Mary Hunt is the award-winning and best-selling author of 23 books. She writes the Everyday Cheapskate column that appears in The Daily Journal.

Kitchen cabinets are for storing dishes, not grease. Unfortunately, wood cabinets, whether painted or natural with a clear finish, are prone to all sorts of grease, grime and gunk from simply being in the kitchen.

Depending on just how much grease and grime you’re looking at and the supplies you have available, here are several options for your consideration. At least one of them will help get the job done, and there’s an added final suggestion for how to keep your clean cabinets looking gorgeous.


Apply a few drops of concentrated dish liquid such as blue Dawn into a bowl of warm water. Dip the soft side of a sponge. Squeeze the sponge until suds form. The cleaning agents in Dawn absorb grease just as well on kitchen surfaces as they do on dishes.

Apply to the dirty cabinet, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed. Immediately dry the surface with a clean cloth to prevent streaking.


Bust through hardened layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda. Mix 1 part any vegetable oil to 2 parts baking soda. Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth or paper towel. That ugly greasy dirty build-up will begin to soften and disappear. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.


Vinegar is not just for making pickles or drizzling over french fries. It has a grease-busting ability. Dampen a clean, dry cloth with undiluted white vinegar, and wipe down greasy cabinets. Rinse your cloth with warm water. Wring out most of the moisture, and then use the cloth to rinse the cabinetry. Dry the damp surfaces with a paper towel, but note any spots that need a second attempt.


This is a heavy-duty, industrial-strength solution. Use it on the toughest, most stubborn grease and grime, knowing it could remove a layer of the finish. Mix equal parts paint thinner and a mild soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap. Apply with a sponge or paintbrush. Wipe the solution away with a rag to clear the dirt. You likely will remove a thin layer of varnish or shellac because the grime could have melded with it.


After a rigorous cleaning, wood cabinets are thirsty for moisture and protection. But you want to be careful you don’t make matters worse by using something that will create a new kind of build-up that’s a magnet to kitchen grease and grime. You won’t find a better product to do that than Howard’s Feed-n-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. It contains beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil to keep the wood from drying out and repels kitchen grease. It’s fantastic for all of the wood surfaces in your home, not just your kitchen cabinets.

Mary invites you to go to, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”