Cleaning Wooden Kitchen Cabinets

vjrntsJuly 8, 2005

I've done a search on this forum and didn't find much that addressed my question; I hope I'm not asking something that's going to make regulars roll their eyes and groan!

I am about to move into a house that's been fairly well-kept... except for the kitchen cabinets. I'm not worried about cleaning the insides. That's mostly dust and stray cheerios. I am having, however, a terrible time getting that gross stuff around the door pulls off. You know, that black, kind of hard greasy stuff that results from years of fingers grazing the wood as they reach for the cabinet door? That, and the remains of the non-vented exhaust on the cabinets above the stove hood.

I've tried Orange-Glo Wood Cleaner and Polish. It does take off some of the crud, but only with a lot of rubbing, and I can't help but think there's a better cleaner out there, but instead of trying a bunch, maybe some of you could point me towards your favorite cleaners? (The Orange-Glo does smell terrific!)

By the way, in my travels through this forum I did find a recipe for a cleaning solution that includes vinegar and baking soda (and other things, ammonia and water I think). I'm no chemist, but don't the acetic acid in the vinegar and the baking soda chemically cancel each other out?

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Castrol. Purple stuff in Wal=Mart automotive section.. Be sure to rub it right off as it's SUPER STRONG!!! Re-apply if necessary.

It's a de-greaser, and it says not to use on aluminum, but it does a heck of a job on aluminum screen doors if you rub it right off.

I have used it on cabinet doors, so I'm not just 'assuming' it will do the same.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2005 at 1:35AM
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Purple Stuff. That's we call Castrol at our house also. That's even the label I put on the spray bottle I put it in. Best degreaser I've ever used. We use it on all sorts of stuff. It is super strong as Gina said. Try it on your cabinets, but be careful with it. You might want to try it on the inside of a door first to see if you have any major problem.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 1:23PM
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Castrol! Isn't that an engine degreaser? I'd guess it would be pretty tough stuff, then.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 10:26AM
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Yep, it's REALLY HEAVY DUTY, but it goes beyond Fantastik & 409... really rub it right off in a couple of seconds till you get the hang of it. Most of kitchen cabinet gunk is grease, and this stuff will take care of it!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 12:41AM
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We have high end Merrillat cabinets here is their cleaning tips.

Wood Finishes
Dust cabinets frequently with a soft lint-free cloth. You can dampen the cloth slightly with water or a spray-type dust remover.

Clean spills immediately. Use a clean cloth and mild soap if necessary. Wipe dry with a clean soft cloth.

There are a number of products available for your wood cleaning needs. We recommend Guardsman. Their products are available at many stores nationwide, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Wal-Mart and Ace Hardware. A more economical way to remove grease build-up from cabinets is to use Fantastik. Apply and remove quickly, then wash your cabinets with a mild soap. After washing, dry thoroughly and apply a silicone-free polish.

We recommend that you wash and polish cabinets once or twice each year. Use a light coat of quality furniture polish.

Never use detergents, soap pads, or steel wool on your cabinetry. These harsh abrasives will mar the wood finish. Additionally, we recommend that you avoid the use of paste wax and polishes that contain silicone; the wax build up is difficult to remove and will leave a residue that attracts dust.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 4:52PM
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I have been living in my house for 30 years and my kitchen is 25 years old. Though, the wood cabinets are in excellent shape, I, too, have the greasy crud around the handles. I have tried everything and they only take off a little of it. So, next time I am in WalMart, I will buy Castrol for sure. Though, I will test spot it first.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 11:49AM
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Greased Lighting works too! I cleaned the celing fan from my mom's kitchen with it. You wouldn't believe the amount of greasy crud built up on them. Greased lightening stook it right off. (Just wear gloves, cause it will strip your hands of their oils too!)

best wishes.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 9:46AM
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^ I agree about Greased Lighting on ceiling fans, absolutely the best. I use it all around my kitchen, and in the laundry room on stubborn stains. Just check the directions before using.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2006 at 7:59PM
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I went to Wal-Mart and found at least 6 or more types of Castrol. Which one is the purple stuff???

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 1:45PM
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pegmar, did you ever find out which one is the right Castrol? It's on my shopping list too.

