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The ultimate guide to cleaning kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets looking a bit grubby? Not sure what products to use on them? Here’s how to get your kitchen cupboards clean and pristine.

Updated

Cleaning kitchen cabinets is one of those jobs it’s all too easy to neglect. Before you know it, the handles are sticky, tins and jars are at risk of toppling out every time you open the door, and there’s mystery gunge lurking in the corners.

Never fear. Whether you have solid wood cupboards, sleek gloss cabinets or glass display cases, we’ll share how to get them clean, decluttered and organised in no time.

(It’s always a good idea to test any cleaning method on a less noticeable area first, just in case.)

How to clean kitchen cupboards (exteriors)

From greasy fingerprints to splashes from the frying pan, cupboards can quickly get dirty, sticky and downright icky. The right way to clean cabinets depends on what they’re made from. (Psst. The steps below are for general cleaning. Scroll down to find out how to tackle stubborn grease, spills and stains.)

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Top tip: Whatever material your cupboards are made from, it’s best to work from the top down, to avoid dirty water running down onto clean areas.

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How to clean wood kitchen cabinets (varnished)

Washing up liquid and a cloth on top of a granite countertop and wooden kitchen cabinets

Furniture polish is great for tables, but usually can’t tackle grease and food splashes. Instead,

  • Add a squirt of washing up liquid to a bucket or sink of warm water.

  • Soak a cloth or sponge in the water and ring it out. Use the cloth to clean the kitchen cabinets, rinsing it where necessary. You might need to change the water several times if you’re cleaning all your cupboard doors.

  • You don’t want to leave the cabinets soaking wet, so wipe them down with a dry cloth after cleaning.

How to clean wood kitchen cabinets (painted)

Washing up liquid and a sponge in front of white kitchen cabinets

You can clean painted cabinets the same way as varnished ones. Just don’t scrub too hard or you might find some of the paint coming off! If your wooden cupboards are still looking a bit tired, why not paint your cabinets to give them a whole new lease of life?

How to clean wood kitchen cabinets (unvarnished)

A cloth inside a wooden kitchen cabinet

If you have a wooden dresser or handmade wooden cabinets that haven’t been sealed with varnish or paint, you’ll need to take extra care when cleaning. Water can easily stain the wood. Ideally, dust the cupboards regularly and use a special wood cleaner to keep them in tip-top condition.

You can find out more about cleaning wooden furniture here.

How to clean gloss cabinets

Close up of kitchen cabinets

Gloss looks sleek and shiny, for about 3 minutes. All too soon it’s covered in fingerprints and other marks.

First, clean the doors. You can use the washing up liquid and soap method above, or just use a multi-purpose spray cleaner and cloth.

Next, buff the shine back. A microfibre cloth is perfect, but a general duster should do the job just fine. (An old T-shirt works well.)

Cleaning kitchen cabinets with glass panes

Hand using a cloth to clean wood and glass kitchen cabinet door

Depending on the size of the glass panes, you might need to clean the surrounds using the steps above. For the glass itself, you have three options.

  • A liquid glass cleaner with a clean cloth. Spray the cloth rather than the glass if you’re worried about the cleaner discolouring the surround. Finish by buffing with a clean cloth to minimise streaking.

  • White vinegar. Again, use one cloth to clean with and another to buff with.

  • A glass cleaning cloth. These cloths work wonders with just water. Spritz the water onto the glass and (you guessed it) use the cloth to buff it off.

Cleaning kitchen cabinet handles

Handles can be trickier to clean, as dirt gets stuck in the crevices. An old toothbrush is your secret weapon. You’ll need some warm water with a splash of washing up liquid. Dip the toothbrush in and get scrubbing.

Do take care not to scratch the handles. If you want to bring the shine back, finish by buffing with a clean cloth.

How to clean kitchen cupboards (inside)

  • Empty the kitchen cupboard of its contents. Do this one cupboard at a time; otherwise your kitchen will become too chaotic.

  • Vacuum inside the cupboard to remove any stray bits.

  • Use a damp microfibre cloth to wipe away any dirt or dust lingering in corners.

  • Wipe all the surfaces down with a damp cloth and a dollop of multipurpose cleaner like CifCream Lemon. Or use the washing up liquid and water method above.

  • Treat any tough stains or spills using our cleaning hacks below.

  • Sort through the emptied contents and set aside any items to throw away or recycle (see our decluttering tips below).

  • If the items you’re keeping have been in the cupboard for a while, you might want to give them a quick wipe down with a damp cloth.

