Kevin Dean | Kitchen Designer | Dean Cabinetry
By Kevin Dean

We are often asked by customers, “How do I clean and maintain my cabinets?”  Perhaps you’ve just had new cabinets installed or you’ve been using your kitchen for a few years.  Maybe you’ve just purchased a new home and you need to clean and make a few adjustments before you move everything in.

Our goal with this article is to give you the capabilities and know-how to take care of and make any and every cabinetry adjustment yourself.

Cabinets are very functional items and over time they need cleaning, maintenance, and adjustments.  Just like your car needs cleaning and adjustments, your cabinets will upkeep to ensure they look and work great for years to come.  The more they get used the more they will need to be upkept. We’ve put together a few questions you might have about cabinetry maintenance, and we hope to answer them.

How do you clean cabinets?

Check out this video for a complete overview of cleaning your cabinetry.

The kitchen is the heart of the home.  People gather to cook, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.  This is a great thing but over time lots of dirt and grime will begin to accumulate in the kitchen and on your cabinetry and that is not so great.  So what should you do to clean your cabinets? Regular cleaning is the best way to keep them free of dirt and dust. The longer the dirt has to build up, the harder it will be to clean off the cabinetry.  

When you go to clean the cabinets it is best to use a light water and dish soap solution.  Use a soft cloth or rag to scrub and remove any dirt. It should wipe right off.

Do not use harsher cleaning solutions.  Especially solutions containing ammonia.  Harsh chemical solutions will wear down the protective clear coat and expose the painted surface.

Do not use any type of abrasive such as steel wool or a magic eraser.  An abrasive will put light scratches into the finish which can actually attract dirt buildup.  Avoid using abrasives at all costs.

A light soap and water solution is the best bet for cleaning your cabinets.  It works great for cleaning the exterior finished parts as well as the interiors of your cabinets.  Alternatively, Simple Green household cleaner is a great solution for cleaning your cabinets.

How do you remove drawers?

Drawers are one of the most used parts of your cabinetry.  They are made of a wooden box called a drawer box and a wooden front called a drawer front.  These two pieces are screwed together and ride on top of two-drawer slides. These slides attach to the side of the cabinet box and all together make up your drawer.

Underneath the drawer there are two drawer clips that allow the drawer box to attach to the drawer slides.  The slides have a small amount of adjustability but the clips allow us to remove the drawer and make most of the adjustments.

To remove the drawer box from your cabinet first remove the contents of your drawer.  Then reach underneath the drawer and squeeze the drawer clips to release them from the drawer slide.  As you squeeze the clips, slowly pull the drawer forward and remove it from the cabinet. Be careful to set the drawer down gently to prevent damaging the drawer front.

To reinstall your drawer, simply slide the drawer back into the cabinet and onto the slides.  Press the drawer box into the cabinet until you hear a “click” from each drawer clip. This “click” means that the drawer has attached to the drawer slide and will work properly.

In some cases this “click” is not made.  If this happens, reach underneath the drawer and pull the drawer slide into the drawer clip until you hear a “click”.

How do you adjust drawers?

Check out this video for a complete overview of adjusting your drawers.

There are two types of adjustments that can be made for drawers.  The clip adjustment and slide adjustment. Clip adjustments are much more common and the slide adjustment is only used in rare situations.

Photo of drawer clip and dark gray adjustment clip.

To adjust the clips, there is a dark gray plastic piece, that allows the drawer and drawer front to be raised and lowered.  Simply reach underneath the drawer and press the dark gray piece into the drawer front. This pressure will allow it to move.   Then slide the dark gray plastic piece toward the back of the drawer to raise it and toward the front of the drawer to lower it.  This height adjustment will influence the gap between the surrounding drawers and doors.

The clip adjustment will be harder to reach.  One would make this adjustment if the drawer was sliding open or closed too fast.  This adjustment will influence the tilt of the drawer from front to back.

To adjust the drawer slides, there is a similar gray plastic piece on the rear of the drawer slide.  Remove the drawer box to make the adjustment. To tilt the drawer slide forward, press the gray plastic piece inward and rotate it toward the top.  To tilt the drawer slide back, similarly press the gray plastic piece and rotate it toward the bottom.

Photo of the drawer slide gray plastic piece.

It is also important to keep your drawer slides free of dirt and dust.  If you notice your drawer slides have accumulated some debris, use a vacuum to clean them out.  Do not attempt to wash the slides or wipe them down as this will disrupt the factory oils that keep them lubricated and sliding smoothly.

How do you adjust hinges?

Check out this video for a complete overview of adjusting your hinges.

Another huge part of your functional cabinetry is your doors.  Each door will be connected to the cabinet with hinges, usually two, sometimes three or four.  They also come in many varieties depending on the construction style of your cabinets. Some hinges attach directly to the cabinetry, while some connect to a baseplate which is then attached to the cabinet.  The hinges can have adjustments and the baseplates can have multiple adjustments. However, if your cabinetry is relatively modern, your hinges combined with your baseplates will have three common adjustments.

There are three possible adjustments to your hinges.  They can move the door, front to back, left to right, or up and down.  These adjustments will affect the gaps between the surrounding doors and drawer fronts, the straightness of your door, and how flush your door is with the surrounding cabinetry.