BTW, learned in a furniture refinishing class to wipe off old embedded grunge on wood furniture with mineral spirits. I've used that on my oak banisters several times. Doesn't affect the finish, just the grunge. Don't let it soak, just apply and wipe off with rag. Repeat if needed. Don't know why it wouldn't work on kitchen cabinets too. But I would test first, maybe on the inside.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 12:55AM
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Find out what kind of wood you have first. On certain finishes and wood, any products that contain oil is a no-no. We have cherry cabinets, and the last thing we want to use is an oil based product. It would destroy our cabinets. Call a custom cabinetry maker and see if they can't point you in the right direction. They'll know more about types of woods and finishes than your local hardware store.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 11:59AM
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I've cherry paprika cabinets and it has greasy stains. I tried 409 and Murphy oil soap but didnt work that well. Should I try Castrol, and what type of it. or there is something else that would work on my cabinets.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 12:27PM
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I use a product called Parker Bailey Kitchen Cabinet Creme. It goes on with a soft cloth and wipes off. I use it on the area around the handles and also on the wooden cabinet doors over the range hood. I bought it through a catalog. I think it may have been Improvements catalog. The bottle lists a website:

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 1:38PM
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I just used that magic easer that they came out with last year. It worked great.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2007 at 9:21AM
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Hi everyone!
Would you agree with geting your cabinets clean professionally? Would you pay for a cleaning service?
How much would u be whilling to spend on such service?
What about getting your cabinets touched up?

everyone is welcome to comment

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 9:35PM
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Nice to know I'm not the only one trying to find a product to clean greasy cabinets. After reading the postings for the "purple stuff" I went to AutoZone to see if they carried it. It is called Super Clean and is in a purple bottle. You have to ask for it because they do not put this on the shelf. I sprayed a small area of my oak vent-a-hood and wiped with a damp cloth. Grease gone, cabinet finish remained. THIS STUFF WORKS! Thank you for the helpful tip!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 9:48PM
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I use Murphy's Oil Soap. Not toxic and it works nicely, doesn't damage the wood.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 10:46AM
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I was thinking the next time I get to Wal-Mart, I'll try some of these ideas. Then I thought my husband has some cleaner, degreaser stuff in the gargage. I ended up using "Original Krud Kutter" on my maple (cherry-stained) cabinets - AND IT WORKED! I just sprayed some on, waited 5-10 seconds, and wiped off with a paper towel. Now I can't wait to do the stove!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 5:04PM
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I tried everything mentioned here. Finally I (yup) steamed them. Works.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2007 at 10:25AM
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I use Murphy's Oil Soap or a mixture of 3 parts white vinegar to 1 part jojoba oil. The vinegar really cleans the wood and the oil, I suppose, keeps it from getting dried out. I use the vinegar/oil everyday on my kitchen table and so far so good!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 9:20AM
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Where do you find jojoba oil?

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 1:02PM
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You can get jojoba oil at any health food store or vitamin shop. I get mine at The Vitamin Shoppe, I'm not sure what state you're in but they're located in several states around the country. I've also heard you can use food grade linseed oil but I had a heck of a time finding that. Olive oil is also a substitute but not the best one because it goes rancid after a while.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 5:21PM
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I'm really afraid to ruin the finish on my cabinets. I bought the Parker Bailey Kitchen Cabinet Creme through Improvements catalog and it worked. On the really greasy doors over the stove I used a dishwashing detergent and water solution and lightly scrubed with a plastic mesh covered sponge, then used the Creme as directed. BEAUTIFUL!

