When it comes to cleaning your kitchen, the countertops get all the focus. It’s understandable—when you’re cooking or even microwaving your leftovers, you inevitably have to wipe down some crumbs or spills. But there’s another area that deserves your attention (and a little bit of elbow grease, on occasion): your cabinets.
You might not think about cleaning your cabinets all too often, but giving them a good once-over every now and then will keep them looking fresh. Both the exteriors and interiors should be wiped down as you see fit—maybe not as frequently as you tidy up the counters and floor, but more often than you get a checkup at the dentist. If you like to tackle things in a big burst of energy, you can use this time to reorganize the things inside your cabinet too—but if not, you can also take things bit by bit.
So, how exactly do you go about cleaning your kitchen cabinets? It’s fairly simple, but there are a few key factors you should keep in mind. Here, a cleaning expert with over 15 years of experience, Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of Chicago-based cleaning company ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, shares her best tips.
No matter what kind of cabinets you have (wood, painted, thermofoil, textured melamine), you’ll want to use a gentle cleaning solution to ensure you don’t cause any damage to them. Rodriguez-Zaba recommends making your own by mixing one part distilled white vinegar and one part hot water in a clean spray bottle.
Wipe them down
How you apply this cleaning mixture to your cabinets is just as important as the solution itself—if not more important. “Wood cabinets are more fragile than other types of cabinets, and can get damaged more easily, especially by water, so avoid soaking wood cabinets with your cleaning solution,” Rodriguez-Zaba explains. For painted cabinets and melamine cabinets, this is also crucial. The one cabinet type you don’t have to worry about is thermofoil, which is non-porous.
Still, it’s best to play it safe. To prevent any warping, avoid directly spraying the cleaning solution on your cabinets. Instead, saturate a clean microfiber cloth so it’s damp, but not dripping, and use that to clean both the exterior and interior of your cabinets. To thoroughly clean a cabinet inside and out, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes each—so you can be finished with your whole kitchen in the time it takes you to catch up on last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live.
If your cabinets have a real wood veneer, you can occasionally (once or twice a year) polish them with orange oil or orange wax. Just be sure to test a small patch on the backside of the cabinet beforehand to err on the side of caution. If you have textured melamine, plastic, or painted cabinets, avoid the polishes and waxes—Rodriguez-Zaba’s cleaning solution is all you need.
Don’t forget the details
If you have slab cabinets, the wipe-down process is fairly simple. But with Shaker cabinets or any other style of cabinets with carved detailing, the corners and ridges require a little more attention. To clean these grooves, Rodriguez-Zaba recommends dipping a toothbrush in your cleaning solution (yes, the same one as before), and scrubbing them gently. Once you’re done, wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget your hardware, too! Rodriguez-Zaba says hinges should be cleaned with the vinegar mixture and a clean cloth once every six months, though you may want to clean your knobs and pulls more frequently (once every week or two will keep them looking good as new). The beauty really is in the details.