Updated: Aug 23, 2021
If you’ve got cabinets with a sticky residue on them, it’s time to clear it off before it really settles in. This sticky residue is usually caused by cooking grease and dirt. It’s possible that there may be residue left by previous cleaning solutions, but grease tends to reign supreme as the number one sticky kitchen cabinet culprit (say that five times fast!). The cupboards above the stove top are the ones to most often receive the worst of it. If the grease has settled onto the cabinets for a longer time, it’s still possible to clear it off, but more effort will be needed.
You want to use the most gentle and natural product in your arsenal first. If you’re able to use a mild cleaner, you have an easier time preserving your wood cabinets or finish. You run a risk of damaging the finish with chemical products.
Start with warm water and dish soap. Dawn dish soap works as an excellent degreaser. It is gentle with all types of cabinets, including painted ones. Soak a sponge in your warm soapy water and wipe the cupboards down to remove surface dust and dirt. This might be all your cupboards need. If so, congratulations! But, for many, they’ll need to move to the next level to remove built up grime after having cleared the excess dust and dirt.
Vinegar. Use a sponge and dampen it with vinegar from a small bowl. Scrub the surfaces and hardware of the cabinets with the vinegar to remove sticky patches. You don’t need to dilute the vinegar unless the smell is too strong for you during cleaning. Once dried, the vinegar smell will disappear. Vinegar should only be used on non porous surfaces.
If more sticky residue persists. It’s time to pull out the baking soda. Mix equal parts baking soda and water to create a thick paste that won’t drip down the cabinets. Apply the paste generously to the sticky areas, fully covering the residue. Let the paste dry and scrub with a damp soft-bristled brush (this type of paste can also help with stubborn stove-top residue). Rinse the baking soda from the cabinet with clean water. Dry the area and apply again to remaining residue if you see that the process is working.
When steps 1-3 aren’t enough, it’s time to try a good commercial or homemade degreaser safe for wood or whatever your cabinets are made from. You can find these natural degreasers containing lemon or orange oil, which cuts through tough grease. We like using Krud Kutter or Rustoleum Cleaner and Degreaser for grimy film. Both the oil base and named cleaners are eco friendly and strong. Both do better when allowed to sit before scrubbing but should be watched carefully, as they have the ability to remove more than you’d like if you are using them on the wrong surfaces.
Hopefully one or more of these steps can help get your kitchen cabinets fronts clean and back into great shape.
If it’s been years of grease build up and the listed efforts aren’t working, you may need to move to something more extreme. We’ve found in some cases that the finish on the cabinets and the grease have melded together. It’s likely time for sanding and painting/staining or new cabinets altogether to start fresh. And then keep up on the new ones!