Kitchen cabinets can act like grease magnets, collecting layers as time goes by. Dust particles imbed in the gunk, forming a nasty layer of hard-to-remove residue. It’s easy to overlook it if your cabinets are dark, but when it gets to a certain point, your cabinet doors practically scream to be cleaned. A strong degreaser could do the trick quickly, but they can be hard on cabinets, and many people today are sensitive to chemicals and fragrances. The good news is that it doesn’t take a weekend of scrubbing or painting to get your cabinets looking like new again. Here are five easy ways to make them shine, without using dangerous chemicals.
1. Start with Hot Water and Dish Soap
Most dish soaps have degreaser in them already, but they’re formulated to be gentle on skin. Check the label of your favorite one, and make sure it removes grease. Then, add two tablespoons of it to two cups of hot water. A regular washcloth or rag can be used, and a soft-bristle toothbrush will get down in the nooks and crannies. Microfiber works especially well on laminates and other ultra-smooth finishes, while a basic smooth sponge may be helpful on wood with grains and crevices. Don’t use scrubbing sponges or white erasers, as these can leave small scratches in the finish, which will attract gunk and make it twice as hard to get the cabinets clean later. Be sure to rinse each area as you go, to remove any residue that will result in a dull finish. Lastly, dry the cabinets right away, to keep them spot-free and prevent water damage. If this doesn’t remove the grease with ease, move on to one of the more intensive methods.
2. Create a Baking Soda Scrub
Baking soda absorbs grease, and it’s an abrasive. If the grease is warm enough, dry baking soda can be applied and the grease will seep into it, making it much easier to remove. Of course, heat can damage many finishes, so this will only work right after a hot water scrub. As an alternative, a small amount of baking soda can be turned into a paste, with just a dab of hot water. Use a cloth or a toothbrush, moving with the grain, to rub the paste into the cabinet. Rinse and dry just as you would with dish soap, though you may need to use a clean toothbrush to get the grit out of the grooves.
3. Mix White Vinegar and Dish Soap
White vinegar is a champion when it comes to natural household cleaners. It’s a degreaser, and it’s also a disinfectant. When combined with the power of dish soap, the two are virtually unstoppable. Try mixing two cups of water with one cup of vinegar, and add two tablespoons of dish soap. Use the same scrubbing method as you would with plain dish soap and water.
4. Try Borax as a Last Resort
Borax is a natural cleaner, though even eco-conscious/ health-conscious groups are pitted against each other with this one. It shouldn’t be confused with boric acid, and can be found in the laundry aisle at the grocery store under the brand name “20 Mule Team Borax.” It’s sometimes used for pest control, and although residue isn’t an issue, the box should be kept away from kids and animals. Mix two cups of water, one cup of vinegar, one-half-cup of Borax, and two tablespoons of dish soap. Then, clean as you normally would.
For an extra measure of shininess, most cabinets will do well with a rub of oil. Basic mineral oil is just fine, but lemon and orange oil also work well, too. Rub it in with a rag in the direction of the grain, and take care not to use too much. Older wood cabinets can look new with this treatment, but some newer styles won’t benefit as much.
Any of these cleaning options work wonders around the entire kitchen, and they’re generally safe on most finishes. Despite this, it’s always a good idea to check your warranty information or care instructions, and try each mix on an inconspicuous spot before launching an all-out assault on your cabinets. The same mixtures can be used on stubborn spots on the stove, refrigerator, or in those tough-to-clean edges around the kitchen sink. The whole room can glow, without ever using store-bought cleaners.
Jason Greschuck is the owner of Stratford Price Painting & Capital based out of Winnipeg Manitoba and an active home improvement writer/blogger