The Best Way to Clean Painted Kitchen Cabinets

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Use the right cleaners and tools for cleaning wood kitchen cabinets with a painted finish to make them look refreshed without causing damage.
Image Credit: Bogdan Kurylo/iStock/GettyImages

Kitchen countertops and floors get lots of cleaning love, but cabinets often get neglected. Splattered food and grease can build up quickly on your cabinets. Your once spotless painted cabinets now look like a speckled mess and not in the on-trend rustic distressed way. Use the right cleaners and tools for cleaning wood kitchen cabinets with a painted finish to make them look refreshed without causing damage.

Avoid Anything Abrasive

Cabinet paint, especially oil-based paint, is tough and protective. But it can easily become scuffed, scratched or damaged if you use anything harsh to clean it. Once you damage the paint, you'll need to refinish at least the damaged portion of the cabinet with fresh paint. Avoid potentially damaging cleaning tools and products to prevent that issue.

Never use scouring pads, steel wool or similar abrasive cleaning tools to remove stuck-on food or stains. Soft microfiber cloths or sponges work best on painted surfaces to protect the finish.

Avoid abrasive or harsh cleaners that might damage the paint. Any products containing bleach or ammonia can damage the painted surface. Read all labels if you opt for commercial cleaning products to make sure they're safe for painted surfaces. To avoid issues, always test out any cleaner, commercial or homemade, in a hidden spot on your painted cabinets to make sure it's safe.

Wipe Cabinets Regularly

The best way to clean painted cabinets is with regular wiping. Routine cleaning with a damp sponge or cloth keeps your cabinets clean before gunk can build up on them. Get in the habit of wiping down cabinets, especially ones in food prep areas, when you wipe down your countertops.

Watch for spills that drip onto your cabinets while you're prepping food or pouring drinks. Wipe your cabinets immediately if you notice any food or beverage spills on them. This prevents the spills from sticking and causing stains.

Clean With Dish Detergent

When a damp cloth isn't enough, reach for your trusty dish detergent to gently wash away cabinet gunk. Mix it with some warm water to create a gentle cleaning solution. Wring out the extra water from your cloth or sponge so the cabinets don't get too wet.

Make a Kitchen Cabinet Grease Remover

Grease can be more challenging to remove from the cabinets while still protecting the paint. Plain white vinegar can help if a grease-fighting dish detergent doesn't remove it. Add the vinegar to hot water to dilute it before cleaning painted wood with vinegar.

You can dip a cloth into the mix or add it to a spray bottle and spray it on the cabinets. Gently scrub the cabinets using a circular motion. You can let the vinegar mix sit on a tough stain for a few minutes to help loosen it if it doesn't wipe away easily.

Another option for a homemade kitchen cabinet grease remover is to add baking soda to vinegar and water. Add about 1 tablespoon of baking soda to a mix of 2 cups water and 1 cup vinegar. The baking soda adds some gentle scrubbing power for cabinet cleaning.

Tackle Stubborn Stains

If you don't catch spills or splatters in time, they may leave a stain on your painted cabinets. A paste made with baking soda and warm water can be used to gently scrub away the stains. You can also use Borax instead of baking soda in the paste.

Wipe Down Cabinets

No matter which cleaning solution you use, it's a good idea to wipe down the cabinets afterward to remove any remnants. Use a damp sponge or cloth and clean water to wipe all areas of the cabinets that you cleaned. Rinse the sponge or cloth regularly as you clean. Go over the cabinets with a dry cloth to absorb any remaining moisture.


Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.

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