These Trendy Kitchen Cabinets Are *Really* Hard to Clean (but We Have a Solution)

published Jun 5, 2022
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Cleaning cabinets with Dawn dish soap
Credit: Sarah Crowley

If I had to sum up current kitchen trends in a word (or two), it would be “earthy-neutral.” And one of the easiest ways to achieve this is with matte cabinets.

Matte cabinets originally became popular as an alternative to luxe, glossy finishes that easily show smudges. Fast forward a few years, and many homeowners began choosing them for their more natural, earth-forward aesthetic. Matte also adds a fun textural contrast to the shiny finish of many appliances and countertops. (Need a visual representation? Here are some pictures that demonstrate the difference.)

Trendy matte cabinets.

That’s the good stuff. Now onto the bad news. There are two big downsides of matte cabinets. The first is that they absorb, rather than reflect, light. This can make small spaces feel dark and cave-like. The second is the more annoying problem: They’re incredibly challenging to clean.

Although they do hide smudges and grease splatters better than glossy finishes, they don’t prevent them. And those smudges are a major pain to remove. I have matte cabinets in my bathroom, and they’ve been a total nightmare — especially because I use facial and body oils. But now I have a secret weapon for keeping them clean, and it came from pro cleaner Vanessa Amaro’s TikTok.

How to Clean Matte Kitchen Cabinets, According to Vanessa Amaro

Amaro is one of Kitchn’s most trusted cleaning sources, and she hasn’t led me astray yet. In a recent TikTok video, she explains that matte cabinets are frustratingly difficult to keep clean. “We’re not going to deny that matte cabinets are all the rage — and they look amazing,” she narrates before pressing her fingertips onto the wood. Immediately oily residue appears on the surface.

Typical cleaning products won’t remove oil stains or fingerprints from matte-finished cabinets, so Amaro collaborated with plant-based cleaning company Áthos to create a truly effective solution: a citrusy-smelling, all-purpose cleaner. There are only five ingredients in the solution, and customer reviews praise it for its great smell and streak-free performance. (If the spray is sold out, you can also use Áthos’ other all-purpose cleaner to get the job done.)

The cleaner is just the first part of the equation. The second part? A microfiber towel (or two). After spraying cleaner directly on the cabinet, you’ll use “a very, very damp towel,” to rub it in. Then flip it over or grab a new, completely dry towel to buff it in. And that’s it. Seriously. That’s it! No chemicals, no elbow grease. The before-and-after visuals on Amaro’s TikTok are enough to make me a believer.

Of course, Amaro does finish the video with one crucial tip for keeping those cabinets clean: “Grab your cabinets by the handle,” she says. After all, that’s what they’re there for!

Do you have matte cabinets? Share your technique for cleaning them in the comments below.