Threads of the Pattern

Kitchen Cabinet Cleanoff

Posted on: August 29, 2012

Recently, I came to a dismaying realization: my cabinets were gross!

We are currently living in a large household with 3 generations…one of which likes to put their dirty kid fingers all over the kitchen cabinets! After coming to the aforementioned realization, I tried to clean them with dish soap and water….but they laughed at me.

So…next was the magic eraser. They called Mr.Clean a sissy girl.

I realized I was going to have to bust out the big guns…so I took to the Internet. I needed a good, strong cleaner that wouldn’t poison my dogs, my kids or my manicure (yeah,right). Something that would be ok to use on painted wood cabinets, since we all know I was not going to repaint them just to get them clean! Though in retrospect, that might have been easier…

Several websites suggested the use of equal parts white vinegar and hot water. Two suggested adding Dawn dish soap to further the grease cutting contents. So, I gathered up my vinegar and soap and reached under the counter for my cleaning bucket…and there was a huge bottle of animal friendly, orange oil containing cleaner my aunt had bought some time ago!

Instantly, I was sucked into indecision land. Should I use the cleaner? Try the Internet suggested method? Put them together to see if they’ll cause a nuclear reaction, thereby eliminating my need to clean the cabinets?

Nah….but what about a Clean Off?!

In THIS corner: The Internet Method!
2cups white vinegar
1cup hot water
A healthy splash of dish soap

And in the OTHER corner: Stuff I found under the kitchen sink!

It said for cleaning counters to use 1 part soap to 10 parts warm water. I enjoy both burning the skin off my hands and ignoring directions, so I used more like equal parts cleaner and water and turned up the temperature from warm to ‘Omg what is wrong with me?!’

Then, I gathered up a cleaning rag and a sponge with an abrasive side and got down to it.
My first cabinet was at ground level.

I blame that bit of ew on the molasses jar…that stuff gets everywhere!

First I used the cleaner mixture. Mostly because it’s the second most touched cabinet in the house and wasn’t so sure plain old vinegar was going to cut it. There were these weird water streaks on the cabinet, but since I was making kind of a bubbly mess, I didn’t mind. I just figured it was because I was dripping water down the cabinet. I used the cleaning rag to wipe the cabinets, figuring it would give the best idea of just how good the cleaner was working. After all, if I didn’t have to move on to the blow torch method it must be pretty good right?

It worked pretty well. Took all the accumulated dirt off the cabinet and left it with a nice shine even after I wiped them down with a wet rag to make sure there was no residual cleaner left on them for the dogs to lick.

Now I had a dilemma. Go on with the cleaner or give the vinegar a try? Mostly because the children had sensed that mommy was in crazy cleaning mood and had wisely vacated the area, I chose to go on with the experiment. So I chose a cabinet of equal grubbiness and applied the vinegar mixture.

Don’t judge. Apparently Clean the Dishes is code for Slop Liquid Food All Over the Place.

Instantly, I could tell the difference. Beside the fact that it splashed into my eye about 42 times, it dripped off it the cabinet without actually cleaning anything. I put aside the rag and picked up the sponge and even then, it seemed like I was mostly wiping them down not actually doing any heavy cleaning. When it dried, I was even more disappointed because it left a Matte finish, and that was not very flattering to my kitchen.

So…back to the cleaner/hot water mixture. I rewashed the cabinet I had applied the vinegar to, and was excited to see the remnants come off with little elbow grease. I applied it um…liberally…to the next cabinet and before I could wipe it down, my phone rang. Five minutes later, I went back to the cabinet, dipped my sponge into it and wiped off the top of the cabinet…and a healthy swipe of paint, too!

Let’s just say there was a liberal application of cuss words then…and I moved on, after I put my cell phone far away to prevent future distractions and after I prepared another bowl, this one of just straight water, to rinse the cabinets with.

Who would have thought that a cleaner labeled nontoxic would take the paint right off my cabinets??

Anyway, the cleaning went superbly, and my cabinets looked shiny and fantastic after that…and very chic with their new ‘distressed’ look.

Ta-da! So much better!

Hey…I live in a farmhouse built in the 1800s, it’s supposed to look like that!


Things I learned:

1. Vinegar is a very nice cleaner, but not for heavy duty jobs.

2. Don’t leave the cleaner on painted surfaces. Even if it says nontoxic. Or natural. Or safe for all materials.

3. It wouldn’t hurt to take the words ‘test on hidden surface’ seriously.




2 Responses to "Kitchen Cabinet Cleanoff"

Ha! Testing a hidden area would be like dying hair from your brush first, or knitting a gauge swatch. Most of us know in theory that it’s a really good idea, and then don’t do it anyway. ๐Ÿ˜›

Haha! Right? I don’t think I’ve knit a gauge swatch in my entire life…which might explain how a baby dress had to be converted into a bag… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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