How To Clean Wood Kitchen Cabinets (and the Best Cleaner for the Job)

How To Clean Wood Kitchen Cabinets (and the Best Cleaner for the Job)

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Erika Tracy
May 3, 2015
(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

Spot-cleaning kitchen cabinets after spills and drips is easy enough, but finding a process and product that removes the grime and grease from many a meal preparation takes patience and a little bit of label research (especially if you are tackling a painted surface).

I tested four cabinet cleaners — two spray formulas, a plant-based product, and a traditional oil soap — to find out which product would clean my kitchen cabinets best. Here's what I discovered, and how you can clean greasy cabinets.

Reorganizing my kitchen storage has improved function and cut dishwasher unloading time by at least a third. While the renewed pleasure of our space is exciting, my number-one kitchen complaint was still the state of the cabinets. I periodically handle surface stains and drips with a quick spray and wipe, but unfortunately my routine with a multi-surface cleaner was no longer doing the trick. Grime, grease, and spills were still hanging around after each cleaning.

Daydreaming about painting them for three months didn't get me very far, so I came down out of the clouds and tested a few methods and products for reviving kitchen cabinets.

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

The Results of the Four Cleaners I Tested

1. Bona Cabinet Cleaner

The popular hardwood floor cleaner company, Bona, makes a specific cabinet-cleaning product. I was eager to try it after reading great reviews of their floor care system and cleaner. The spray-bottle formula was too drippy for my liking but had almost no scent and worked well on crevice and surface stains. Unfortunately, there was an apparent sticky residue on cabinet surfaces after using this product.

Verdict: Not my favorite.

2. Magic Cabinet & Wood Cleaner

Unfamiliar with this brand, I was delighted to discover it was appropriate for painted cabinet surfaces as well. (You know, in case I ever get to painting my cabinets.) The spray-bottle formula (there's also an aerosol) had a wider, even spray but smelled the most cleaner-like to me. The thicker spray made it great for crevices and it offered a smoother finish after wiping than the other spray products.

Verdict: A solid performer.

3. Method All-Purpose Spray

Method is my favorite brand of multi-purpose spray cleaner. I use it daily for countertops. Their multi-purpose product for grease and grime stays true to their product formulas with naturally derived, biodegradable ingredients — and of course the citrus smell was delightful. If you are a Method product fan, try this product, but let it sit a few minutes and prepare to scrub a little harder for stain removal.

Verdict: Works well if you let it sit and really scrub.

4. Murphy's Oil Soap - the winner!

Tried and true Murphy's Oil soap has been around for over 100 years, and it won my overall vote. It cut through the grime and grease with more ease than the other products and left a beautiful, silky finish on cabinet surfaces. The citrus scent is also mild and doesn't linger.

Verdict: The best cleaner of the four!

Note: Do be mindful of which formula you choose if you have painted cabinets. For the concentrated formula, you'll have the added step of diluting and applying with a cloth instead of spraying. It was worth the extra step to me.

How To Clean Kitchen Cabinets

What You Need

Equipment
Cleaner of choice
Clean, dry cloth
Toothbrush or small scrub brush

Instructions

  1. Spot-treat stains and drips: To spot-treat stains from drips and spills, wet a toothbrush or small scrub brush in a bowl of diluted oil soap.
  2. Scrub hardware and corners: Scrub around the hardware edges on your cabinets and in the corners of the cabinet facing. Removing buildup might be a more involved step if your cabinet facing is more intricate.
  3. Clean cabinet surface: Using your cleaner of choice, spray or wipe cabinet fronts one at a time. Removing spills and drips before this step will avoid a do-over later.
  4. Address edges and inside surfaces of drawers and doors: Don't forget to address the sides of each drawer and door while you're wiping. If you're going all in, go ahead and handle the interior of doors while you have the supplies handy.

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