Years of smoking cigarettes inside of your home will leave a layer of sticky tar and nicotine on everything, including your cabinets. The finish on your cabinets can withstand the use of cleaning chemicals to remove nicotine buildup because the majority of stained cabinets are clear-coated with lacquer or polyurethane. Paint on cabinets forms a moisture barrier between your cabinets and the wood, so you can also easily wash them without causing any damage to your paint. Common household cleaners will work fine to clean nicotine off of your cabinets as long as they are not abrasive. Abrasive cleaners will create scratches on the surface of your cabinets that will not wash or wipe off.
Cover your counter tops and floors next to your cabinets with drop cloths. The drop cloths will keep your counters and floor clean.
Add 1 oz. of ammonia and 1 tsp. of dish washing detergent to your 1-gallon bucket. Fill your bucket the rest of the way with hot water. Fill your 5-gallon bucket with clean hot water only.
Dip a clean rag into your cleaning solution and wash a small area at the top of your cabinets. The ammonia and detergent will help to dissolve the nicotine. Take a second clean rag and dip it into your hot water. Rinse the area that you washed several times to remove the loosened nicotine.
Continue washing your cabinets and rinsing small sections at a time. Work your way down at all times. If you begin washing your cabinets at the bottom and work up, you will create more work for yourself. The upper layer of nicotine will run down on the area you just cleaned.
Pour out your cleaning solution and water when it becomes saturated with nicotine. Refill your buckets with fresh cleaning solution and rinsing water.Continue this process until you have thoroughly cleaned your cabinets.
Pour a small amount of wood polishing oil onto a clean rag. Wipe down a small section of your stained wood cabinets. Continue this process until you have polished all of your cabinets. The wood polish will bring back the shine to your cabinets. This step is not necessary for painted cabinets.