Author: Erica Dean

Cleaning your cabinets is a very simple process, and certainly not something to be avoided.

Clean Cabinet Exterior Photo by LoveToKnow

Why should I clean my kitchen cabinets?

By cleaning your cabinets, you will get the best value out of your kitchen. If maintained properly, cabinets can last for many years, even longer than many appliances, countertops, and kitchen tools.

Along with daily living, and as we cook and prepare meals, oils, grease, grime, smudges, splatters, bits of food, dirt, and dust, can all build up on our cabinets and create streaks and stains. Greasy fingerprints and smears of food, along with the unwanted bacteria that come with them, are reason enough to grab some supplies and start cleaning!

How often should I clean my cabinets?

In a perfect world, you would give your cabinets a quick wipe once every few weeks. The longer cooking residues stay on cabinet surfaces, the more difficult it will be to remove them.

However, because life gets busy, it might make more sense to wipe down your cabinets as you see fit. When you start to notice more and more dirty spots, it’s probably a good time to get cleaning.

Ideally, you should give your cabinets a deep clean, inside and out, at least once a year.


  • Mild, foaming or liquid dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Soft Wash cloths
  • Vacuum
  • Optional:
    • Baking soda
    • All-purpose cleaners

How do I clean the doors of my cabinets?

In general, the following are the best rules of thumb for any type of cabinet cleaning:

  1. Always use gentle cleaning solutions and soaps.
  2. Make sure to not use steel wool, abrasive cloths, abrasive sponges, or scrubbers, because they may scratch the wood and/or the painted finish on your cabinets.
  3. A mixture of mild dish soap and warm water is great for removing grease and grime. Other, stronger products are not usually necessary.
  4. Avoid soaking wood in water, as it may lead to rotting, discoloration, or water damage.

The following steps outline an easy way to clean your cabinets:

  1. Make a solution of (a) a small amount of mild dish soap and (b) a quart or two of warm water.
    • You may also use some types of all-purpose cleaners, but it is important to ensure that they do not have active or bleaching ingredients that may damage the finish.
    • If you would like to try one of these types of products, I would recommend spot testing in a hidden area before trying it on a frequently used surface.
  2. Dip a soft washcloth or non-abrasive sponge in the solution.
  3. Wring it out, so it is damp and not dripping.
  4. Wipe down the surfaces of the cabinet doors, working from top to bottom.
    • Rinse out the washcloth after each cabinet, to avoid spreading any grease and grime.
    • As your soap and water solution gets dirty, make a fresh batch. Using new, warm water helps to soften the tough bits of grime, and makes it easier to wipe them away.
  5. Make sure to wipe knobs and pulls, and pay extra attention to fine details and corners where dirt accumulates
  6. Rinse the panels with a second clean, damp cloth or sponge, to remove any residual dirt or soap / cleaner.
  7. Dry any areas of the cabinet doors that are still damp with a soft cloth or microfiber towel, to prevent any damage.

If your doors have glass, use a glass cleaner, such as Windex, as directed. Make sure to stop the cleaner from dripping into the cracks of the cabinets and causing discoloration. After wiping the glass panels with the cleaner, dry them with a microfiber towel to remove smudges.

Clean Cabinet Interior Photo by CliqStudios

How do I clean the interior of my cabinets?

Cleaning the interior of your cabinets involves the same basic steps, as the directions for cleaning the exterior, along with a few additional ones:

  1. Start by emptying each cabinet. I like to start with the tops of the wall cabinets, and work my way down to the bottoms of the base cabinets: moving from highest to lowest.
  2. Vacuum and/or wipe out all dust and crumbs.
  3. Wipe down the finished interior walls, shelves, and drawers with a cloth that is slightly dampened with warm soapy water. Make sure to use a mild, nonabrasive detergent.
  4. Wipe a second time with only warm water to remove any remaining soap.
  5. Use a new, clean cloth to wipe the panels completely dry.
    • It may be necessary to leave your cabinets open for several minutes or hours, depending on the temperature and humidity level of your space, to allow them to dry completely.
  6. If any of the cabinet contents are dusty or dirty, wipe them clean and let them dry before refilling your cabinets.
    • You can also use this opportunity to throw away expired goods, or donate any unneeded items.

What if my cabinets need a deeper clean?

When you find areas that have thick grease buildup or hardened food spills that are difficult to remove, you may need something a bit stronger than the mild soap and water mixture.

In these cases, you have several options. You may apply a paste of baking soda and water. This will help to break apart the dried food or grease. If necessary, you can also leave the mixture on the problem area for 10-15 minutes for a stronger treatment. Afterwards, wipe the paste away with a clean, damp towel.

Another more expensive option is to use a commercial cleaning product, such as an all-purpose orange oil cleaner or Simple Green. These solutions can help to break down the grease and grime, and may even leave your kitchen with a pleasant smell. However, you should always read labels carefully and spot test to make sure any product is safe to use.

Cleaning Cabinet Exterior Photo by The RTA Store

Should I clean my cabinet hinges and drawer slides?

If you find that your hinges and drawer slides are battling a build up of grime, feel free to use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe down the metal pieces. If some areas of grease and grime are particularly difficult to clean, use a small amount of the soap and water cleaning solution, and make sure to wipe the metal dry afterwards. Avoid using too much water to prevent rusting.

Special tips and tricks for cabinet cleaning:

  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles in tough-to-reach spots, intricate details, trim, or crown, or spots with stubborn buildup.
    • Scrubbing gently with a toothbrush (dry or dampened with the cleaning solutions) can also be useful around cabinet handles, hinges, or inside corners and edges.
  • Work in sections.
    • You should not feel the need to clean every single cabinet in one sitting.
    • You can clean as you find the opportunity to do so.
      • For example, if you pull all of your tupperware containers out of the drawer to pack up a Thanksgiving meal, you can give the drawer a quick clean before refilling the cabinet.

Is olive oil and vinegar good for cleaning my cabinets?

What about vinegar and olive oil? Many sources recommend using homemade cleaning solutions with vinegar and / or olive oil. Note, however, that there are mixed opinions on the use of them for cleaning cabinets.

On the one hand, both ingredients are natural, affordable, environmentally friendly, household staples. On the other hand, vinegar may strip away a paint and varnish coating. It may wear away at the surface, and damage smooth stains or painted finishes. It may also leave a lingering smell. Furthermore, olive oil may remain on the surface of the cabinets, create a distinctive odor, and attract bacteria.

If you do want to try using vinegar or olive oil, make sure to do your research, and spot test on smaller areas before testing them on large, visible locations.

My best advice is to stick to the simple mild soap and warm water mixture. It is quick, easy, inexpensive, and does an incredible job. It will save you money and promote happy, healthy cabinets!