White Cabinets: Are they hard to maintain?

carrie_eileenDecember 16, 2010

I am trying to decide between white cabinets, and what I perceive to be a lower-maintenance color like putty or gray.

White cabinet owners, tell me: What is maintenance like for white cabinets? Would you do it again? I'm worried they'll always look dirty and hard to keep clean, so I'm hesitant.


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This is the first time I've ever had white cabinets. They have been in for almost a year. We are very, very, messy. Two teen boys and a messy husband. (I'm not so tidy myself, either.)

I love them. They never look dirty, and when I get a drip or spatter (especially around the trash pullout) I like that I can SEE it and wipe it up. It makes me realize how filthy my old kitchens must have been because I'm not big on maintenance cleaning when I don't see any dirt.

So if white is the look you prefer, I wouldn't let possible upkeep issues deter you! (-8

One thing--we did use oil-based enamel which has proven to be indestructible and very scrubbable. I can even use a magic eraser to remove rubber scuffs from my vacuum cleaner without altering the finish. Not sure if this a factor with the "cleanability", or not.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 2:27PM
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Ditto to above comment!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 2:33PM
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Double ditto to shanghaimom's comments. We had solid oak for 17 years and no matter how I tried I could never keep them clean, the grit just seems to soak into the panels!!

With the white you can see everything and wipe it up immediately and I love the sense of space,,,,my kitchen is excatly the same size and layout as before but seems so much bigger in white rather than golden oak!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 2:43PM
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Ditto to all of the above. I have a Labrador and while he usually shakes outside when he is wet with rain, once in a while he is inside and shaking before I know it ... So lots of visible and therefore easy to clean splatter.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 5:11PM
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Darker colors get just as dirty. You are just less likely to wipe them off in a timely manner, which may allow the grime to set and get ground in.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 5:26PM
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We've had white cabinets in the past, and they were easy to keep clean. I miss them and we will be painting our current ones white sometime soon.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 6:07PM
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Does white show dirt? You bet!

White is EASIER to maintain.
I know this sounds silly But honesty it really is easier.
The trouble with Cherry or Ebony or Birch, Maple... is that
you don't see the spatter of spaghitti sauce, or the
chocolate frosting finger prints, or the peanut butter...
Now with white it shows up fast. If you are a bit of
a TCO Totally Clean overload not to be confused with TKO
you want to see it so you can clean it. White winds up
being easier to care for because you see the dirt and
can care for it.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 6:55PM
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Shanghaimom I'm going to ask you here because it relates to Carrie's OP. Originally you too had considered a grey/taupe/putty color for your cabinets along with a white. What made you stick with the white?

I am riding the same fence as Carrie and just found your old thread on taupe today while searching around to see some light colors other than white. Your kitchen came out beautiful BTW, and I'm thrilled to see you are happy with it! Do you mind sharing your thought process with us about your color decision?

If you haven't seen this thread Carrie, there are some beautiful colors pictured here.

Here is a link that might be useful: grey/taupe-colored cabinets? anyone have?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 7:54PM
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another great link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Non white painted cabs

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 8:50PM
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I'm the same as all of the above. My creamy cabinets are so easy to keep clean. When I'm cleaning up after dinner I just take a quick look around with my soapy cloth and if I see any specks a quick wipe takes care of them.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 11:56PM
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Me too! We've mostly white cabs with a black island, and I actually find the white "easier" than the black. I am addicted to Windex, so I am always squirting them down and wiping with a microfiber.

And we're slobs. Or rather, we're messy, so there's always something for me to clean ... but they're clean!

Happy Holidays. xo

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 12:49AM
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I hear ya! I had the same concern. I've only lived with our new creamy/glazed cabinets for about a month now but I concur with all the above - sooooooooo easy to SEE anything and keep it wiped down. The white cabinets make my space look and feel so much larger and my main goal was to brighten my kitchen along with making it more functional and adding great storage. I'd pick the same again in a heartbeat. If you love the look I think you'll be very happy.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 5:15AM
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never ending,

Thank you!

Yes, I was originally going to go with something more of a "greige" color. The rest of my house, though, is all trimmed in BM "Bone White". There is a lot of paneling, wide baseboards and ceiling coffers which all connect to the kitchen. It just didn't make sense to try to do a different color, as it is all joined together. The Bone White is such a deep cream, that when you put it next to a whiter white, it looks beige. It was a good compromise.

The other thing is that the kitchen space is quite dark--I wanted it to feel as light as possible. It STILL feels dark unless my lights are on, which is a bummer, but I sure am glad that I didn't go with a darker color.