Here is a link that might be useful: my kitchen

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 12:32PM
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I have tried everything and I think the finish is ruined around the handles. I have cherry wood cabinets and they never look clean. I am thinking of getting something done professionally with them.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 8:25PM
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I can give you the name of a franchised company. I am not connected to them in any way. I clean houses for a living and have seen this company in action and the actual before and after results here in Chicago. I had to look online as I was not able to remember the name but did find it. Go to They do door replacements etc. Click on Services and then Cabinet Reconditioning They have a video you can watch with the before and after shots. They show the grease gunk you are talking about. the work I have seen in person looks great but it depends on whom owns the franchise and how picky he is. It is my understanding that the Co. trains them. The one house which comes to mind the woman wore all of these rings and there were huge gouges around the knobs. The next time I went to clean I could not get over how great the cabinets looked. I just thought it would be a place for you to start and watch the video and see if this is what your problem is.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 9:27AM
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I just wipe mine off with moist soapy cloth,then when dry I go over them with an oil.I have wormy chestnut cabinets,med color stain

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 8:55AM
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I had this problem when my DH & I moved into our new home. I bought some Minwax wood cleaner @ a local hardware store & used it w/ a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser... Worked like a charm! After I was done cleaning I used Pledge Orange Oil spray & the cabinets looked brand new again! I know some ppl say not to use this Pledge stuff, but I haven't noticed any adverse effects (affects?) from it yet, so I'm going to keep using it.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 11:01PM
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We just finished a mini remodel of our kitchen with all new appliances and door pulls. Cabinets were custom oak that were 10 years old and showing signs of drying, etc.
I was going to have my contractor clean and respray them he quoted $2500/

Found a product called renewiz-it. $50 for the cleaner and the sealer. Does 400 s/f. We spend 3 hours cleaning the cabinets with the cleaner and rinsing and drying. Then you just wipe on the sealer with a pad (sock) Cabinets look like brand new. Could not believe it.

You can order on the internet.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 12:40AM
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Hi pvrick

I was reading your post and thought renewiz-it sounded great..I googled it and could not find it this the correct spelling? Where did you buy it?


    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 10:30PM
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I think it's called Restorz-it.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 2:30PM
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Plain old-fashioned lemon oil works wonders on greasy cabinets. If it has been years worth, a couple of applications may be necessary. Cabinets look brand new and smell fresh too!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 11:09AM
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I have oak cabinets and I have crud that has moved down into the wood grain and am wondering how and if I will be able to get it out of the wood grain. The worst area is the cabinets under the sink.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 12:54AM
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Carrie - Did you ever figure out something to get the crud off your oak cabinets? I'm in the same position -- probably 25-30 yrs since they were cleaned (ugh).

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 8:55PM
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I use "Murphys Oil Soap" to clean my oak cabinets, it takes off any build-up. After that drys, then I use Pledge to give them a nice shine. They look like new afterwards. Good Luck!!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 4:14AM
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I found an unopened package of Pledge Wipes in a closet,I'll try them and report back.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 8:24AM
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I went looking in my cupboards for degreasers, but only came up with a thing of orange oil furniture polish.

I decided to use it, and now regret ever trying scrubbees, baking soda, and my steam machine.

Parts of my cupboards (around the handles) are ruined because the steamer melted the wood finish, but everywhere is so shiny, and it really did lift grease, and stuck on food.

I just sprayed each cupboard, left it for about 30 seconds, then wiped them down.

They look beautiful.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 10:38PM
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There's a reason Murphy's Oil has been around FOREVER. It works!!! Natural ingredients...won't harm your wood and works on a lot of other things too. I just did my Kitchen cabinets and the over-the-stove Adventium Oven (just to see) which haven't been cleaned in quite a while and I just wiped a couple of times and the grease and dirt came right off. There's no need to rinse. Buff a little and your cabinets will shine.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 4:10PM
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Tried Gunk engine degreaser to clean cabinets. It works great! However, you MUST clean them OUTSIDE. Ventilation is key. Tried this on one of my cabinets as a spot check and did it in the house. BIG mistake for the odor.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 9:52AM
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Scrubbing Bubbles Bath room cleaner spray it on give it some time to set then use hot water and a rag to scrub it works like a charm

