This Is Your Definitive Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Materials

Believe it or not, your kitchen cabinets are a lot more than a place to store your cereal and countless bags of sugar or flour. They are also a design moment waiting to happen — and have the power to make or break the whole look of your culinary space.

You might've put a lot of thought into selecting a beautiful color or style, but what about the material? Chances are, you haven't even realized just how many kitchen cabinet materials there are. Not only does each option offer a completely different look, but they also have different levels of maintenance.

To help streamline the entire process, check out these popular kitchen cabinet materials — and how to care for them.

Kitchen Cabinet Material #1: Stainless Steel

While stainless steel cabinets can give your kitchen a cool, industrial edge, they can be covered in smudges, oil splatters, and fingerprints. To keep your cabinets looking as pristine as the set in this kitchen designed by Maple Craft USA, wipe down the doors with warm water and a microfiber towel. The inside of your metal cabinets might require a little extra elbow grease, so be sure to check out our tips for cleaning like a pro.

Kitchen Cabinet Material #2: Wood

Bring a slice of the great outdoors into your kitchen with some rich wood cabinets. As interior designer Emily Henderson proves, Mother Nature's number one material can bring a welcoming, rustic charm to any space. Show off your built-ins' natural beauty — and protect them from damage — by applying a matte polyurethane finish.

Kitchen Cabinet Material #3: Acrylic

Typically made with fiberboard panels and coated in a high-gloss finish, acrylic cabinets are known to pack a dramatic punch. But, with any statement-making element, there's a fine line between being elegant and being an eyesore. If you want to strike a balance, take a cue from these cabinets by Just Click Kitchens and opt for a muted color paired with light wood countertops.

Want to keep your acrylic cabinets looking their best? Stay away from harsh chemical cleaners — mild soap and water will get the job done.

Kitchen Cabinet Material #4: Laminate

Laminate is one of the most popular kitchen cabinet materials around — and for good reason. Typically made with paper and plastic resin and then bonded to a cabinet door, this option is cost-effective, durable, and easy-to-clean. Simply wipe down your cabinets, and you're good to go. Best of all, laminate cabinets can come in plenty of different colors, making it easy to give your kitchen the perfect pop of color. Let Christine and Jan from Little House on the Corner show you how it's done!

Kitchen Cabinet Material #5: Thermofoil

Contrary to popular belief, laminate and thermofoil are two very different kitchen cabinet materials. While the use of any material can be considered laminate, thermofoil features a special type of PVC vinyl coating. Plus, it is typically only used on doors and cabinets.

Fortunately, caring for your thermofoil cabinets is just as easy. To keep them looking their absolute best — like these beauties that were designed by Chris and Julia of Chris Loves Julia for Semihandmade — clean with a damp cloth or sponge once a week.

Kitchen Cabinet Material #6: Melamine

Want to save on your kitchen cabinet materials? Give melamine cabinets a try, like these from Artform Kitchens. While melamine is technically considered a laminate, they are easier to create, hence cheaper. The downside is that lower quality melamine usually doesn't last as long as laminate, so it's important to pay extra attention to how you care for them. When it comes to tough grease or oil stains, dab them off with a citrus solvent and cotton swab.


Kelsey Mulvey

Kelsey Mulvey

Kelsey Mulvey is a freelance lifestyle writer and editor. Her work has been featured in Lonny, Apartment Therapy, and Wallpaper*, among others.