How to Clean Sticky Wood Kitchen Cabinets

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Sticky residue and grease stains are both unappealing and damaging to your kitchen cabinets. More often than not, chemical cleaning products may cause more damage than harm. This is why it’s important to know how to clean sticky wood kitchen cabinets correctly.

In this post, I’ll list all the known and tested methods for effectively cleaning sticky cabinets. All it takes is a bit of dish soap, white vinegar, baking soda, and elbow grease.

Dish Soap

Let’s start off the basics: dish soap! Dish soap has degreasing qualities that allow you to remove the sticky residue left on countertops and cabinets easily.

However, any ol’ dish soap won’t do; to effectively remove the grease, it’s best to opt for an oil soap wood cleaner. Oil soap wood cleaner is specifically designed to remove caked-on substances without damaging the wooden surface of your cabinet. My personal favorite is Murphy's Oil Soap.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Add a few squirts of dish soap in a bowl of warm water. Don’t use too much as it can seep into the wood and potentially damage it. Gently mix it around.
  2. Test the mixture in an inconspicuous wooden spot. If the varnish turns hazy or white, use a milder soap with neutral or low pH. An example is Blue Dawn, but any commercial degreaser made for wooden surfaces works well too.
  3. Apply the cleaner to the greasy area and let it sit for about a minute or two.
  4. Heat a damp microfiber cloth, then quickly wipe away the soap using a circular motion. Make sure you’re not pressing on the surface too hard as it might scrape off the varnish and avoid using an abrasive or rough sponge.
  5. Once you’ve cleaned the surface layer, go back over the cabinets with a soft, clean cloth.

Baking Soda

If the dish soap method doesn’t work, you might want to try something with a bit more scrubbing power. Baking soda works because it’s mildly abrasive, meaning it’ll cut through grease without damaging the wooden finish. It also works as an excellent deodorizer to dissolve dirt and the like.

For this method, you’ll need to closely follow these instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, create a paste of equal parts baking soda and water. Mix until a paste-like consistency is formed.
  2. Using a Microfiber Cloth, apply the paste directly onto the grease stains using circular motions. Let it soak on the surface for five minutes.
  3. Use a fresh, damp cloth to wipe away the baking powder paste. If the grime is difficult to remove, you can use a thin spatula or something similar to help you scrape it off. Be careful not to scratch the wooden cabinet.
  4. Alternatively, you can use a soft sponge to scrub the grease away gently. While doing so, make sure you rinse the sponge in between wipes.
  5. Repeat the above steps if necessary until all the grease is removed.
  6. Then, finally, use a clean cloth to buff your wooden cabinets dry.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is another natural cleaning product that has fantastic degreasing properties. Plus, it can kill bacteria and dissolve hard-water deposits due to its acidic properties.

  1. Measure equal parts vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle. Never use pure vinegar as it’s too acidic and may damage the wood’s finish.
  2. Spray the solution directly onto the greasy wooden surface and leave it on for five minutes.
  3. Wipe the cupboards using a damp cloth using a circular motion. Repeat the process until the grease stains are completely removed.

For particularly stubborn stains, such as marmite or old oil, create a mixture of 50/50 vinegar and salt. Then, using an old toothbrush, scrub the stains away. Alternatively, you can add a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent onto the above solution for especially sticky cabinets.

Citrus-Based Cleaner

Citrus oil, like orange essential oil, works really well when it comes to cutting through layers of grease. Plus, it smells incredible. If you have a citrus essential oil lying around your house, you can use it to clean the grime off of your wooden cabinets. Simply add 10 to 20 drops to two cups of mild cleaning liquid, mix, then transfer it into a spray bottle.

You can also use a multipurpose cleaner that contains citrus oil. You can even make one yourself by filling a jar with three-quarters full of citrus peels and vinegar. Let it sit in the jar for two to three weeks, then remove the peels and pour the remaining mixture onto a spray bottle.

  1. Spray the cleaner directly onto the sticky kitchen cabinets. Let it sit for a few minutes to soak.
  2. Gently remove the grease by using a non-abrasive sponge or a microfiber cloth dampened with warm water.
  3. Wipe off the remaining cleaner with a dry, damp cloth.


The same toothpaste you use to brush your teeth comes in handy with multiple cleaning applications. One such application is cleaning sticky wood kitchen cabinets. Combine it with baking soda, and you have a powerful homemade degreaser.

  1. Combine a cup of water, a teaspoon of toothpaste, and two tablespoons of baking soda. Mix well with a spoon.
  2. Dip a sponge or microfiber cloth in the mixture and scrub down your wooden cabinets. Repeat the process as necessary. Clean the cloth or sponge as it gets dirty with warm water, or grab a fresh one if the grease is particularly thick.
  3. Wipe away any remaining product with a damp cloth.

Cleaning Sticky Wood Cabinets

The older the grease stains are, the stickier and tougher they become. As they say, prevention is better than cure; therefore, to prevent grease build-up, it’s best to wipe down your wooden cabinets every week. Also, to avoid transferring grease from the cupboard’s knobs and drawer handles, regularly wash your hands while cooking.

All the above steps are a sure-fire way to remove the sticky residue on your wooden kitchen cabinets. Choose any method depending on what you have at hand and try it out. You’ll never have to worry about those unsightly grime again!

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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