How to Clean Grime Off the Top of Kitchen Cabinets

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How to Clean Grime Off the Top of Kitchen Cabinets
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The top of kitchen cabinets definitely falls into the category of "out of sight, out of mind," which means the gradual buildup of dirt and grime can easily go unnoticed and uncleaned for quite a while. It might not be until you need to stand on a stool to reach something or accidentally touch a sticky cupboard top that you realize just how dirty this zone can get.

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The cleaning task is therefore a challenging one, and it typically takes a decent degreaser for wood cabinets to cut through the accumulated layers of dust and grease. There are many DIY and commercial kitchen grease cleaners that are up to the job, and with a little trial and error and an hour or so of effort, you can get the top of your cabinets thoroughly clean.

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Gather the Right Cleaning Tools

Before cleaning the top of your kitchen cabinets, make sure you have a suitable nonslip step stool, step ladder or chair to stand on so that you can reach every part of the cabinet tops without stretching. Avoid having to constantly get up and down by gathering your cleaning supplies and tools into a caddy or container that you can place within easy reach while cleaning. It's also a good idea to have a container of hot water within reach so you don't need to get down to rinse your cleaning tools in the sink while you work.

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While a sponge, rag or microfiber cloth is great for wiping down the top of the cabinets, most dirty cabinet tops call for a more abrasive cleaning tool as well, such as a scrubbing brush or scouring pad. Melamine sponges, also known as magic sponges or erasers, are excellent for degreasing wood cabinets. An old toothbrush and toothpicks or an old butter knife are handy for cleaning corners and crevices. For difficult, long-standing grime that resists even the best wood cabinet cleaners, consider using ultra-fine steel wool. Only use steel wool on finished surfaces after testing an inconspicuous area first.

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Start With Gentler Kitchen Grease Cleaners

For lighter dirt, you can often use gentler household cleaning products as degreasers for wood cabinets. Try dish soap or mild all-purpose soap, such as Castile soap or oil soap, mixed with hot water in a concentration of about two parts water to one part soap. Scrub the cabinet tops with a cloth, sponge or scrubber saturated with this cleanser but try not to soak the wood. Alternatively, use a solution of equal parts hot water and white vinegar, which is an excellent kitchen grease cleaner. Spray the cabinet tops, let the solution sit for five to 10 minutes and then scrub and wipe the surfaces until they're clean.

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If you prefer to use commercial cleaning products, look for all-purpose cleaners with degreasers. Products with citrus oil are among the best wood cabinet cleaners, and they offer a pleasant aroma as well. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. After cleaning cabinet tops with any of these cleaners, wipe them down with plain water and dry any excess water with a soft towel.

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DIY Degreasing Scrubs

A mildly abrasive scrubbing paste made from a mixture of basic household cleaners can be very effective as a kitchen grease cleaner for cabinets. There are many options and combinations, including the following:

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  • Dish soap, coarse salt and baking soda
  • Baking soda and hot water
  • Baking soda, white vinegar and dish soap
  • White vinegar and coarse salt

Simply mix these products in roughly equal proportions to form a paste consistency. Rub the paste liberally over the cabinet tops, scrubbing gently in a circular motion, and let it sit for five to 10 minutes. Wipe away the product with a cloth or sponge soaked in warm water and then dry the surfaces with a soft towel.

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Heavy-Duty Cabinet Cleaners

The best wood cabinet cleaners for heavy-duty needs will depend on the type of finish your cabinets have. Some cabinets have unfinished tops, particularly those with tops that are not visible, while others have a painted, stained or varnished finish. Be careful when using heavy-duty cleaners on finished cabinet tops and always check an inconspicuous area first. Wear protective gloves and old clothing and open windows for ventilation.

Options include commercial cleaners and degreasers labeled "heavy duty," which you should use following the manufacturer's instructions. Cream and powder-type bleach cleaners are a good choice as well. For seriously tough grease, consider wiping cabinet tops with mineral spirits applied to an old rag or paper towels. Wipe up any excess product and let the remaining traces evaporate. Mineral spirits are flammable, so dispose of the rag or paper towels appropriately.

Prevent Future Buildup

Follow up a deep cleaning of your cabinet tops with an application of wood polish and conditioner. This both protects and restores the wood after cleaning and helps to repel grease and grime in the future. Linseed oil is a good alternative to polish and conditioner.

If it can remain unseen, consider lining the tops of your cabinets with wax paper or old newspaper. Dust will then settle on the paper instead of the cabinets, and replacing it when it gets dirty is easier than cleaning the wood.

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