried to remove it using a non-toxic all-purpose cleaner, but the muck didn’t budget. So I researched and tested different methods for cleaning wood kitchen cabinets. Here are the best and worst ways to get the job done.

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    Why You Shouldn't Use Olive Oil or Vinegar

    Do not use olive oil on wood cabinets. Getty Images

    I love tackling dirty jobs with natural cleaners. Items like distilled white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are very efficient options. However, some natural items shouldn't be used to clean or polish wood. Here are two big no-nos.

    Olive oil: There's a popular two-ingredient wood cleaning recipe on Pinterest that uses olive oil and baking soda to remove gunk from kitchen cabinets. I tested the formula out on one of my cupboard doors and boy was I sorry. A few days later the cabinet door had a fusty odor, felt greasy and was attracting dust like crazy. I spoke to a professional woodworker to understand why. She said olive oil should never be used to clean or condition wood because it's a non-drying oil. She went on to explain that there are two types of oils, drying, and non-drying. Drying oils like orange, walnut, and linseed dries out when exposed to light and air. When drying oils are applied to wood, they create a hard protective layer. However, olive oil, which is a non-drying oil, does not harden when exposed to light and air. When it's applied to the wood, it stays liquid and spoils, which will eventually kick up a stink, and attract nasty bacteria.

    Vinegar: It's a fantastic natural disinfectant. But it's also an acid. If used undiluted or mixed with water, it can ruin a wood's finish on contact.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    How to Remove Stubborn Grease and Grime on Wood Kitchen Cabinets

    Deirdre Sullivan / Small Spaces

    My kitchen cabinets had a thick layer of sticky grease (shown above.) I tried a few different ways to remove the grime and below I share what worked best. Note, before trying any cleaning method on your entire cabinet door, test it out on a small area.


    • A clean micro-cloth dampened with water
    • Goo Gone
    • Rubber gloves
    • Dust mask


    • Before getting started, put on your rubber gloves and dust mask (Goo Gone can irritate skin and if you use the stuff that comes in a spray bottle, you want to avoid inhaling the mist.)
    • Cover grease with Goo Gone and then let it sit for a few minutes.
    • After a few minutes, take your damp micro-cloth and heat it in the microwave for 35 seconds.
    • Take the hot micro-cloth out of the microwave. Then, while it's still hot, quickly wipe away the muck.
    • Afterward, clean the area with water and a mild wood soap.

    Not crazy about using Goo Gone?  Here are other ways you can safely remove grease:

    • An all-purpose cleaner that contains orange oil. If your cabinets are really grimy, let the cleaner sit for up to 10 minutes after spraying. Afterwards, wipe the cleaner off using a warm micro-cloth.
    • A wood cabinet cleaner that contains Brazilian Carnauba wax. It's an ingredient that's typically found in high-quality wood cleaners and polishes. My favorite is called, Magic Cabinet and Wood Cleaner  (I prefer the spray pump.)
    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    How to Remove Pen Marks and Stubborn Food Stains on Wood Kitchen Cabinets

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    You can use a Magic Eraser or baking soda to remove stubborn pen marks, paint splotches or rock hard food splatters. Here's what you need to know:

    • Both are abrasives. You'll need to work slowly, so you only remove the stain and not the wood finish.
    • The Magic Eraser is more abrasive. If your cabinet has a dark wood finish, test the Magic Eraser on a small hidden spot first.
    • If you want to use baking soda, mix two parts baking soda with one part water. Afterwards, gently rub the mixture over the stain until it's gone.