To make any of the adjustments, you simply need a Phillips screwdriver. Use the screwdriver to rotate the adjustments clockwise or counterclockwise.  Typically the baseplate adjustments allow for front to back, and up and down adjustments of the door. The hinge adjustment usually allows for the left to right adjustment of the door.

There is a tremendous amount of hinges and adjusting them perfectly will take some trial and error.  Don’t get frustrated. As long as your door is not warped, it is possible to adjust them correctly. Keep making small adjustments until you figure out the right direction to go in.  The good news is once you figure out how to adjust one cabinet, the rest of your cabinetry hardware should be the same.

Remember, each manufacturer has designed different adjustments into their hinges.  Modern hinges commonly have three adjustments. Older hinges may not be easily adjusted or require more effort to do so.  Trial and error will be required to adjust your cabinetry hinges.

Is my cabinet door warped?

To check if your cabinet door is warped, simply remove the door and lay it face down on a flat surface such as a countertop.  If the door is warped it will not sit flat, it will be able to rock back and forth. If your cabinetry is new, a warped door should be under warranty.  However, doors over a certain size do not usually have a warranty. This is because wood is a natural material that will shrink and expand over time. If your door is old or very large, and badly warped the only solution will be a dramatic adjustment or the purchase of a new door.  Unfortunately this is a drawback of wood cabinetry.

How do I repair a scratch in my cabinet?

Keeping up with your cabinetry maintenance is the best way to keep your investment looking and working great.  However, it is likely your cabinetry will get scratched throughout its lifetime. It is a great skill to repair these mishaps yourself.

When your cabinetry was installed you should have received a touch-up kit.  This kit might contain paint and/or putty to repair these types of scratches.  If you did not receive a touch-up kit, please contact your cabinetry provider.

How do you use Touch Up Paint?

Use the touch-up kit to repair the dings and scratches as necessary.  If it is a minor surface scratch that exposes the wood underneath, paint is the best option.  Apply a very light amount of paint to the area using a foam brush. Let it dry and apply a second coat.  A third coat may be necessary as well. Do your best to apply paint only to the scratched area. This will minimize the imperfection.  Using too much paint could make it stand out even more. Keep in mind that touching up your cabinetry will not restore it to its original factory condition.  If you look closely enough you will be able to identify the imperfection. If it is important to you that the finish is restored to its original condition, contact a cabinetry professional.

How do you use Touch Up Putty?

Cabinetry touch up putty usually comes in a stick or small jar.  Press an appropriate amount of putty into the scratch and cover the scratch completely.  Use a paper towel to wipe any excess off of the scratch. This may take some trial and error.  A good tip is to use a paper towel over your fingernail to scrape the excess putty off. Again, this is a touch-up solution and will not return the piece to its original state.

How do I repair a dent in my cabinet?

Repairing a dent in your cabinetry can be tough.  Depending on the severity of the dent, there are a variety of solutions.  Each solution is a little different and will produce varying results. If the imperfection is large or very visible you may want to have it professionally repaired.

If this is the case, please contact a cabinetry professional.  They may be able to help you in a few ways. First they could complete a standard on-site touch up with great skill and care, to make it as minimal as possible.  This is the least expensive option. A second option is, if the piece is easily removable, it could be taken back to the cabinetry shop and refinished to the manufactured quality.  This is also a great alternative. Third, the cabinetry company could do professional refinishing on-site. This is the most time-consuming and labor-intensive option, and therefore the most expensive  The cabinetry company will need to mask off the entire area, sand down the imperfect area, apply Bondo if necessary, spray primer, and successive coats of paint. This could easily be a day-long process, largely due to set up and drying time.

How Can Dean Cabinetry Help Me?

Please keep in mind that we at Dean Cabinetry are more than happy to come out to do maintenance, adjustments, touch-ups or refinishing for you.  Especially if we were lucky enough to provide your kitchen cabinetry. It is in our best interest to keep your kitchen looking great for years to come, so please do not hesitate to give us a call for adjustments.

That goes for refinishing as well.  If you ever need a door refinished or some touch-ups made please do not hesitate to give us a call.  If the imperfection has anything to do with the quality of the product we provided, we will fix your problem-free of charge.  Please also acknowledge that when we are completing the installation of your project, we can certainly make touch-ups. We will also return for one punch list trip where we can also complete touch-ups or refinishing.  We ask that you thoroughly examine your cabinetry, so we can address any imperfections during the installation process.

Please realize that it is difficult to justify Dean Cabinetry returning to make complementary touch-ups months or years after the completion of your project.  We are always happy to help, but we are a business, and we may need to charge for our services.

Please see the chart below for our refinishing and touch up pricing:

Small repair, < 4 hoursPrice:
Less than 15 miles$125 for first hour +$80.00 per additional hour + materials
Greater than 15 miles$150 for first hour +$80.00 per additional hour + materials

This pricing is flexible and is simply to help you get a ballpark estimate.  Please reach out to us with any questions or concerns.

It is in our best interest to keep your kitchen looking great for years to come!