5 Methods to Clean Greasy Wood Cabinets

Anyone who cooks regularly knows how greasy the surfaces in your kitchen can get. Between developing and testing recipes for work and cooking for my family, my kitchen has seen some things. And while I try to stay on top of things like doing the dishes before they pile up in the sink and wiping down countertops as they get dirty, my cabinets don’t always get the attention they deserve.My kitchen is good-sized, but its storage capacity is hands-down phenomenal. The previous owner built an entire wall of flat-front maple cabinets himself sometime in the middle of the last century. They’re free of any hardware and instead, open via magnetic push locks.The downside of my sleek cabinets? Greasy fingerprints. Add in the fact that I have 33 cabinet panels and 10 drawer fronts in my kitchen, and tackling this job is a BIG one.To cut down on the effort spent, I decided it was time to test five popular cabinet cleaning methods to see which one worked the best. 

How I Tested the Methods to Clean Greasy Cabinets

I wanted to really test each method’s ability to cut through the grime as well as the fingerprints, so I used each method on both the dirtiest panels located next to my stovetop and above the wall oven, as well as on a mostly clean cabinet in another part of my kitchen.
For many of the methods, I relied on a sponge cloth to apply and wipe away any cleaning products. But you can easily use a rag and a non-abrasive kitchen sponge, too. I set a timer to see how long it took to get the dirtiest cabinets clean. Once I tested all five methods, I finished the job with the winning method to double-check my work, and in some cases, clean up what the other methods couldn’t finish. 
The ratings: Each review includes my personal thoughts on each method and what I liked and disliked about each process. I rated my results on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being completely ineffective and 5 being the best with no room for improvement.

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Vinegar Soak

  • Cleaning time: 18 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 2 / 5The method: Soak a washcloth in distilled white vinegar, like this one from Heinz. Apply to cabinets, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then wipe off with a damp sponge.
Product Image: Heinz All Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 32 Fluid Ounces
Heinz All Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 32 Fluid Ounces
How it went: White vinegar’s acidity is known for cutting through grease. After applying, I let it sit for 15 minutes. When I went back to wipe it off, it had all but dried. The damp sponge helped, but I’m not sure how much of a difference the vinegar actually made.
This method seemed to work just as well as using warm water. It got off the first layer of gunk, but this is definitely not what I’d turn to for a deep clean. Waiting 15 minutes also made this the longest process by far, and makes an already big task drag out even longer. While vinegar scores points for being inexpensive, easily available, and non-toxic, it didn’t score as high in effectiveness.

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Castile Soap + Baking Soda + Vinegar

  • Cleaning time: 3 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 2.5 / 5The method: Fill a 32-ounce spray bottle with a cup of white vinegar, a few drops of castile liquid soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s concentrated version), a tablespoon of baking soda, and water.
Product Image: Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap, 8 Ounces
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap, 8 Ounces
How it went: This concoction worked a little better than just the vinegar, but I think it maybe had more to do with the easier and more even application from the spray bottle. I still had to scrub, and while it did cut through grease, the grime ended up balling up and was tricky to wipe away. It didn’t really clean that well.I went back with the winning method to clean up the mess this one made. I did try this on a cabinet that wasn’t as dirty, and it worked OK.Making this mixture of baking soda and vinegar in a bottle was messy. I’m not sure if it was my spray bottle or the fizzing mixture, but it kept leaking out of the sprayer even when just sitting. The castile soap is a semi-expensive ingredient to buy for just a few drops, but its versatility means you can use it elsewhere around the house.

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Murphy Oil Soap

  • Cleaning time: 2 1/2 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 3 / 5The method: Fill a bucket with warm water and add the popular Murphy Oil Soap. Use a rag to wipe cabinets with cleaning solution. Use a second rag to rinse cabinets with clean water to remove any residue and leftover grime.
Product Image: Murphy Oil Soap Original Wood Cleaner, 32 Ounces
Murphy Oil Soap Original Wood Cleaner, 32 Ounces
How it went: This combination did a better job of cleaning through the grease, but diluting the soap rather than just using a bottle of ready-to-go cleaner was a little annoying. I also did not care for the citronella scent at all and it really lingered. Vinegar’s scent may be strong, but it dissipates quickly. This one, while smelly, definitely did a better job than the previous two options, but it wasn’t great. Overall, a solidly average performance.

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Pledge Everyday Cleaner

  • Cleaning time: 2 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 4 / 5The method: Spray Pledge Everyday Cleaner on the cabinet front, then wipe with a microfiber cloth.
Product Image: Pledge Multi Surface Cleaner Spray, 25 Ounces (Pack of 3)
Pledge Multi Surface Cleaner Spray, 25 Ounces (Pack of 3)
How it went: This method definitely earned points for its simplicity and effectiveness. I sprayed a cabinet, let it sit for about 20 seconds, and then wiped and rubbed as needed with the microfiber cloth.
I had to scrub a little harder on the cabinets closest to the stove that were the dirtiest, but it made quick work of the cabinets that just needed fingerprints wiped away. It has a gentle citrus smell and leaves the cabinet fronts with a slight sheen without being shiny. This would be a great option for maintenance cleaning in between full scrub-downs. I’ve even been using it on my wooden dinner table at the end of the day and love how clean it keeps things.

Greasy Cabinet Cleaning Method: Dawn Dish Soap

  • Cleaning time: 2 minutes per greasy cabinet (shorter time for less dirty cabinets)
  • Rating: 4.5 / 5The method: Mix Dawn dish soap and warm water, then use a sponge to clean.
Product Image: Dawn Ultra Original Dish Detergent Liquid
Dawn Ultra Original Dish Detergent Liquid
How it went: This option is definitely the way to go for greasy cabinets. I put a little Dawn into a bowl and filled it with warm water, then got to scrubbing. My greasiest cabinets were cleaned with almost zero effort as the classic dish soap cut through the grime.
I had to go back with a clean, damp sponge to wipe up the soap residue, so I can’t give this method a full five stars. But because it’s so much more effective at doing its intended job, the extra step didn’t add too much extra time, so I didn’t mind it much. As the winning method, I’m excited about how well this one worked — and I’ll go back to it time and time again!How do you get your greasy wood cabinets clean? Tell us your cleaning tips and favorite products in the comments below.