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How to Clean Wood Kitchen Cabinets & Keep Them Beautiful for Years to Come

It's absolutely amazing just how quickly our kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and other built-in cabinetry become dirty! Proper care and maintenance can prevent stains, water damage, and keep your cabinets looking like new. Even if your wooden cabinets have been damaged with nicks, scratches, or stains, we have some solutions that will get your cabinets into tip top shape.

Woman cleaning a kitchen cabinet door with a soft microfiber cloth
How to Safely Clean Wood Kitchen Cabinets
Considering experimenting with a cleaning method? Read this guide first. Cabinets can be costly to repair or replace. One mistake could permanently damage your cabinet's finish and devalue your investment.

In the absence of specific instructions from your cabinet manufacturer, how do you know how to clean your wood cabinets safely and effectively? After all, many of us have purchased cabinets with our house and have no idea where they came from. We have done all of the work for you by consulting with our various cabinet manufacturers. To our surprise, they all offered some very similar tips.

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Let's Begin with What NOT To Do... Don't Let the Following Cleaning Products Make Contact with Your Kitchen Cabinets

Using the same cleaning products throughout your home may be convenient, but mixing the wrong solution with the wrong material can cause severe damage to surfaces. When it comes to wood cabinetry, you should always avoid the following:

  • Strong Soaps or Harsh Detergents

  • Abrasive Cleaning Products (Example: Tub & Sink Cleaners, Scouring Pads, or Steel Wool)

  • Furniture Polish or Waxes that Cause Build-Up

  • Previously Used Sponges or Dish Cloths (These Can Contain Leftover Food and Grease)

  • Cleaners Containing Ammonia

  • Cleaners Containing Bleach

You should always err on the side of caution if you are unsure about a product or its contents. Many products contain harsh chemicals. The damage they cause can be costly and difficult to restore.


How to Safely Clean Your Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Whether your have a stained or painted finish, a soft, lint-free cotton cloth is best for routine care or cleaning of dust, light debris, or spills. We've also had good results with a soft microfiber cloth. If your cabinets need additional cleaning, use a damp cloth or soft brush. You can make a quick and easy cleaner with a combination of warm water and a small amount of mild dish soap. Immediately remove this solution with a clean damp cloth to prevent build-up of soapy residue. Dry cabinets immediately afterwards with a soft dry cloth. Complete this entire process in small areas to ensure your cabinets are not staying wet for long periods of time. It should be noted that you should not over-do it. Excessive wiping can cause unnecessary wear on painted or stained finishes and should be avoided. Be thorough, but gentle.

If you choose to use a store-bought cleaner, test it on an inconspicuous place first to be sure it's safe for your cabinets.


Preventing Food & Grease Stains on Wood Cabinets

When you allow your cabinets to be exposed to food or grease splatters for an extended period of time, the finish can be permanently damaged. This is especially true for lighter painted finishes that can absorb the grease and become stained. You should always wipe up spills as soon as possible. Most spills can be cleaned with a damp cloth. Some may require the previously mentioned water and mild dish soap solution. Always remove any soapy residue and dry thoroughly to prevent water damage.


Avoiding Water and Moisture Damage

A damp kitchen towel hangs on a cabinet pull and could easily cause damage to the cabinet's painted surface
This Damp Towel May be Causing Permanent Water Damage to the Cabinet Finish
Be Mindful of Where You Hang Kitchen Towels & Dish Rags. Even Damp Towels Can Cause Permanent Water Damage to Your Cabinets.

Thoroughly dry your kitchen cabinets with a soft dry towel after cleaning them. If washing the dishes gets a bit messy, be sure to wipe up any splattered water as soon as possible. Avoid draping damp towels over your kitchen or bathroom cabinets as the moisture can damage the wood's finish. It's always best to hang these items on an appropriate towel bar installed in areas that are designed to resist water. Prevent mold and moisture damage to bathroom cabinets (and bathrooms in general), by providing adequate ventilation after a hot shower or bath.


