How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting

Published by Hala Zaqqout on May 23, 2022 | Last updated on May 20, 2023

Nothing is worse than greasy and dirty kitchen cabinets. They’re soiled, stained, and ugly. You can completely change their look by painting the cabinets. But before you paint, you need to clean and degrease the cabinets.

Want to know how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting? Cleaning greasy and dirty kitchen cabinets does not need the use of pricey cleaning products.

Instead, you may make a simple kitchen cleanser with common household materials to remove filth and restore your cabinets.

In this CleanersAdvisor article, you’ll learn how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting with both natural methods or degreasers.

Then, you’ll find a few tips and tricks on how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting so you are off to a good start in refinishing your cabinets and creating the look you want in your kitchen.

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting?

You can improve your chances of achieving a durable and smooth finish that will make your kitchen look beautiful for years to come by using one of these natural methods below:

A. White Vinegar and Hot Water

Clean your cabinets using white vinegar and hot water. There are no special cleaners required, and you probably already have vinegar in your kitchen cabinet. And here’s how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting using vinegar:

1. Prepare a vinegar-water combination with a 50-50 vinegar-to-water ratio. Fill your spray bottle with your solution once it’s ready.

2. Spray your cabinets with the mixture. Allow 3-4 minutes for the mixture to sit on your cabinets before going on to the next step. Allow the vinegar to work for a while.

3. To remove the stain, use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the cabinets. When wiping down wood cabinets, always wipe in the direction of the grain.

4. Buff and dry your cabinets with a dry cloth. Make sure all of the vinegar residues are removed so that more filth isn’t attracted to your cabinets.

B. Baking Soda and Lemon

Natural degreasers like baking soda and lemon are ideal for cleaning kitchen cabinets. Here’s how to do it:

1. You will use 1 part baking soda and 2 parts water. In a bowl, combine 1 lemon juice with the solution.

2. After you’ve finished making your solution, add it to the spray bottle.

3. Spray the mixture on your cabinets. Allow 2-3 minutes for the solution to work before removing it from the cabinets.

4. Scrub the grease off of your cabinets using your sponge. As needed, add more of the mixture.

5. The sponge should now be rinsed in warm water. To avoid attracting more filth, you’ll need to remove the solution from your cabinets.

6. To dry your cabinets, use a clean microfiber towel. As any moisture can damage your cabinets, be sure you’ve removed all of the liquid.

C. Baking Soda and Water

If you have a tougher job, you’ll need to apply a gentle abrasive cleaning like baking soda. Baking soda is a mild alkali, which means it will dissolve grease as well. Follow the steps below to know how to do it:

1. Mix equal amounts of baking soda and water to make a baking soda paste. Combine the two ingredients until they form a paste.

2. Apply the paste in gentle circular motions to your cabinets. Replace the dirty microfiber cloths with clean ones as needed. Continue until the powdered paste has covered all of your cabinets.

3. Remove the paste from your cabinets with a damp microfiber towel. You’ll want to rinse and wring out the cloth as you go to make sure it stays clean.

4. Dry your cabinets thoroughly, since any moisture left on them could cause damage.

D. Dishwashing Liquid

Dish soap is one of the best degreasers to use on your cabinets as it’s designed to cut through grease. Make sure to use dish soap rather than dishwasher detergent. Dish soap is gentler to your kitchen cabinets and will not damage them. And here’s how to do it:

1. Fill the bowl halfway with water, then add a few drops of dish soap.

2. Soak the sponge in soapy water. Too much water will damage your cabinets, so keep your sponge damp but not dripping wet. Rub the oily streaks on your cabinet with your fingers until they disappear.

3. To avoid dirt build-up later, rinse the cabinets with clear water to remove all soapy residue.

4. Dry your cabinets with a microfiber cloth.

E. Citrus Multipurpose Cleaner

A citrus multipurpose cleanser works well for removing oil from kitchen cabinets. You can use a purchased cleaner or you can make your own. Here’s how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting using this cleanser:

1. Spray all your cabinets with the citrus multipurpose cleaner. Allow 3-4 minutes for the cleaner to sit on the cabinets before going on to the next step.

2. Wipe the grease away from your cabinets with a damp sponge. This may take some gentle scrubbing. Remember to wipe in the direction of the wood grain if you have wood cabinets.