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 10:01PM
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Oh my goodness folks; I cannot believe that this post was started almost 7 years ago! Apparently, some problems never get solved. LOL.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 7:18PM
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I know! I'm the original poster; those cabinets are long gone in a kitchen remodel in '07, but every now and then I get another response to this question!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 9:19PM
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Oh well, there are others that still need information and suggestions. At some forums they don't want people to start new threads about the same subject, asking people to bring up old threads. Personally I don't agree with that line of thinking but rules is rules...HEEHEE! So often threads are bumped up by spammers though which is a drag!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 11:13AM
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I came across this while trying to answer the same question. One problem is, I don't think it matters as much what the wood species is (cherry, oak, etc.) but how it was finished - varnish, polyurethane, etc. I believe you use different cleaners for different finishes - some love oil=based cleaners (like Murphy's or lemon oil), and on some, oil will wreck the finish. I don't know what the finish is on my cabinets, so I'm hesitant to commit to a specific kind of cleaner. Anyone know how I can tell? Or should I just test an inconspicuous area on the back of the door and see how it turns out?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2012 at 1:16PM
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I did Small area with "Cabinet and Wood Magic". Now it feels a little sticky. Do I keep cleaning, or have I ruined my cabinet?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:17PM
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Have you tried Murphy's soap? It is specifically made for wood and works great!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:20AM
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I use Murphy's oil soap, it works for me every time. After that I put a coat of Howard's Feed-N-Wax on it. My wood is oak. Here in CA it's very dry and this conditions it and polishes it as well. It's Beeswax and Orange Oil.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:45PM
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I'm painting my 1978 kitchen cabinets and don't care about the finish. However I do care about the paint taking to them. I'm using oil based paint and figured that an oil based product would keep the paint from adhering evenly. I tried sand paper but it smears it in rather than removes the grease. Any suggestions? I'm thinking Murphy's is best for protecting rather than striping.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 9:15PM
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Scrubbing bubbles!! Spray it on let it set for about 10 minutes and you'd be suprised at how well it works for all that grease around the handles. Plus its easy on the wood!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 1:06PM
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I have a natural method of cleaning your kitchen cabinets. Just prepare a solution of water, baking soda and few drops of jojoba oil and mix all of them. Pour this solution in a spraying bottle and spray this on the cabinets. Then wipe the solution with dry microfiber cloth. Your task will be done.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 5:30AM
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is there any difference between Howards Orange Oil and Orange Glo?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 5:09PM
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A friend just told me the best way to clean greasy kitchen cabinets (or anything greasy) is with Dawn dishwashing liquid and warm water. She said, "That's what they use on oil spills. It cuts grease so well you don't need much. One of our cats got into kerosene and the vet told us to wash it in Dawn. We thought any dish detergent would work so we used Joy. It didn't and when we went back to the vet he was so very insistent we use Dawn that he gave us some. We haven't used anything since. It was amazing."

I'm going to try this.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:40AM
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Let's keep this going! I tried Murphy's Oil Soap, and it doesn't work! I have 1995 Kitchen Craft cherry doors with grease streaks, lumps and especially dirt by the knobs. I slathered straight Murphy's on, wiped with a wet paper towel, and let it sit overnight. I rubbed and then rinsed with many wet rags, and two days later, the door is quite sticky. And although most of the raised dirt came off, it is still apparent where the grease was (is). I did another door without letting Murphy's sit overnight, and it has all the same issues.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 12:10PM
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Murphys for the grease and dirt around the handles and Howards Orange Oil to top it off.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 12:40PM
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Most of what is listing here has not worked to remove the grease off of my Oak kitchen cabinet doors. My cabinets are not horrible just a few areas. Dawn, Murphys Oil, Lemon oil, vinegar and jocoba oil, baking soda and jocoba oil-NONE OF THESE PRODUCTS REMOVED THE STICKINESS.

Next going to try and find the Castrol or Minwax cabinet cleaner. Will repost as to what works for me. Wonder if it has to do with the grain of the wood? Maple is a lot smoother than oak.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 9:26AM
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I had some luck with scrubbing the cabinets with a textured sponge and a solution of Dawn and hot water. Any sticky crud that remained got scrubbed with a combination of WD40 and Goo Gone. I used it sparingly and then washed the cabinets again when I was done to make sure none of the WD40/Goo Gone combination remained. Worked really well for me!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 1:21PM
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OK, I know this is an old thread, but the information is good! My problem is the tops of the cabinets. I have a cathedral ceiling in the kitchen (never again!!) and the tops are gross - years of dust and grease. I've tried the usual kitchen spray cleaners and they haven't touched the mess. I'm going to try the Purple stuff. Any other thoughts?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2015 at 9:44AM
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