How to Clean Glass Doors on Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Glass cabinet doors can be tedious to clean, but with these pro tips, the results will amaze you
Cleaning Glass Cabinet Doors can be Tricky, but the Results will Make Your Cabinets Shine

The glass on your wooden cabinets typically requires a little more attention to detail. Cleaning your cabinets with wood cleaners may smudge the glass, and cleaning the cabinet with glass cleaners may discolor your cabinets. Start with an ammonia-free glass cleaner. To avoid overspray and runs onto your cabinet's finish, spray cleaner directly onto your cleaning cloth, not the cabinet glass. Proceed carefully and promptly remove any excess cleaners to prevent damage. These same rules apply to cleaning glass shelving in your cabinets. Alternately, consider carefully removing the glass shelves instead of cleaning them in place.


Prevent Heat Damage to Your Kitchen Cabinets

It's important to know that a self-cleaning oven gets significantly hotter than typical oven cooking temperatures. Even though our wood cabinets can withstand the typical temperatures in a kitchen, did you know that cabinetry and hardware around your oven can be damaged if you use this feature frequently? If you use your oven's self-cleaning feature on a regular basis, you may consider carefully removing nearby cabinet doors. This will allow oven heat to more readily dissipate and prevent damage to full overlay doors that may be installed immediately next to your oven.

Additional heat sources near your kitchen cabinets can include toaster ovens, coffee makers, and other countertop appliances. Frequently using these items under your wall cabinets can cause heat damage that results in unsightly discolorations. Consider pulling these items away from nearby cabinetry to prevent excessive heat build-up and damage. Be especially mindful of the direction that your pressure cooker may be releasing steam. I learned this the hard way on my first pressure cooked pot roast attempt. Fortunately, I was able to dry the cabinets quickly and prevent any permanent damage.

Candles and oil warmers are often the culprit when we find damaged finishes. Even when wall cabinets are installed at the proper 18" clearance above countertops, we've seen damage in the form of blistered paint. Always make sure warmers and candles are not beneath your wall cabinets or too close to other cabinetry on the sides.


Protect Your Kitchen Cabinets from Damaging Sun Light

Kitchens with lots of natural window light are definitely not going out of style any time soon, but did you know that sunlight is not good for your cabinets? That's right, we all know that UV light is not good for our skin, but it's not good for our cabinetry or other household items either. Wood cabinets and painted finishes can discolor with exposure to sunlight over time. To extend the life of your cabinetry and other items, consider using blinds or curtains to minimize direct sunlight.


Repairing Scrapes, Gouges, and Nicks on

Wood Cabinetry

Applying touch up paint to a small scratch on a cabinet door
Don't Forget to Purchase a Touch-Up Kit to Repair Minor Cabinet Blemishes

Most kitchen cabinets have matching touch-up and repair kits that are available for purchase when you order your cabinets. Aside from needing these kits to properly install and finish your cabinets initially, these kits are invaluable for routine maintenance. Matching touch-up kits are specifically designed to match your cabinet's color. You can use the provided touch-up pen to fix small surface imperfections like scrapes or scratches. If you find a deep cut or blemish, simply paint it over after filling the indentation with the provided tinted putty.

... cabinet styles may become discontinued and the kit you need may no longer be available.

Not all cabinet manufacturers provide a matching touch-up kit. If you have existing cabinets that were already installed, you may not be able to identify your cabinet manufacturer to purchase a touch-up kit. And unfortunately, cabinet styles may become discontinued and the kit you need may no longer be available. If any of these scenarios apply to you, fear not... You can purchase tinted putty, wood fillers, or stain markers at most any home goods or local hardware store. If you require matching paint, carefully take a door or drawer front to a reputable paint store to request a quart of color matched paint. While the paint counter at your local home goods store may be able to successfully provide a color match, this is not usually the case. You will be in much better hands at a paint specialty store with experienced professionals and the ability to properly recommend the appropriate paint for the job.


At Prefinished Cabinets, we want to help you keep your beautiful wood cabinets looking brand new. If you have any questions or need additional information, please don't hesitate to contact us. If you would like to read additional cabinet articles from leading kitchen cabinet blogs, check out this list of Top 70 Cabinet Blogs.

If your cabinets are beyond cleaning and need to be replaced, we're here for you. We have a large variety of quality wood cabinets all backed by our Limited Lifetime Warranty. Take advantage of our FREE Kitchen Design and How to Measure Guide. Just let us know when you're ready to get started!


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