Care and Cleaning Tips for Wood Cabinetry

Care and Cleaning Tips for Wood Cabinetry

Unfortunately, there's a lot of conflicting information out there about how to maintain kitchen cabinets—especially those that are made of wood.

Ultimately, the best cleaning method for your cabinets will depend on the type of wood and finish used. It's always best to defer to any cleaning and care instructions that came with your cabinets when they were installed. However, if you're not the original owner of your cabinets or aren't entirely sure what kind of wood you're working with, there are some general care and maintenance tips you can follow to keep your cabinetry looking great.


At Plain & Fancy, our custom cabinetry is made with an industrial finish known as a catalyzed conversion coating. This two-part system is mixed together to provide the best and most durable finish for wood. These cross-link coatings are baked on during manufacturing and are fast-drying, offering a high-performance coating that can help your cabinetry look its best for many years to come. The tips and cleaning advice we offer are specific to cabinetry with this type of coating, but can be applied to many types of wood cabinetry and finishes.

With this in mind, even if you don't have Plain & Fancy cabinetry in your kitchen, you may still be able to use these tips to clean and degrease wood



Milbrook walnut natural

The best way to prevent grime build-up and keep your wooden cabinetry looking beautiful is to make cleaning them part of your regular household maintenance. This means taking the time to wipe down the fronts of your kitchen cabinets at least once per week—especially after cooking a messy meal in your kitchen. Splatters from food, greasy fingerprints, and other grime can easily build up on the surface of your cabinets over time, causing the finish to appear dull. A quick wipe-down will keep your wooden cabinets protected and looking like new.

So, what is the best everyday cleaning method for your kitchen cabinets? In general, you don't need to do anything more than wipe down the front of your cabinets with a mixture of oil-based soap (such as dish soap) and warm water. This should easily lift any dirt, grease, or other grime from the surface of your cabinetry and keep them looking their best. Just be sure to follow up by drying the fronts of your cabinets with a soft, lint-free cloth.

When cleaning wooden kitchen cabinets, only use a soft cloth. Opt for a new, clean cloth that has not been used with harsh cleaning chemicals in the past. This way, you can be sure that no leftover chemical residue will transfer onto your cabinets and potentially damage them. When cleaning the surfaces of your wood cabinets, be careful not to scrub too hard, as this could cause small scratches to form on the surface of your cabinet's finish.

If you have any cabinetry with built-in glass, this should also be wiped down regularly. However, to prevent unwanted streaks and smudges, a dedicated glass cleaner should be used. Because some glass cleaners contain ammonia (which can be damaging to wood and wood finishes), it's important to spray the cleaner onto a towel and then wipe just the glass, being careful not to get any of the cleaner on the wood finish itself. Avoid spraying glass cleaner directly onto the cabinets themselves, as the ammonia can cause damage.


Occasionally, your cabinets may require a deeper clean to keep them looking like-new. At least once per year, we recommend deep-cleaning your cabinets inside and out. This is a great opportunity to clean not just the parts of the cabinetry that you see every day, but the insides as well. Plus, because you'll have to empty each cabinet in order to clean it, this is an excellent way to keep your kitchen organized and get rid of things you no longer need.

To deep-clean your kitchen cabinets, start by removing the items from inside each cabinet. If there is a lot of debris, you might want to use a hand-vacuum to remove them before wiping down the bottom of each cabinet shelf with a damp towel.

What is the best cleaner for wood cabinets? For basic cleaning, a mixture of dish soap and warm water is all you need to remove light dirt and grime. Consider mixing it together in a spray bottle and spraying a modest amount onto a soft cloth. Then, wipe down the surfaces of your cabinets to remove unwanted grease and grime. Don't forget to clean any hardware, such as door knobs and drawer pulls, as well.

Regardless of what you use to clean your kitchen cabinets, be sure to "rinse" them by wiping down interior and exterior surfaces with a clean, damp cloth. Then, follow up by drying each cabinet. This is an important step, as long-term exposure to moisture can cause wood to warp or otherwise become damaged.

Once your cabinets are clean inside and out, all that's left to do is to restock them and enjoy your beautiful, clean kitchen!

Vogue kitchen cabinets


Knowing how to care for kitchen cabinets is important—but it's perhaps just as important that you know what not to do when cleaning your cabinets. For starters, avoid any store-bought cleaning chemicals that aren't specifically formulated for your cabinet finish. If you do decide to use a chemical cleaner, be sure to spot-test it in a small and inconspicuous area at least 24 hours prior to using it on the remainder of your cabinetry. Some harsh cleaners can break down protective coatings on your cabinetry over time, so it's generally best to stick with a simple and gentle cleaning solution (like mild dish soap and water) for best results.

When wiping your cabinets clean, it's also important to avoid abrasive rags or pads—and to clean the surfaces of your cabinets gently. Scrubbing too hard can damage the finish of your wood cabinetry over time.

Last but not least, be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry wooden cabinetry after cleaning. Never leave wooden cabinets wet or use so much cleaning solution that they become saturated with water. Unfortunately, this could lead to finish failure due to too much water exposure.


In addition to knowing how to clean kitchen cabinets, there are some steps you can take to protect them and keep them looking like new. For starters, if you don't already have hardware installed on your cabinetry, now is the time to add some. Drawer pulls and cabinet door knobs not only make opening and closing your cabinets easier, but they also protect the wood surface from greasy and grimy hands while cooking. Plus, the right hardware can add to the overall look and feel of your kitchen.

In addition to choosing the right cabinet hardware, you can also protect your cabinets from damage by drying wet dishcloths or towels on a dedicated towel rack (or in your clothes dryer) rather than hanging them over cabinets or cabinet doors. This will prevent moisture from penetrating the surface of the wood and causing warping or other damage over time.


From regular wipe-downs to deeper cleans, knowing how to properly clean wood kitchen cabinets will help you keep your kitchen looking its best. These tips and tricks can be used on just about any wooden cabinet surface regardless of whether it's been stained, sealed, or painted. However, you should always defer to any cleaning and care instructions that came with your cabinets when they were installed.

Already dreaming about your kitchen renovation? Our team at Plain & Fancy would love to speak with you about your next project. With more than 50 years of experience in the custom cabinetry business, we offer the beautiful styles, colors, and finishes that will transform your kitchen and help turn your design dreams into reality. Get in touch with our knowledgeable and friendly team to get started or find a showroom near you.


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