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How To Clean Wooden Kitchen Cabinet: Step-by-Step Guide

How to clean wooden kitchen cabinet

When we first moved into our house, my first big project was painting the wood kitchen cabinets. If you are like me and do a lot of DIY projects, you know that cleaning is the first step. With cabinets that are known to get greasy, oily, or just plain dirty, it’s important to understand how to clean wooden kitchen cabinet. I’ll show you a method that won’t leave you with damage or watermarks; it only takes a few minutes. 

Before You Begin: Mistakes To Avoid

When you clean wood cabinets, you have to be careful not to damage them; wood can warp and show stains from cleaning, requiring a professional to come in and deal with the situation. Here are the top things to look out for: 

  • The hinges on the cabinet doors should not get wet; even though some are treated to prevent rust, most of them will rust if they get wet or are exposed to a cleaning solution 
  • Abrasive pads, harsh cleaners, scouring powders, and scrubbing too hard will scratch the cabinet’s finish 
  • Soaking your cabinets is a mistake; the cabinets will warp, swell and deteriorate over time, go easy on the amount of liquid used here
  • Dust cabinets first before cleaning; wet dust can become abrasive and scratch the painted cabinets 
  • Stay away from a wood wax that can attract dust and leave your cabinet surfaces looking like they continually need a wipe down

Understanding the Type of Finish on Your Wooden Cabinet

The type of finish on your kitchen cabinets will help you decide which cleaning solutions are safe to use. 

  • Painted cabinets have a smooth texture and can handle a mild soap and warm water solution quite well 
  • Lacquered cabinets have a more polished feel and look, stick with a damp cloth and light wipe down on the lacquered cabinets 
  • Untreated wood cabinets have a grainy or natural texture; excess water is where you can run into problems with untreated wood, use very small amounts and a soft cloth 

Supplies and Tools

The best things to use to clean wooden kitchen cabinets can vary a bit with laminate cabinets, lacquered cabinets, and painted cabinets. Here are the things you will need: 

Step-By-Step Method To Clean Wooden Kitchen Cabinets

If you have been in the habit of grabbing your kitchen sponge and wiping down your greasy kitchen cabinets, you may want to stop. You are likely doing more harm than good; instead, follow this pH neutral (to avoid stripping down the natural oils and wood fibers) method that will get your kitchen sparkling. 


Before you begin, take a microfiber cloth and wipe down all of the kitchen cabinet panels to remove any excess dust or debris. We don’t want to be wiping this dust and dirt all over the cabinet doors while cleaning kitchen cabinets. 

Take a bowl of warm water and add a few drops of mild dish soap, like Dawn. Mix the solution. 

Cleaning the Panels 

Take a clean cloth and dip it into the water and soap solution. Wring the cloth out so that it is damp and not soaking wet. Wipe down the entire exterior of your cabinets, following the grain of the wood wherever possible. 

At this point, only work on the cabinet door fronts. After cleaning each one, take your dry microfiber cloth and wipe any excess water off the cabinet doors. 

How Do You Get Grease and Grime off Wood Cabinets?

When cleaning greasy kitchen cabinets, the mild soapy solution with the damp cloth should be enough to remove the grease. My only additional suggestion here is to wipe cabinets with a little more elbow grease. 

You won’t need to scrub, but you may have to wipe clean 2 or 3 times to get the grease removed. This process works for fingerprints, food splatters, scuffs, and water stains. 

Cleaning Nobs, Handles, Drawer Pulls, and Cabinet Hardware

Now that your kitchen cabinet exteriors are clean, you can dump the cleaning solution. 

You will then create the same cleaning solution with a water bowl and a little liquid dishwashing detergent. I like to dump the first solution so you aren’t working on cleaning nobs, handles, and pulls with a bucket of dirty water. 

Take your cloth, dip it in the gentle cleaning solution, and then use it to clean all nobs, handles, and drawer pulls. 

Follow the same method of cleaning and then immediately drying for each one. 

Cleaning Shelves 

While cleaning the cabinet exteriors and all other parts, you may as well work on the cabinet interiors. 

First, wipe down everything with a dry cloth to pick up as much dust as you can. 

Use a damp cloth to wipe down all shelves, as well as the side, top, and bottom of all kitchen cabinets. Dry each one as you work. 

Post Cleaning Process 

As you can see from the cleaning process I outlined, when you clean wood kitchen cabinets, you must keep them dry throughout the process. I would clean one at a time and dry after each wipe down.

At the end, you can do an additional wipe down with a dry cloth. If you want to make your cabinets shine, you can use a product like Rejuvenate Cabinet and Furniture Cleaner. I would test this in an inconspicuous area before spraying on the clean kitchen cabinets. 

Alternative Methods for Deep Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

The mild soap and water should be your go-to method to clean kitchen cabinets. If you want some alternative options or a commercial product that can make the process more convenient, here are some other options to try.


Ammonia works as a degreaser and can be used to clean greasy cabinets. If you keep things like vegetable oil and cooking spray in one of your cabinets, chances are the panel has some residue from you reaching in and out. 

Mix one part water with one part ammonia in a bowl. Dip a soft cloth into the cleaning solution to wipe down all cabinets. 

When finished wiping, take a clean damp cloth and wipe all cabinets down again so that no excess ammonia solution sits on the wood. 


Vinegar is acidic, and it’s one of our favorite household kitchen cleaning products. When you have grease issues in the kitchen, vinegar does such a great job of breaking it down. When cleaning with vinegar, test an area before you begin to ensure it is not too harsh for your cabinets. 

