We Tried 5 Methods to Clean Greasy Wood Cabinets — And the Winner Is Ridiculously Effective

updated Apr 14, 2023
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Wood kitchen cabinets with cleaning products to the right.
Credit: Product Photos; Sarah Crowley; Cabinets: Esteban Cortez; Design: Kitchn

Even if you don’t cook regularly, you’ll know how greasy the surfaces in your kitchen can get — especially the cabinets around the stove, sink, and well, everywhere. Between developing and testing recipes for work, as well as cooking for my family, my kitchen has seen some things. I try to stay on top of daily tasks like doing the dishes before they pile up in the sink and wiping down countertops as they get dirty, but my cabinets don’t nearly get the attention they deserve. 

My kitchen is a good size, and the highlight is definitely the storage capacity, which is great for testing recipes. The previous owner built an entire wall of flat-front maple cabinets himself sometime in the middle of the last century. They’re free of any hardware and instead, open via magnetic push locks.

But the downside of such sleek cabinets? They show every bit of grease! Add in the fact that I have 33 cabinet panels and 10 drawer fronts in my kitchen, and you can see why tackling this job is a BIG one.

So, to cut down on the effort spent on cleaning greasy kitchen cabinets, I tested five popular cleaning methods to see which one worked the best.

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Kitchn

How I Tested the Methods to Clean Greasy Cabinets

I wanted to really test each method’s ability to cut through the grime as well as the fingerprints, so I used each method on the dirtiest panels located next to my stovetop and above the wall oven, as well as on a mostly-clean cabinet in another part of my kitchen.

For many of the methods, I relied on a sponge cloth to apply and wipe away any cleaning products, but you can easily use a rag and a non-abrasive kitchen sponge, too. I set a timer to see how long it took to get the dirtiest cabinets clean. Once I tested all five methods, I finished the job with the winning method to double-check my work, and in some cases, clean up what the other methods couldn’t finish.

The ratings: Each review includes my personal thoughts on the cleaning method and what I liked and disliked about each process. I rated my results on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being completely ineffective and 5 being the best with no room for improvement. 

Note: Be sure to always check the product’s instructions before cleaning your cabinets. Spot test if you are unsure about your cabinets’ varnish or stain.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Vinegar Soak

  • Cleaning time: 18 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 2 / 5 

    The method: Soak a washcloth in distilled white vinegar, like this classic from Heinz. Apply to cabinets, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then wipe off with a damp sponge.

How it went: White vinegar’s acidity is known for cutting through grease. After applying, I let it sit for 15 minutes, but when I went back to wipe it off, it had all but dried. The damp sponge helped, but I’m not sure how much of a difference the vinegar actually made.

This method seemed to work just as well as using warm water. It got off the first layer of gunk, but I wouldn’t return to this method for a deep clean. Waiting 15 minutes also made this the longest process by far, and makes an already big task drag out even longer. While vinegar scores points for being inexpensive, easily available, and non-toxic, it didn’t score as high in effectiveness.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Castile Soap + Baking Soda + Vinegar

  • Cleaning time: 3 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 2.5 / 5

    The method: Fill a 32-ounce spray bottle with a cup of white vinegar, a few drops of castile liquid soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s concentrated version), a tablespoon of baking soda, and water. 

How it went: This concoction worked a little better than just the vinegar, but I think it had more to do with the even application from the spray bottle. I still had to scrub, and while it did cut through grease, the grime ended up balling up and was tricky to wipe away. It didn’t really clean that well either. I went back with the winning method to clean up the mess this one made. When I used this method on a cabinet that wasn’t as dirty, it worked OK.

Making this mixture of baking soda and vinegar in a bottle was also pretty messy. I’m not sure if it was my spray bottle or the fizzing mixture, but the sprayer just kept leaking even when it was just sitting on the counter. The castile soap is a semi-expensive ingredient if you’re just planning to use a few drops, but its versatility means you can use it elsewhere around the kitchen and rest of your house.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Murphy Oil Soap

  • Cleaning time: 2 1/2 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 3 / 5

    The method: Fill a bucket with warm water and add the popular Murphy Oil Soap. Use a rag to wipe cabinets with cleaning solution. Use a second rag to wipe down cabinets with clean water to remove any residue and leftover grime.

How it went: This combination did a better job of cutting through the grease, but diluting the soap rather than just using a bottle of ready-to-go cleaner was a little annoying. I also did not care for the citronella scent at all and it really lingered. Vinegar’s scent may be strong, but it dissipates quickly. This one, while smelly, definitely did a better job than the previous two options, but it wasn’t great. Overall, a solidly average performance.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Pledge Everyday Cleaner

  • Cleaning time: 2 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 4 / 5 

    The method: Spray Pledge Everyday Cleaner on the cabinet front, then wipe with a microfiber cloth.

How it went: This method definitely earned points for its simplicity and effectiveness. I sprayed a cabinet, let it sit for about 20 seconds, and then wiped and rubbed as needed with the microfiber cloth.

I had to scrub a little harder on the cabinets closest to the stove that were the dirtiest, but it made quick work of the cabinets that just needed fingerprints wiped away. It has a gentle citrus smell and leaves the cabinet fronts with a slight sheen that isn’t overly shiny. This would be a great option for maintenance in between full scrub-downs. I’ve even been using it on my wooden dinner table at the end of the day and love how clean it keeps things.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Dawn Dish Soap

  • Cleaning time: 2 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 4.5 / 5

    The method: Mix Dawn dish soap and warm water, then use a sponge to clean.

How it went: This option is definitely the way to go for greasy cabinets. I put a little Dawn into a bowl and filled it with warm water, then got to scrubbing. My greasiest cabinets were cleaned with almost zero effort as the classic dish soap cut right through the grime.

I had to go back with a clean, damp sponge to wipe up the soap residue, so I can’t give this method a full five stars. But because it’s so much more effective at its intended job, the extra step didn’t add too much extra time. As the winning method, I’m excited about how well this one worked — and I’ll go back to it time and time again!

How do you get your greasy wood cabinets clean? Tell us your cleaning tips and favorite products in the comments below.