How to Clean Stained & Varnished Kitchen Cabinets

Written by michelle hogan
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How to Clean Stained & Varnished Kitchen Cabinets
Wood kitchen cabinets are often stained and if older, varnished. (Modern kitchen image by MAXFX from

Kitchen cabinets are an essential part of our everyday lives, especially if you enjoy cooking or hanging out in your kitchen. Your cabinets might be opened and closed 10 or 20 times a day, depending on how often you like to eat. Cabinets can get dirty fast. Grease and oils from cooking, dirt and grime from hands, and dust just from living will accumulate quickly. If your stained and varnished cabinets haven't been cleaned in a while, you'll want to give them a good scrubbing.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Mild detergent (like Dawn or Ivory dish soap)
  • Sponge or rag
  • Lemon oil
  • Murphy's or other brand of oil soap for wood
  • Cleaning eraser like Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

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  1. 1

    Prepare a bowl or bucket full of warm water and a few tsp of a mild dish soap like Dawn or Ivory. Use a sponge or rag to give each cabinet a good scrubbing. This will remove most dust and dirt.

  2. 2

    Add a few drops of lemon oil to a bucket or bowl of warm water. This will be a bit stronger than the soap cleaning and should get off any remaining dirt, particularly around handles and knobs.

  3. 3

    Use Murphy's or another brand of oil soap made for wood cleaning in warm water to maintain your cabinets. The oil soap cleans and protects the wood at the same time and won't harm the finish.

  4. 4

    Remove fingerprints or smudges with an eraser-type cleaner such as Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. This is also good to use in between more major cleanings for quick touch ups.

Tips and warnings

  • Always test an inconspicuous part of your cabinet with your selected cleaning solution before cleaning the whole cabinet. If the finish is going to peel or be damaged in some way, you'll want to know before you clean every cabinet.
  • Dry each cabinet thoroughly after cleaning to avoid any water staining, although this should not be a problem with varnish.

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