Ready to to tackle painting your kitchen cabinets? Not so fast! Make sure you don’t skip the most crucial step. I’m breaking down why it’s so important to clean your cabinet surfaces before giving them a makeover, and how to pick the best degreaser for the job.
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Simply cleaning dirt off of your cabinets with a damp cloth before painting won’t cut it. You can’t miss the important step of degreasing. It may be tempting to simply paint over it – but paint doesn’t stick to oil and dirt. And trust me, after years of cooking, there’s plenty of sticky grease buildup that needs to be removed. Even if you can’t see it with the naked eye.
This means that if you attempt to paint over it, you won’t be able to get a smooth, clean finish on your newly painted cabinets. Not to mention those tough stains will come back to haunt you by seeping through your fresh new paint job.
So I’m showing you my best picks for degreasing cabinets so that you can start your cabinet painting journey on the right foot!
Importance of Pre-Work
Your freshly-painted cabinets won’t stay fresh very long without proper prep work. Paint is more likely to chip, crack or peel much faster than if pre-work is completed correctly. Cleaning and degreasing are a significant part of this prep work. In addition to repairs, sanding where needed, caulking, and making sure your cabinets are secured to the wall properly.
One area often overlooked when preparing kitchen cabinets for painting is the very top of the cabinet. If the tops of your cabinets are exposed, they are probably full of grime and dust from years of cooking and living in your space! It’s worth it to climb up and degrease the tops of those cabinets! Your kitchen will feel super fresh and smell great too!
Prep work can be time-consuming, but In the long run, it will make your final painting project go quicker and turn out even more beautiful!
What Is The Best Way to Clean Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting?
You may only plan to paint the outside of your cabinets, but prepping your kitchen cabinets for cleaning involves the whole cabinet, inside and out! Dust can be caked into cracks and crevices and get in the way of your painting project.
Caring for your cabinets inside and out can also help you refresh your space. If you take the time to re-paint your cabinets, your entire kitchen deserves some freshening up! It’s worth it to take the time to reorganize and clean your cabinets from the inside out.
I’ve found that the best way to clean cabinets before painting is:
- Empty them out entirely and clean the interior. Remove all dust and crumbs, then give the interior of the cabinets a good cleaning with a mild cleanser.
- Microfiber cloths or paper towels are best for this job! Avoid abrasive scouring pads, sponges, cleaning erasers, or hard-bristled brushes – these products can damage your cabinets.
- Start at the top and work your way down.
- Move to the outside of the cabinets to thoroughly clean and degrease.
What removes grease from cabinets before painting?
Grease is basically just thicker oil, and oil and water don’t mix! So you have to use something to cut through the grease on your cabinets to remove it from the surface.
I’ve found several methods that will clean grease from your kitchen cabinets, but they all depend on what type of cabinet surface you’re working with. Kitchen cabinets are often finished. This means they are sealed and act as a non-porous surface. Some cleaning solutions, including natural cleaners like vinegar, are not recommended on unfinished wood cabinets. So it’s good to test your cleaning method in an inconspicuous spot before proceeding with all of your cabinetry.
The process of degreasing cabinets involves breaking down the grease, which is called emulsifying. In this process, grease is reduced from an oily substance into a milky fluid. All the fat that makes up the grease is divided into a smaller state allowing it to be lifted off the surface and washed down the drain!
But, what exactly removes (emulsifies) the grease when degreasing kitchen cabinets? It takes a combination of active ingredients, making some multi-purpose cleaners and dish soaps work well.
Some cleaners are made explicitly for degreasing but other everyday household products can also act as emulsifiers! So let’s take a look at them.
What Is The Best Cleaner to Remove Grease from Kitchen Cabinets?
There are so many solutions and products that help clean greasy cabinets. But, if you’re like me, you want something that takes the least amount of time and effort! While some solutions can get the grease off, it may take a few tries.
Lucky for you, I’ve tried many different products and solutions on my cabinet painting journey, and I have a few of my own favorites! Take a look below at some of my top cleaners for degreasing cabinets, along with each of their pros and cons.
My 6 Top Picks for Degreasing Kitchen Cabinets
1. Krud Kutter
Krud Kutter is my number one pick for degreasing cabinets! It’s easy to use with a simple spray and wipe off method and it has a mild smell with no lingering scents. It’s very effective in cleaning a grimy, greasy surface, and I found it works perfect for kitchen cabinets.
How to Use It:
To use Krud Kutter, Spray it on and let it sit for five minutes. Then, wipe it off with a gentle clean cloth. Extra grimy cabinets may require ten minutes to cut through the grease.
I mainly like Krud Kutter because:
- It’s easy to use.
