How To Clean Wood Kitchen Cabinets – Which is the Best Way?

We all love how wooden cabinets look great and last a long time, especially when compared to less appealing alternatives like plastic, particleboard, or fiberboard. But maintaining your cabinets is key to keeping that excellent appearance, and the most important aspect of cabinet maintenance is keeping them clean.

Of course, keeping your cabinets clean can be a lot easier said than done sometimes, especially if your cabinets get splattered by a lot of grease or food particles when you cook.

With that mind, we’ve assembled this article about the best ways to clean wooden kitchen cabinets, in order to impart to you some useful information and advice that will hopefully make the process at least a little bit easier.

How To Clean Wood Kitchen Cabinets

What Types of Cleaners Are Safe and How Do I Use Them?

While using certain chemical cleaners is fine for plastic or particleboard cabinets that have a thick protective layer of lamination, wooden cabinets are a different story.

Harsh chemical cleaners, although effective at cutting through and removing grease, are also hard on your cabinets; the chemicals can damage the finish on the wood, which not only harms the superficial appearance of your cabinets but can also lead to more serious damage if the finish is truly compromised and the wood underneath starts absorbing moisture.

And as if the possibility of damaging your cabinets wasn’t enough, many heavy-duty cleaners contain chemicals that are potentially hazardous or even outright toxic to you, your family members, or even your pets if such a cleaner is somehow accidentally ingested or fumes from it are inhaled.

Therefore, we suggest trying more natural methods for cleaning your wooden cabinets, so as to reduce the risk of harm for both you, your loved ones, and the cabinets themselves.

The easiest and most common natural cleaner is vinegar, which is very effective at cutting through dirt and grime (although the smell can be a little off-putting to those unfamiliar with it).

We suggest filling a spray bottle with vinegar, since spray bottles are an easy-to-use way of getting maximum coverage across the surfaces of your cabinets.

Then, once the vinegar has had a chance to soak in and begin breaking up the dirt and grime (we recommend letting it sit on your cabinets for at least two or three minutes), wipe and lightly scrub your cabinets with a damp sponge.

We do suggest that you try to avoid using metal scrubbing pads or sponges with harsh bristles if possible, so you don’t scratch the wood finish of your cabinets.

Another alternative to harsh chemical cleaners, if you don’t want to use vinegar, is to use cleaners made from plant-based materials; there are a few soaps and cleaners available on the market that are all-natural, and most are very effective at removing dirt and grease.

If you’re using a natural, simply mix some of the product together in a bowl with some water to dilute it (you can do this with vinegar as well, if pure vinegar is too strong for you). Then simply take a rag or gentle sponge, soak it in the mixture, and then start scrubbing.

What Should I Do for Hard-To-Clean Spots?

Let’s face it, some parts of your cabinets might be a little dirtier than others. Whether it’s from your kids’ dirty fingers or just from close proximity to your stove or dishwasher, these spots can be harder to clean away than the rest.

Luckily, there are some tricks you can use to get rid of those pesky stubborn spots.

The most widely implemented trick is mixing together water and baking soda; this creates a paste that you can apply to the worst of the dirty spots. Then, all you need to do is wipe it away with a wet cloth.

Similarly, you can mix together vinegar and salt for use on tough stains or grease spots. If you choose this method, however, we recommend scrubbing the offending stubborn spot with a soft toothbrush or a microfiber cloth for better effectiveness.

Also, if for some reason you have a spot on your cabinet that’s proving hard to clean because of a sticky substance like honey, molasses, or pancake syrup, a fun trick to use is holding a plastic-wrapped ice cube against the offending goo.

The ice will chill down the substance and cause it to harden, making it much easier to scrape off and wipe clean. This trick is an easy way to make the cleaning process a little easier and faster, since you won’t be wasting extra time trying to scrub away a sticky mess.

What Should I Do to Keep My Cabinets Clean and Looking Nice After I Clean Them?

As important as it is to clean your cabinets and make them look nice again, keeping them that way is also of critical importance.

Thankfully, we have a useful tip for how to do that, too!

After you’ve finished washing down your cabinets, rub them dry with a soft towel. Try to make sure that they’re as dry as possible, with no excess moisture.

Then, mix together some vinegar and vegetable oil in a bowl (any vegetable oil will do, but personally we recommend olive oil). Most people will do a mixture of three parts oil and one part vinegar, but you can do an equal amount of each if you prefer (the latter is a better choice if your cabinets tend to accumulate more grime over time).

Apply this oil and vinegar mixture to your cabinets using a soft cloth (try to use a dye-free cloth if possible, so as to avoid leeching any colors from dye into the wood of your cabinets). Rub it into the wood gently and let it soak in, and then simply buff your cabinets until they shine to your satisfaction!

If I Do Decide to Use a Chemical Cleaner, Which Ones Are Better?

As much as we recommend more natural cleaning methods, we also recognize that some of you might prefer to use more standard products, to save time if nothing else. Therefore, we’ve put together a quick list of some products that we consider better options if you choose to go this route.

For cutting through grease and grime while also leaving a glossy finish, we recommend trying an oil soap. Murphy’s, in particular, is a very popular brand, and not only has the company been making an excellent product for over a century, this oil soap has a nice refreshing citrus scent that will leave your cabinets both looking and smelling clean.

Additionally, there are many All-Purpose sprays currently available on the market that are, true to their name, effective on a wide variety of surfaces, including kitchen cabinets and counters.

Make sure to read the product label before purchasing, however; certain brands aren’t as effective on wood or other porous surfaces, so it’s important to check that what you’re buying will actually be effective on your cabinets.

For a safe and effective All-Purpose cleaner, we suggest trying the Mrs. Meyers brand. Not only are their products strong and potent, but they are also made almost entirely from naturally derived ingredients and are even biodegradable. They also come in a variety of scents, which is helpful if the strong citrus smell of other cleaners if too overwhelming for you.

There are also some products out there tailored specifically towards cleaning wooden surfaces, like cabinets, bookcases, or tables.

Some of the more popular and effective brands out there currently include Method and Scotts, both known for cleaning away dirt and grime quite well while also imbuing your cabinets with helpful oils to promote a good appearance and keep dust and dirt away.

All in all, the main thing to remember when selecting a chemical cleaner of any kind is to read the product label before purchasing it. It’s important to know what’s in the cleaner before using it, especially if you’re going to be using it in your kitchen where you prepare and eat food.


As you can see, there can be quite a bit involved with the process of cleaning your wooden kitchen cabinets properly. But if you try to keep in mind the pieces of advice that we’ve shared with you here, maintaining your cabinets shouldn’t be too difficult in the long run. All it takes is a little bit of effort and planning, and your wooden cabinets can be kept beautiful for years!

If you have any questions about the information we’ve given to you, or if you would like to share some tips of your own, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.