In a spray bottle, make a mixture of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Spray the front of a single cabinet, wipe down with a damp cloth, wipe with a dry cloth. Follow this process working one cabinet at a time, ensuring not to get the hinges wet. 

Baking soda

Baking soda will work for cleaning kitchen cabinets, but you must always mix it with water. Don’t ever place powdered baking soda on a sponge or sprinkle it on a rag and use it to clean. Baking soda is a mild abrasive, which is good, but it can still do damage if you are not careful. 

Make a paste with baking soda and water; typically, this requires equal parts baking soda and water. Ensure that the paste is wet and it’s not overly grainy or sharp. 

Using a damp cloth, place a little bit of the baking soda on a cloth and wipe down the greasy areas of the cabinet. Immediately wipe down with a damp clean microfiber cloth and then dry the area. 

The most important thing here is not to scrub the cabinet panels, just wipe. 

Is Murphy’s Oil Soap Good for Cleaning Wood Cabinets?

Murphy’s Oil Soap is good for cleaning wood cabinets. With Murphy’s Oil Soap, you will find that clean kitchen cabinets have a little more shine than they do with standard dish soap. Make sure to dilute the Murphy’s Oil Soap according to the directions on the bottle. 

Dip a clean cloth into the soap and water solution and then wipe down one cabinet at a time. After wiping with the Murphy’s Oil Soap, wipe with an additional damp cloth and then a dry one. 

Lemon Oil

Lemon oil is another alternative cleaning solution that provides shine to your kitchen cabinets. Take a very small amount, a few drops of lemon oil, and apply it to a damp cloth. Use the soft cloth to more or less buff out the kitchen cabinets. 

When finished with each cabinet, use a dry cloth to wipe everything down. 

Magic Eraser

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is one of my favorite household cleaning products because of its micro scrubbers that break down grease, dirt, and grime. However, you do have to exercise some caution when using the magic eraser. If you don’t rinse and dry immediately after use, expect to have streaks and watermarks all over your cabinets. 

Simply get the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser wet, wipe down the cabinets, wipe down with a damp cloth (water only), and then dry immediately. You will be able to see a white substance that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser leaves behind; make sure that all of that is removed.

Methods To Avoid

Olive oil is a popular method for cleaning cabinets that I would not use. The olive oil is supposed to add shine and moisture to the wood, but I find it leaves behind a greasy residue. The olive oil is only supposed to be used on natural wood cabinets, but I think you will find better results with something like Murphy’s Oil. 

Toothpaste is another option that I have heard for cleaning kitchen cabinets. Non-gel toothpaste is used to break down tough stains on cabinet doors, but I find that it often leaves slight scratches, stains, and even some residue where it was used to clean.

Toothpaste is also not convenient to use for cleaning the entire kitchen full of cabinets.

Tips for Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

Now that you have this process down and some methods to use, let’s look at a few of my top tips for how to clean kitchen cabinets the right way! 

  • Try to use pH-neutral cleaners when possible; wood cabinets can be a bit more sensitive, and anything too acidic can strip down natural oils or remove finishes and paints 
  • Always test a cleaning method in an inconspicuous area before doing your entire kitchen
  • Work with one cabinet at a time so that you can dry and wipe down before you move on 
  • Baking soda paste or vinegar and water is perfect for spot treating grease; you don’t always have to clean all the cabinet
  • High alkaline cleaners (ammonia, baking soda, sodium hydroxide) can leave dark stains on the wood because of iron tannate discoloration, be sure to test these before using
  • High acidic cleaners (vinegar, lemon juice, commercial cleaners) can damage wood cabinets, both finished and unfinished; always dilute the solution and test an area before using 
  • Sticking with a mild dish soap and water solution will be your safest method! 

Wooden Kitchen Cabinet Maintenance 

You know I love cleaning, but if I can avoid turning kitchen cabinet cleaning into a major project, I’m more than happy to do it! Here are some important maintenance tips for your wood kitchen cabinet. 

  • Dust your cabinets once a week when you dust the rest of your home; it takes just a few minutes to do a quick wipedown, but it helps prevent buildup
  • Address any spills and stains as soon as they happen 
  • Make sure your kitchen cabinets have proper ventilation (interior and exterior) to lower the chance of moisture buildup 
  • Inside the cabinets, use liners and or mats to protect from spills and stains 
  • A wood conditioner or polish like Old English Oil can help prevent fingerprints or grease buildup; apply with a lint free cloth and use it after you deep clean the cabinets 

Importance and Benefits of Cleaning Wooden Kitchen Cabinets

Cleaning your wooden kitchen cabinets will help prolong the life of the cabinets and prevent costly repairs. These basic cleaning tips can also ensure that you don’t need to hire a professional to deal with your stains, chipping, warping, etc.

Keep in mind that having clean cabinets also makes it easier to have a hygienic kitchen environment. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Should I Do if the Finish on My Cabinet Gets Damaged?

If the finish on your kitchen cabinet gets damaged, first give the cabinet a good clean and make sure all excess moisture is removed. You can then use a wood filler or scratch remover to fix the finish or call in a professional to see if the cabinet panel needs to be replaced. 

How Can I Restore the Shine on My Wooden Cabinets?

To restore the shine on wooden cabinets, use a product like Old English Oil. It contains a mineral oil that has a fresh scent and can help to protect stains like fingerprints, mustard, wax crayons, ketchup and candle wax. Apply Old English Oil with a clean cloth after cabinet cleaning is finished.


Britt Olizarowicz