I sure do still love the look, though! Have you looked at Atticmag and House Beautiful? Both have excellent non-white inspiration photos. I still sigh over a navy blue kitchen I saw....HTH ~amy

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 5:22PM
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Shanghaimom- thanks for responding! I am finding you are right about white shades. Many are dark compared to a true white, and yet will still complement painted trim.

We live in the northeast and my fear is having white read too snowy and cold for me for 6 months of the year! I'd like to get my hands on some of Farrow and Ball's white's but the closest store is 2 states away.

If it is any consolation, by your pics with the lights on, your kitchen looks washed in sunshine and warmth!

Boxer- thanks to you too for always having a pic I haven't seen. You are the master of inspiration! I'm glad you love white/light kitchens...I may need some inspiring as I get bogged down with choices.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 7:00PM
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Dear Never ending: You probably know that you can order small sample pots of Farrow and Ball whites and off whites from their website. They are seven dollars each and only took three days to arrive by mail. I still can't decide on a Farrow and Ball color for my cabinets. (I'll probably chose the very safe Wimborne White or Pointing). All the samples clean up very well -- beautiful finish. Or, then again, maybe I'll chose Shanghaimom's BM Bone White -- hers is one of my inspiration kitchens.

Here is a link that might be useful: F&B sample pots

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 8:25PM
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Francoise- I did not-Thanks! I confess I got a bit dejected and clicked off when instead of a couple hours away, they were 2 states away! Can't wait to hear what you pick!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 8:39PM
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We just decided to get white instead of natural maple. Are you getting unfinished cabinets and painting them yourselves? If so, would you spray or brush them?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 11:46PM
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In my world I have painted four sets of cabinets myself, mostly because every kitchen I've inherited has had dark wood cabinets. If you have DIY skills painting is not that hard, just time consuming. This time around I may look into having them sprayed just for a price comparison. I do think spraying may (in the very long run) hold up better but I'm not sure about that either. Maybe someone else can speak to that that has had both. I will say though I have never had any major issues with my painted cabinets chipping or holding up. =)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 7:17AM
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DIY can be done well--others have posted "tutorials" on the steps they took. I would follow directions from GWers over a paint store any day--they just say whatever pops into their head and advice is always conflicting with the next guy!

Personally, I would consider DIY if I were painting existing cabs but send them out if I were investing in brand-new cabinetry. Of course, we have all seen shocking pics of "professional" paint jobs, too, so do your research on the painters! They really need to use an indoor spray room suitable for oil-based paints, not doing it in their home garage with dirt and dust around to get stuck in the paint. I told my painters that I wanted to see brushmarks and they thought I was crazy!! I just didn't want it to look too perfect compared to the rest of the house. In the end, the touchup process created enough brushmarks on the trim work to satisfy me. People (especially men) really notice the paint job, which I think is funny.

I think our cabs cost about 6k to paint. My friend just got quotes on painting her existing cabinets--small/med kitchen with golden oak. All came in 5-6K. (For on-site, but sending the doors out.) She is still undecided about whether to DIY, or not. It is definitely very expensive to have someone else do it, but requires so much time and patience to do it yourself! Hard to decide...so we put off another year, right?

Wow, such a ramble but I hope it helps in your decision-making. (-8

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Conestoga makes semi-custom RTA that can come painted, stained or unfinished. Of course, then you are stuck with the colors that they offer. About four shades of white. Maybe the finishes are really sturdy, but they don't offer BM or Farrow and Ball, which are more beautiful. Sigh....

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 12:38PM
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Ugh. I'm on the verge of a breakdown. Any feedback would be helpful here.

We were selected to do a kitchen remodel as part of a TV show. However, the timeline is SUPER tight - we have a month to plan before demo - so I'm figuring out everything as a I go, and making a ton of mistakes! Hence the flury of posts.

We ordered unfinished maple shaker cabs - the cabinet maker didn't do painted finishes, only varnish - and now I'm talking to painters and they are saying they don't want to paint them, and why in the world isn't the cabinet maker doing a spray laquer/paint finish?

If you had yours painted - were they by the cabinet maker? Did you have them painted in place, or sent out and installed painted? Brushed or sprayed? Considering demo is in two weeks, anxiety is high. I need advice.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 1:00PM
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email me, sista

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 1:07PM
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Shanghaimom - Thanks! You have been very helpful! I did send you an email. I appreciate you taking the time to give your feedback.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 2:22PM
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Congrats carrie eileen! Are you allowed to say which TV show? keep us all posted on the progress. many times the guys on the show have compressors and spray painting the cabs is part of the remodel process.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 12:00PM
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