Best Way To Clean Wood Cabinets & Other Kitchen Tips (Wood Mode Tips)

Tools & Tips

clean wood cabinetsClients often ask how to take care of their new cabinetry. It’s a good question, and there are several things to consider. Wood reacts to environmental changes, such as moisture, temperature and light. The Wood-Mode care tips below should help you to preserve your wooden cabinetry as well as any other wood products you may have in your home.

Humidity Control is Important with Wood Products

The wood products in Wood-Mode and Brookhaven cabinets, based on fine furniture industry standards, are conditioned to 5%-8% moisture content at the factory. The wood working industry recommends that room environments in the comfort zone of 70 F be maintained at a relative humidity range of 25%-55% for wood products.

As the relative humidity in a room increases wood will gain moisture and expand. Wood loses moisture and contracts as relative humidity goes down in a home environment. This natural expansion and contraction of hardwoods can at times become visible at the joints of doors and frame components. Finish stress lines at joints are more visible on painted finishes. This natural characteristic of wood can be expected in a normal home conditioned throughout the year between the 25-55% relative humidity range and is not considered a defect.

The more a home’s relative humidity is allowed to exceed 55% the more its wood products will expand to the point of wood failure at extreme moisture levels. Wood failure possibilities include splits, cracks and wood joint expansion and separation. Inset door expansion becomes noticeable with high humidity conditions. If significant expansion occurs, the doors will rub against the cabinet frame as they are opened and closed. Low relative humidity environments can cause wood to shrink and create cracks and related noticeable characteristics. Moisture content expansion and contraction of wood is a natural occurrence and is not a defect and therefore is not warranted. Moisture related problems can be minimized by maintaining relative humidity in the 25%-55% range for the home’s comfort zone of 70 F.

Sunlight’s Effect on Wood & Wood Finishes: Wood and wood finishes tend to gradually mellow when exposed to light. Excessive direct sunlight can have a more dramatic effect.

Wear and Tear Around Knobs and Handles: Frequent use of cabinet doors and drawers can cause wear around knobs and handles. Chemicals from our skin can break down the finish over time around knobs and handles. Repetitive fingernail and ring impact will damage the finish over time. This is normal “wear & tear” and is not considered a finish defect. Using the care and cleaning instructions outlined below on a routine basis will help to minimize finish wear and will help keep the cabinet finish beautiful.


DO NOT use abrasive cleansers or pads on cabinet surfaces! They can cause scratches. On laminate cabinetry, scratches may be irreparable!

Keep cabinet surfaces dry and free from standing liquids.

STAINED FINISHES: Use a soft cloth and a mild soapy water solution to remove the dirt & grease. Rinse immediately with a clean cloth and dry with a clean soft cloth, using light pressure. Avoid vigorous rubbing, as this tends to raise glossy spots, marring the original effect. Never use strong soaps, detergents or liquid wax cleaners with dirt cutting agents on wood finishes. I suggest a mild mixture two cups of water and two teaspoons of liquid dish detergent in a spray bottle. Dawn is very mild.  You can get it at the grocery store or Amazon in bulk size- PAG02613EA – Original Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. If the need arises, wax with a quality paste wax. Try the wax on the back of a door first to be sure you are pleased with the outcome. Note: In 28 years, we have never used wax on our wood cabinets — only mild soap & water.

OPAQUE PAINTED AND MATTE FINISHES: NEVER use waxes on opaque or matte finishes! Simply wipe clean using a soft cloth with a mild soapy water solution. Rinse immediately after with a clean damp cloth and dry with a soft cloth.

CAUTION: Avoid vigorous rubbing as this tends to raise glossy spots, marring the original effect.

STAINLESS STEEL: Use a stainless steel cleaner. Follow the directions that accompany the cleaner. Never use acids, solvents or abrasive cleaners that would damage the surface and overall appearance. Our favorite for stainless is Stainless Steel Polish & Cleaner, and Bar Keepers Friend. These both work great on outdoor grills and stainless steel cabinetry.

PLASTIC LAMINATE CABINETS: Clean with a mild soapy water solution, rinse and wipe dry using a soft cloth. If necessary, remove stubborn stains with a grease-cutting agent. Clean afterward with a mild soapy water solution, rinse and wipe dry. For an environmentally friendly choice, try Nature’s Source Natural All-Purpose Cleaner with Scrubbing Bubbles.

METALLIC LAMINATES or INSERT PANELS: Do not use abrasive cleaners, scouring pads, powders, sandpaper or steel wool. These will permanently damage the surface and appearance! Acids, solvents, alkaline or ammonia-based cleaners or other liquids (other than mild soap and water) may etch, oxidize or otherwise damage the surface and appearance.

TO REMOVE FINGERPRINTS, OIL or SUGAR-BASED STAINS: Use a mild (diluted) liquid dish detergent and a soft damp cotton cloth. Clean in the direction of the metal grain, pattern or texture; avoid harsh rubbing. Rinse and remove any residual moisture with a clean, dry cotton cloth.

HINGES: Lubricate hinges annually for extended life and optimum performance with white lithium spray grease. If hinges loosen over time tighten screws to restore hinges to their original operating condition. Remove the hinge cap on frameless cabinets to access the hinge screws. Try 3-In-One 10042 White Lithium Grease.

REMEMBER: This is a basic guide only. If questions or problems arise and you’re not sure how to proceed, contact Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly, Inc. or Wood-Mode for advice.

See more of our editor’s picks for pantry necessities.


Other Kitchen Cleaning Supplies We Like: Seventh Generation, Ecover, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and Caldrea

Posted by GKelly in Care & Cleaning, Cleaning Products, Wood-Mode |   Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly, Inc.  Showroom: 26 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park, NY 516-746-3435  

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