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How To Care For Your Kitchen & Bathroom Cabinets (Cabinet Care)

Keep the the new-cabinet luster in a kitchen for years with proper care and maintenance of kitchen cabinets. Clean and maintain the exterior and interior of the cabinets regularly to keep their natural beauty shining through. With the right attention, kitchen cabinets will look attractive and function well for generations.


Warm water and a mild soap is the preferred solution for cleaning kitchen cabinets of all types and with all finishes. However, too much moisture can be the enemy of wood and wood finishes. For best results, apply the water/soap solution using a soft cloth or sponge, rinse the cabinet with clear water using a second clean cloth, then dry it quickly with dry, soft cloth. Avoid hanging wet dishcloths or towels over cabinets or cabinet doors, since long exposure to water will damage the finish and may leave stains.

Cleaning Products

Avoid using any products that contain ammonia, and avoid any abrasive cleaners such as powdered cleaners. Instead, use natural products that won't scratch the cabinet finish or leave sticky residues. As mentioned previously, mild, grease-cutting hand washing dish soap makes an ideal cabinet cleaner. Mix 2 tablespoons of dish soap into 2 cups of warm water, then apply the mixture to the cabinets using a clean, soft cloth or sponge. Vinegar is another natural cleaner that is safe to use on cabinets. After using a vinegar/water solution to clean, rinse with clear water to remove any vinegar residue. For difficult-to-clean water spots or dried-on food, try a paste made of baking soda and water. Use a sponge or soft toothbrush to rub the mixture in, then rinse with clear water. Again, dry cabinets quickly with a soft, dry cloth. Some water spots respond to white (not gel) toothpaste or to mayonnaise. For problem areas with built-up grease or food, try an emulsification-type cleaner such as an oil soap. If using a commercial cleaning product, buy one made specifically for wood cabinets.

Cleaning Cloths

To clean cabinets, the best choice is soft cloths that are lint-free. Some great types to use include soft cottons such as cheesecloth, chamois or old t-shirts. Other soft cloths that work well but may leave lint residue include old flannel shirts (with all buttons removed) or old dishtowels. Older cloths that have been washed frequently are softer and better for cabinets.

Daily Care

To keep cabinets looking their best, follow good practices for their basic care. Immediately clean up any spills, splatters or water spots with a soft cloth. The sooner these spots are cleared off, the less chance they have of staining or discoloring the cabinetry. Grease and food particles also get harder to remove over time, and removing dried-on residue may require tough scrubbing and harsher cleaners that can damage the cabinet finish. Avoid using a dishcloth or a dish sponge on cabinets. These items may carry residue from greasy food or harsh cleaning chemicals on them, which may damage cabinet surfaces.

Cabinet Tops

One part of the cabinetry that is sometimes overlooked is the tops of cabinets. Although they do not need cleaning as often as the front surfaces, the tops do collect dust. In a kitchen, any dust mixes with grease and oil in the air to create a sticky, difficult to remove build-up. After a time, this mixture can turn into a hardened glue-like substance. Cleaning the tops of the cabinets as well as the visible surfaces will keep this build-up from becoming established.


For a buffed shine on wood cabinets, use a furniture polish after cleaning. Polishes are usually applied using a soft cloth, then buffed to a shiny finish. Polishes contain mild detergents and emulsifiers to clean and shine wood cabinets and leave a protective coat of mineral oil. To create a homemade polish, use 1/2 cup of olive oil mixed with 1 TB of lemon juice. Mix well and apply to wood cabinets with a cloth.

Commercial furniture waxes, sprays and polishes have limited use on kitchen cabinets. Spray polishes often contain silicone, which does form a shine, but also creates a barrier over the wood. This barrier makes touch ups or refinishing impossible. Waxes form a buildup over time, attracting dust, dirt, smoke and pollutants from the air. Many waxes also contain grit, causing permanent damage to the surface of the cabinets. Some people believe that wood needs to be moisturized with oil, but the American Hardwood Council advises that wood does not need oily polishes or cleaners to moisturize it. If wood cracks or dries, it is a result of a lack of humidity in the air.

Enjoy new kitchen cabinets for years by taking the steps for their proper care, cleaning and maintenance.

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