Monday, October 31, 2011

Cleaning Cabinets: How should I do it?

The answer to that question depends on a couple of things:

Are the cabinets finished in a factory or finished in the home? Factory finish cabinets are modular boxes (looking inside each cabinet you will see them separated from each other by sidewalls) and have been installed more recently, in the last 15 years. For these cabinets, soap and water can be used, or for heavier grime and grease, a product called Cabinet Magic works great. Other products similar to this should available at a local hardware store near you. Just make sure, with a factory finished cabinets you do not use a silicon-based product, it will strip the finish.

Be careful cleaning a cabinet finished in the home, by the time the grease has build up it is mixed in with the top finish coat of the cabinet. To clean the cabinets is to take off this top coat. A properly “cleaned” cabinet at this point involves removing this top layer and reapplying a new top coat.

However, for a small confined area, such as around the handles, you can use a very dull razor blade to scrap off any built-up grime and then clean with a wet sponge and grease cutter, such as Dawn soap. If touch-ups to the finish are necessary, a top coat, such as polyurethane, can often do the trick. Consult with your local paint store about what product is best to use for your cabinets.

This article from our website has details on how to identify the difference between factory and finished-in-home cabinets:


  1. The last kitchens are absolutely beautiful. Those Goodman pendants are really growing on me. I love the brass.

    Kitchen designers Surrey

  2. Nice tips, I can now clean my kitchen cabinets by following your tips. So that my kitchen cabinets will look brand new. Thanks for sharing those tips on this blog.

    Best Kitchen Cabinets

  3. I agree with both assessments of factory and home-applied finishes (above), but folks should also know about the finish used in some custom cabinet shops. It's a catalyzed urethane UV-protected industrial-grade furniture coating. I can't say how it compares with a baked-on finish, since I've never tested that type myself. But I can say it's an extremely durable finish that's been thoroughly tested for many different types of product spills and stains commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms (think nail polish remover!), as well as grease build up and a variety of solvent-based products. For example, this finish product was tested by leaving alcohol lay on top of it for six hours. Alcohol is solvent that dissolves many sturdy surfaces (you wouldn't leave it on your car finish!). After six hours the alcohol showed no damage to this finish product. That is an extreme example of its durability. So cleaning with most household degreasers or other cleaning products isn't a problem. Personally, I find tough built-up grease is easiest to clean with Dawn dishwashing liquid on a soft cloth, sponge, or paper towel, which definitely doesn't pose a hazard to this tough durable finish. What not to use? Don't use abrasive cleaners of any kind (e.g., Ajax or Comet cleansers you might use on stainless steel pots and pans or sinks) and don't use abrasive cleaning tools like S.O.S. pads or green "scrubbies", although light use of a soapy non-scratch scrubbing sponge (the kind made for dishes) is fine. Giving the cabinet finish a once-over with non-smear, non-wax furniture polish (we like Pledge) every month or two helps maintain the beautiful sheen year after year. We know. We've been high-end custom cabinet makers for over 35 years. Since this catalyzed urethane industrial-grade furniture coating came on the market we don't use any other type of finish product. But don't make assumptions, ask your custom cabinet maker exactly what product they use for sealing and top-coating their finishes.