How to Clean Metal Cabinets

Are you looking to clean your heavy-duty steel storage cabinets or your vintage metal kitchen cabinets? Metal makes your cabinets strong, durable and long-lasting. But some cleaning products and tools can be harsh on metal. It's always best to start with the most gentle cleaning method and work up to tougher tools if necessary.

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Metal makes your cabinets strong, durable and long-lasting.

Dust the Metal Cabinet

Start by dusting metal cabinetry to remove loose dirt and debris. Dusting off the dirt while it's loose makes less of a mess than getting it wet with your cleaning solution. Don't forget cleaning the tops of kitchen cabinets with your duster. Work from the top down to keep the dust and debris from settling on areas you've already cleaned.

Wipe With Soapy Water

Next up is a good scrubbing using a simple soapy water mix. It's easy on the painted or enameled metal surface and is effective at removing most of the mess. Use mild dish detergent mixed with warm water to help remove grease, dirt and other grime. Wash the cabinets using a soft sponge or cloth dipped into the soapy water.

Work from the top of the cabinets down to the bottom. This allows any drips or dirty water to flow downward where you haven't cleaned yet. Avoid getting too much water on the sponge to prevent dripping and pooling water. Go back over the cabinetry with a clean sponge to get rid of the soapy residue.

Use Rubbing Alcohol

If your metal cabinet is extra dirty or has some spots that won't come off with soap and water, rubbing alcohol can help. Apply the alcohol to a soft cloth or sponge. Rub the problem areas with the rubbing alcohol to loosen the stuck-on grime. Remove any traces of the alcohol by wiping down the cabinets with a wet sponge when you're done.

Scrub Away Rust

The downside of metal cabinetry is the potential for rust. If you notice rusty spots, grab some extra-fine steel wool. Avoid coarse steel wool, as it can remove the finish. Rub only the rusty area, using just enough pressure to remove the rust. Too must rubbing or pressure can scratch the finish and cause more damage to the cabinetry.

If the rust removal leaves bare spots on the cabinetry, touch those spots up with paint designed for metal. Auto body shops often have metal paint options if you have trouble matching the cabinet color. You can also repaint the entire cabinet if you have a large portion that was rusted.

Dry the Metal

Wiping your cabinets with water is an effective way to clean, but the moisture can also cause rust. Make sure your metal cabinets dry thoroughly after cleaning. Seams, cracks, hinges and edges are particularly prone to catching water, so make sure those areas dry well.

Pay special attention to any bare metal that isn't painted, especially areas where you removed rust. The exposed metal is even more prone to rusting. A hair dryer is a good way to thoroughly dry those spots to prevent rust. You can also use a soft towel to wipe away moisture over large areas of the cabinetry.

Finish With Wax

Did you know car wax comes in handy when you want to refurbish a filing cabinet or other metal cabinets? Car wax gives the metal cabinetry a lustrous finish, making it look new again.

You only need a thin layer of car wax to do the job. Keep the room well-ventilated while you apply the car wax. Avoid putting the wax on shelving or any place where food, plates or other kitchen items will touch.


Shelley Frost

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.