How to clean kitchen cabinets before painting them.

Written by David | April 2, 2020

Do you know how to clean cabinets before you paint them?

Odds are the answer is no. But if you are thinking of painting your kitchen cabinets, then one of the most important things you can spend your time on is How to clean your kitchen cabinets before you paint them!  Thanks for checking out our website- I am David Cook, owner of D’franco Painting & Wallpaper.

Painting kitchen cabinets is one of the things we do that everyone here enjoys doing. The transformation that takes place in our customers homes makes the work worth every minute we spend on your kitchen. The customers reactions of “OH MY GOSH, I LOVE IT!”

Does it matter what products I use to clean my cabinets?

If we are talking about everyday cleaning the answer is Yes! If we are talking about the cleaning before you paint then the answer is YES!

There are many types of household cleaners. Many of them say it can be used on ____. Can does not mean should. Wood cabinets should be treated like wood floors. There is one product called BONA that I have heard both flooring and cabinet makers say good things about. We have always said for every day cleaning of your cabinets, use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water to avoid damage to the wood and paint/varnish used on your cabinets.

You don’t want to use anything that will:

  • leave a residue
  • is oily
  • has too much water
  • leaves a film
  • will dry out wood
  • will deteriorate the wood coatings

The best products to use to clean kitchen cabinets.

Over the past few years we have used several products. Products change form time to time. But for us, these have been great:

(Before starting- wear rubber gloves!)

Krud Kutter degreaser - How to clean kitchen cabinets before painting them
Krud Kutter degreaser and cleaner
3M scotch brite pads - cleaning kitchen cabinets
3M scotch brite pads

These two products have been great when we are n homes or in the shop to clean cabinets. We have used them primarily as a wet/sand type application. This means we wet the cabinet surface, use a 3M scotch pad to basically wet sand the surface, this removes most of the dirt and grime.

Once we do this process we always have to wet the surface again and wipe clean.

Dirtex cleaner - kitchen cabinet cleaning
Dirtex cleaners

The newest product we started to use has been Dirtex.  It was recommended to us form another paint company. The last 2 jobs we have had oak cabinets that are 20 years old.  Each was pretty dirty too. So we sprayed the Dirtex on, then allowed it to sit for a few min before cleaning. I will say I am impressed with how much better the Dirtex worked.  Here is the video of cleaning next to the stove under the cabinets where the grease really splatters.

YouTube cleaning cabinets

Now they are clean.. what is next?

After the cleaning, and wiping- allow them to dry.  We hope you have used rubber gloves.  There is oil on your finger prints and it will stay on the cabinets of you touch them. If there is any doubt wipe clean with denatured alcohol or wipe again with Dirtex.

Allow the cabinets to dry-if you stacked them- you will need more time to get these to really dry off, you may consider using a fan to make sure you get air flow and proper drying.

Once they are dry, and you have not touched them with your fingers, you can start painting!

So what are you waiting for?

If you have questions as you begin, or are in the middle of this project- please let us know. We want to make sure we answer the questions you have so your painting experience is successful.

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