How To Clean Painted Wood Cabinets

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

Your kitchen cabinets can get pretty dirty over time due to the usual kitchen stuff: clouds of grease floating through the air from your stovetop, grubby fingers pulling open the doors, drips of coffee, and more. Fortunately they don’t get as dirty as, say, your countertops. But every once in a while, you probably look up and think Wow, these things are filthy!

If you have painted cabinet doors (either your own DIY project or the work of a professional), there are some things to keep in mind. Because most cabinets are painted with a high-gloss or semi-gloss paint, they will be more durable (and easier to wipe clean) than, say, a matte finish wall paint, but you do want to take care not to use anything so harsh that you end up striping the paint or damaging the finish.

So while your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser may be your go-to elsewhere, hold off here. Same with your super-scrubby brush, as it could damage the surface. In fact, the best cleaner for your cabinets, according to professional painters Chris and Lexi Dowding of SwatchOut in Michigan, is a simple one: dish soap mixed with warm water. Because most of the grime on your cabinets comes from grease- and food-related sources, any good dish soap that can cut through those things will work on your cabinets. Use it along with a microfiber cloth that’ll grab debris without scratching the paint. Here’s what to do.

How To Clean Painted Wood Cabinets


  • Dish soap (like Dawn)
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • 3 microfiber cloths
  • Stepstool, if necessary


  1. Mix up your cleaning solution: Fill a bucket with warm water and squeeze in some dish soap as the water is running. (This will cause the soap to bubble up.) There’s no need to be too precise with this: Just add a few inches of water to your bucket and a couple squirts of soap until the mixture is soapy.
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth: Dip part of a microfiber cloth in the soapy solution and wring it out. Be careful not to oversaturate your cloth — it should be damp but not soaking.
  3. Scrub your cabinets: Working on one cabinet at a time, rub the damp cloth in a circular motion on the cabinet. Dip the cloth back in the soap mixture and repeat as necessary to remove any grime.
  4. Wet a second cloth: Wet part of your second cloth under the sink in non-soapy water. Wring it out. Again, it should be damp but not soaking.
  5. Wipe the cabinet: With your second cloth, wipe down the cabinet again. Work in a circular motion and make sure there’s no soapy residue left behind.
  6. Dry the cabinet: Grab a third microfiber cloth and dry the cabinet in that same circular motion. If you’re spot-treating a particular mess, then you’re done. If you’re cleaning the whole kitchen, move on to the next cabinet.
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