- It’s very powerful
- It only has a Mild smell.
- It’s safe for both people and pets.
However, I don’t like Krud Kutter because:
- It’s a little more expensive than other cleaners.
- It may stain the cabinets if you’re not painting them first
2. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
TSP can be found at your local home improvement store. It’s a powerful cleaning agent, and heavy-duty degreaser that easily cuts through grime and grease on kitchen cabinets. TSP is moderately toxic if ingested and can irritate your skin. If you use this product, wearing gloves, eye protection, and long sleeves is a must!
How to Use It:
To use TSP, you first have to dilute it in water. Dip a soft-bristled brush or rag into the cleaning solution, then scrub to clean the cabinets. Use eye protection, gloves, and long sleeves.
I like TSP because:
- It is really powerful
- As one of the more abrasive cleaners, it actually peels off old paint as it works
However, I may avoid TSP because:
- Its moderately toxic
- more difficult to use because of tis toxicity
- It can irritate the eyes and skin
3. Mineral Spirits
If you are like me, you associate mineral spirits with painting. It was always hanging around my parents’ garage and used as a paint thinner when I was growing up. Now I know it’s suitable for other things, like cutting through dirt and grime on wooden cabinets and a variety of surfaces! Mineral spirits should only be used as a degreaser before refinishing cabinets and not as an everyday cleaner.
How to Use It:
Apply the mineral spirits to the cabinet doors using a soft cloth. Use a small brush to get into the cracks and crevices. After using mineral spirits, wash with gentle soap and water.
I like Mineral Spirits because:
- It is a powerful solvent to cut through tough grease but mild enough to avoid stripping the wood.
I don’t like Mineral Spirits because
- It takes an extra step to wash it away with soap and water.
- It’s not suitable for everyday use
4. White Vinegar & Lemon Juice
This is a natural kitchen degreaser you can make at home! A solution made with white vinegar and lemon juice is a natural, non-toxic grease-cutting option. The acetic acid in vinegar and lemons work together to cut through grease.
How to Use It:
To make a natural solution take ½ cup white vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 quart of warm water. Then, use a microfiber cloth or nonabrasive sponge to scrub.
Why I like this solution:
- It has all-natural ingredients that I usually have at home
- It’s cost-effective
Why I don’t:
- may require more work to thoroughly degrease the cabinets than it would a store-bought degreaser.
5. Baking Soda
Another natural option that’s a good degreaser for cleaning kitchen cabinets is baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, is a mixture of sodium and hydrogen carbonate. This natural ingredient is used in the kitchen to help cakes rise and as a grease-cutting cleaning agent!
How to Use It:
First, you will mix a solution of hot water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Next, have some dry baking soda in a dish or open container nearby.
Spray down your cabinets with the vinegar solution, then dip your nonabrasive sponge or cleaning rag in the baking soda and scrub the cabinets. A soapy solution will appear as the baking soda mixes with the vinegar solution.
Why use baking soda:
- Like vinegar and lemon juice, it is all-natural and non-toxic
- This is also cost-effective solution, as most of us normally have baking soda around the house
Why I don’t like baking soda:
- Unfortunately, this method can be rather messy
- It may require more work to cut through tough grease stains
6. Dawn Dish Soap
Dawn dish soap is a powerful degreaser and a great multi-purpose cleaner! This unique soap has a reputation as a robust super-cleaner for almost any area of your home. Thanks to a special recipe full of surfactants – the chemicals that dissolve things, like grease and grime!
How to Use It:
Combine some dawn dish soap in a bucket with warm water. Then use a microfiber rag or non-abrasive sponge to degrease kitchen cabinets.
Why I like to use Dawn Dish soap:
- It is easy to use
- It’s cost-effective – it is normally in the house and a little bit goes a long way!
Why I don’t like to use Dawn Dish Soap:
- due to its soapy nature, it takes time to make sure you wash it all away after cleaning the cabinets
The Most Powerful Degreaser
Krud Kutter KK32 is rated one of the best cabinet cleaners on the market and I agree! This is my go-to kitchen cabinet degreaser.
This is a concentrated cleaner and degreaser made with a commercial strength formula. It is water-based, biodegradable, non-toxic, and safe to use at home! Although a little more expensive than other cleaners per bottle, the dilutable formula helps it last longer. Krud Kutter is powerful and easy to use, but it may stain. Always use with caution and test in inconspicuous areas before use.
More Project Tips!
Have you decided what color you are painting your cabinets after you degrease and prep them? Here is a review of Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, in this review I discuss where I would and would not recommend using this particular white.
You may also want to check out The Best Airless Paint Sprayer for DIYers!
I’d love to hear how your kitchen cabinet project turns out! Comment and let me know!