How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets: The Best Tool for Each Finish

Once you have chosen and installed the perfect kitchen cabinets, one of life’s realities is that using them will eventually require cleaning. No matter what material your cabinets are made from, drips, fingerprints, and smudges are going to happen. With a little elbow grease, the right tools, and effective cleaning supplies, you can keep your cabinetry looking as good as the day it was installed.

The most obvious place to start before cleaning is referring to any manufacturer’s suggested cleaning methods. Especially if your cabinets come with any kind of warranty, following the manufacturer’s recommendations is important. Whether you have recommendations to follow or are developing your own cleaning methods, here are some pointers to clean your kitchen cabinets back to their near-new beauty.

First, consider both the materials and finish of your cabinets. Wood cabinets will require different cleaning materials than metal cabinets. For wood cabinets, paint or natural wood finishes will help determine your cleaning tools and approach. Metal cabinets, especially older ones, will need care taken to maintain a smooth and clean finish. Newer cabinets will have some type of protective coating over their surface, whether that is natural wood or a painted finish. While this coating is there to protect, it is not impenetrable. Using the wrong cleaning supplies could mar this protective coat, which means you risk scratching the cabinets and irreparably damaging the finish and look of your cabinets.

Regardless of whatever cabinet materials that you are cleaning, remember the two most important considerations: what you use to clean, and the pressure you use while cleaning.

Cleaning Wood Cabinets

Gentle cleaning is the way to go with wood cabinetry. With both the solutions that you use and the touch required to prevent damaging your wood cabinets, accept that patience is needed to remove layers of dirt. (Try to remember that quicker, more frequent cleanings will prevent the need to deep clean.) Modern or contemporary cabinets that use light or dark wood finishes will respond to these ideal methods of cleaning.

For lighter wood cabinets, cleaning will help you maintain that sleek, modern look that lighter colors infer. A basic solution of hot water, dish soap, and distilled vinegar will provide effective cleaning while avoiding damage to the cabinets finish and protective coating. Mix two cups of hot water with two-thirds cup of distilled vinegar and about 4 pumps of grease-cutting dish soap in a spray bottle with a misting nozzle. To avoid drip tracks on your cabinets, spray this solution directly onto a microfiber cloth and wipe down your cabinets, moving from top to bottom. The cloth should not be saturated and should be wrung out if it gets too wet. For extra grease-cutting help, you can periodically microwave your micro-fiber cloth for ten seconds after cleaning every few cabinets.

After cleaning two or three cabinets, switch to a clean, non-terrycloth or micro-fiber towel and rinse the surfaces you just cleaned by wiping them down with plain warm water. You do not want to leave cabinets to air dry, because this could leave spots or cause bubbling on your finish. Use a lint-free fabric like microfiber or cotton towels to dry thoroughly. You can also try Best electric cooktop in your kitchen.

For small, detailed areas spray your cleaning cloth and wipe the area to apply the cleaning solution. Follow that up by gently using a toothbrush to clean out the more detailed nooks. Rinse using a cloth and clean water, and dry as much as possible.

Darker wood or painted finishes may show fingerprints or smudges more easily, so in addition to removing grease from cooking, you also need to remove oils that are transferred from skin. With darker woods, variances in cleaning from cabinet to cabinet can cause the finish to look uneven after cleaning. Test your solution on the inside of your cabinet to see how the finish is affected and consistently mix your solution as you replenish it. Frequently change cleaning, rinsing, and drying cloths to keep dirt and grease from being redistributed on the cabinets.

While a fast solution to cabinet cleaning may be tempting, here are some things to avoid doing.

  • Don’t use harsh chemical solutions, whether they are labeled “natural” or not.
  • Don’t use gritty cleaning supplies. These materials can easily become abrasive and strip away protective coatings, damaging the surface. This holds true for both cleaning solutions (avoid granulated kitchen cleaners or baking soda), and tools (leave the nylon scrubbers for cleaning the sink).
  • Go easy on the pressure. That spilled spaghetti sauce might require a lot of muscle, but be careful. If you can’t clean a spill before it dries, remember that slow and steady cleans the cabinet and protects the finish.
  • Keeping cabinets from being saturated with water is even more important around metal hinges to avoid rust. Spray your cleaning solution on a microfiber cloth and wipe down hinges.

Metal Cabinet Care

Metal and water do not mix, but with a painted or protected surface it is possible to clean your metal cabinetry without compromising the material. Depending on the age and finish, you may want to follow a cleaning process that is similar to cleaning wood cabinets. Newer metal cabinets will probably have a factory-applied coating that should not be compromised, so try to find and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning.

For older metal cabinets, use the simple cleaning solution above, augmented by a loose paste of baking soda and water for more stubborn areas. Clean up any rust residue and touch up with matching finish materials. (Paint stores can match existing paint colors, even if you have to remove and take in a cabinet door.) After cleaning metal cabinets and fixing any finish issues, seal the cabinet surface with car wax to restore a protective surface and make future clean-up easier.

When you have invested a lot into your kitchen cabinets, you need to take good care of them. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and be careful with cleaning practices to see your investment last for years to come.

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