3. Using a damp cloth, wipe away any residue left by the cleaner. Again, make sure all residue is removed because it will collect dirt if left behind.

4. Buff and dry your cabinets with the second microfiber cloth.

If all of the aforementioned natural treatments fail to clean kitchen cabinets before painting, a professional degreasers may be required.

For more details, watch this video below.

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting Using Degreasers?

It is necessary to degrease your cabinets in order for the paint to adhere properly. The following are some of the best degreasers:

1. Krud Kutter Prepaint Cleaner

This is one of the few cleaners here that can help reduce the amount of sanding required before painting. Some people say you clean with this, very lightly sand, clean quickly with this again, and then paint after 10 minutes. It’s also water-based and non-toxic.

Here’s how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting using Kurd Kutter.

2. Goo Gone Kitchen Grease Cleaner & Remover

This degreaser is a foam that clings to both horizontal and vertical surfaces. This could come in handy when cleaning the sides of cabinets.

3. Zep Heavy-Duty Citrus Cleaner

Natural citrus cleaners are used in this degreaser to remove difficult stains and grease, as well as leftover adhesives and glues.

4. Spray Nine Heavy-Duty Cleaner/Degreaser

This cleaner is safe to use on walls and ceilings, so it should also work well on your cabinet surfaces as well. It not only removes grease but also removes mold and mildew while deodorizing.

To know more about how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting, check out this video below.

How to Clean Wood Cabinets Before Painting?

Wondering how to clean sticky wood kitchen cabinets before painting?

Different seals and finishes are available for wood kitchen cabinets. Some will be able to withstand more damage than others. To be safe, clean and polish your cabinets with a gentle cleanser like Murphy’s Oil Soap. And here’s how to clean wood cabinets before painting:

1. Dampen a cloth with your cleanser of choice. Murphy’s Oil Soap is a great one to use because it won’t damage your cabinets. Wipe down your cabinets with the cleanser, making sure to rub with the grain.

2. Wipe down your cabinets with a damp but not soaked cloth to remove the soapy residue. Keep an eye on how wet the fabric is. A lot of water will damage the wood.

3. Dry the cabinets with a microfiber cloth. Rub the wood with the grain to buff and polish it.

Check out this video below to learn to clean wood cabinets before painting.

Top Tips for How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting

Here’re a few tips and tricks for how to degrease kitchen cabinets before painting to keep them in a good condition:

1. Detach Cabinet Doors from the Frame First

Cleaning is easier from a work table than climbing up and down a ladder, and the doors and drawer fronts should be removed anyway for painting.

Detach the hinges from the doors and frames with a drill. Label each door and bag the screws so you know where they go at the end of the process.

2. Protect the Floor and Countertops

Don’t ruin your floor. Drips from chemical cleaners can eat away at your floor’s polish, causing permanent damage. If possible, clean the doors from the outside.

Cover the flooring with a leak-proof floor protector, not canvas drop cloths or rosin paper, before cleaning the frames. Both can allow liquids to spill. Protect the countertops and appliances too.

3. Clean the Cabinets Before Sanding

Sanding greasy and dirty cabinets spreads contaminants across the surface and ruin the sandpaper. Sanding before cleaning wood with an open grain, such as oak, can drive grease into the grain holes, making it difficult to remove.

4. Use the Appropriate Cleaner

Always choose the appropriate cleaner to clean your kitchen cabinets. There’re many natural methods aforementioned but commercial strength cleaner is also needed to remove layers of accumulated grease.

5. Scrub the Cabinets with a Drill Brush Attachment

When you have to reapply cleaner multiple times on dozens of doors, scrubbing by hand becomes tiring. Drill brush attachments are available online and at most home improvement shops.

But if you don’t have a drill, Scotch-Brite pads or stripping pads will suffice.

6. Always Rinse with Clean Water

Some cleaners are advertised as “no-rinse,” and while that sounds nice, not rinsing is a bad idea for cleaning dirty cabinets for a paint job. It is essential to rinse with clean water to remove any leftover debris or residue.

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting FAQ

To Wrap Up

You know now how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting!

The key to getting good results with any of these is to carefully follow the instructions. In many cases, scraping with a scouring pad or brush while using one of these cleansers can give the best results.

If you have any tips on how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting, then share them with us in CleanersAdvisor, in the comments box below!