  • Put everything back in an organised manner, with larger, lesser-used items at the back and smaller, commonly used items at the front.

How to clean kitchen cupboards: Tackling grease, mould and other kitchen nasties

Some grime needs special treatment…

How to clean sticky grease off kitchen cabinets

Grease build-up is a common problem in kitchen cupboards, but the powerful grease-cutting qualities of undiluted white vinegar mean it’s easily removed. Dip a clean, dry, microfibre cloth into some white vinegar and wipe down the greasy patches. Rinse your cloth with warm water and give the cupboard another wipe down, drying the surfaces with a paper towel or old clean T-shirt.

How to clean up brown sauce and other condiments

Sticky spillages from condiment jars can be tricky to shift. In a bowl, mix equal parts baking powder and water into a thick paste. Apply with a cloth to the sticky stain and leave to dry. Next, scrub with an old damp toothbrush and rinse away with a cloth and cold water.

How to remove mould

Mould in kitchen cupboards can be a problem if left untreated. Luckily, a bleaching product like Domestos will kill germs and remove any mould. Spray it liberally onto the affected area and leave it to work for a few minutes before wiping away and rinsing with a clean cloth. To avoid any mould returning, make sure your kitchen has plenty of ventilation, whether by using an extractor fan or opening windows.

Decluttering your kitchen cupboards

Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards might have been bare, but the rest of us often end up with all sorts of stuff crammed in. If your kitchen cupboards house a glut of random kitchen items that make finding things difficult and cooking a faff, it’s time for a good old clear out. Get rid of:

  • Out of date food. As well as checking the use by date, also consider how long it’s been opened for. Many condiments last for months after opening, but some need binning after a few weeks.

  • Food you’re not going to eat. If you’ve had a tin of peas in your cupboard for several months, chances are you’re never going to use it. Donate unopened, in-date food to your local food bank.

  • Stuff you’re not going to use. No one ever benefited from keeping that 1970s whisk they didn’t get around to fixing.

  • Duplicates. Do you really need all those mugs, plates, saucepans etc etc etc?

Remember, most packaging can be recycled if you empty the contents out and give it a quick rinse. Chipped crockery might come in handy for planting or mosaic crafts. Undamaged items that you just don’t use anymore can be donated to charity or offered out on Freecycle or Facebook.

If you have a small kitchen, you’re going to need to be extra ruthless when it comes to getting rid of things you don’t need.

Decluttering should make space for the essentials, and the odd handy-to-haves (like onion goggles). Now you just need to figure out where to put everything. Which brings us on to…

How to organise your kitchen cupboards

You’ve got them clean, but now you need to get them organised. Say goodbye to old habits – instead of piling everything back in its old place, think convenience.

A place for everything…

Sorting food into categories like snacks, canned, dried or packet, will make cooking a whole lot easier and avoid you having to fumble around for those nigella seeds. You might also want to check out our kitchen storage hacks.

Think of the kids

If you have children that make their own breakfast and set the table (lucky you!), make sure they can reach everything they need. Likewise, if you have toddlers, you’re going to want to keep breakables, sharps and poisons (eg dishwasher tablets) well out of reach.

Within arm’s reach

Move stuff to where you use it. If there’s a cupboard near your kettle, that’s where you should keep your cups, not the other side of the kitchen.

Store saucepans close to your hob and plates near your serving area. And keep daily essentials like salt and pepper within easy reach. (You shouldn’t have to stand on a chair everytime you want to season your pasta.) It’s all about working out how you use your kitchen and reorganising crockery and kitchenware to match your culinary habits.

Most of us have an awkward cupboard that’s too high to reach or so deep things get lost. Try to reserve it for things you don’t use often, like cake tins, electric whisks or the bread maker.

More organisation tips

If you’re struggling to fit everything into your cupboards, or your newly decluttered cabinets are putting the rest of your kitchen to shame, then you might find these other kitchen organising top tips handy.

Fixing your kitchen cupboard doors

Realigning cupboard doors isn’t as tricky as you might think, and it could help to stop dust and flies getting into your cupboards. Find out the three steps to adjusting a kitchen cupboard door.

Keeping your kitchen cupboards clean

Now your cabinets are sparkling, you’re going to want to keep them that way. So try to get in the habit of throwing away out-of-date products and wiping the cupboards down (inside and out) regularly.

Want to give the rest of the kitchen a once over? We’ve got some kitchen cleaning hacks that will prove indispensable and make the job that little bit easier. Or if you’re fired-up for freshness, why not take a look at our handy guide on how to give your kitchen a deep clean?

Originally published