How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting?

Painting your kitchen cabinets by yourself is a big project in itself, but there is some preparation that needs to be done before you start painting.

It is very important to have a clean surface before you paint your kitchen cabinets so that, once the paint has dried, the finished effect is flawless. Even the best paint will not stick to a greasy surface.

This article will be your guide and teach you how to clean kitchen cabinets before painting.

Why You Need to Prepare Your Kitchen Cabinets before Painting?

Though you might feel tempted to paint your cabinets as they are, a little patience and preparation pay a lot in the long run.

If you simply paint over your kitchen cabinets, then you might run the risk of the paint coming off, not appearing smooth, or not lasting a long time, and therefore requiring you to repaint too soon.

Not only the surfaces of the cabinets, but the metal parts such as handles and hinges will also need to be cleaned.

The wooden surfaces will also need to be sanded down to get a smooth surface. Sanding also prevents any paint peeling issues down the line.

But before you can sand your kitchen cabinets, they will need to be cleaned in order to get rid of any dirt that is embedded within the wood.

Preparing Your Kitchen Cabinets for Painting

To clean your kitchen cabinets before painting, make sure to get cleaners that the wood will not be able to soak up.

The cleaners should also dry up from the wood surface quickly after being removed. The last thing you need is a delay of many days, waiting for your kitchen cabinets to dry before you can paint them.

Cleaning the Hardware

In order to clean the metal hardware (such as knobs, handles, and hinges), keep them soaked in a mixture of dish soap and warm water during the time that you are cleaning the rest of the cabinets.

Once they have soaked, scrub away any dirt or gunk using a sponge or brush.

Cleaning the Kitchen Cabinets

If the current paint on your cabinets still looks decent, you should still give them a thorough cleaning.

Sand down the surfaces of the cabinets until it looks smooth, and most of the surface dirt has been removed. To get into difficult spots such as corners, use a cotton swab dipped in a cleaning agent.

Next, start the cleaning process. If you are using a commercial degreasing agent, you should wear hand gloves and a breathable mask while cleaning. This is mainly to protect you from the odor and harsh chemicals.

The easiest cleaning agent, however, would be good old vinegar. Once sanded, scrub down your kitchen cabinets with a mixture of water, vinegar, and a bit of liquid dish soap.

Vinegar will not only sanitize the surfaces but will also remove the layer of dust remaining after the sanding process.

After scrubbing, rinse the cabinet parts thoroughly and let them dry completely before you start painting them.

Cleaning Extra Greasy Kitchen Cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets have been neglected for years, they will have collected a stubborn layer of grease. Cabinets such as these require some extra steps during the cleaning process.

The first thing you want to do is to remove any adhesive remnants stuck to the cabinet surfaces such as stickers, tape, and the glue from stickers that have been removed. To do this, you can use a metal scraper over a light layer of paint stripper.

Once that is done, mix together rubbing alcohol and vinegar in equal parts, with a little bit of liquid dish soap.

Put the mixture in a spray bottle and fill the rest with water. Spray this mixture onto the cabinet surfaces, let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, and then wipe or scrub it off.

This should get rid of most, if not all, of the built-up grease. If not, give it another go, this time with no water in the mixture.

Let the cabinets dry after scrubbing off all the grease, sand down to make them smoother, and clean one last time with the vinegar mixture (mentioned above) before painting them.

For an Uber Smooth Kitchen Cabinet Surface before Painting

Some wooden surfaces (especially oak wood) are naturally quite porous, and that is fine to paint on because it will still look great. However, if you want a very clean and smooth look on your kitchen cabinets, then you can go a step further after cleaning them.

For cabinets with plain surfaces, you can use a spackling compound. Apply the spackling compound onto the cabinets using a scraper, one light, and even layer at a time.

Let each layer of the spackling dry before you scrape on the next. Do this until you are satisfied with the smoothness of the cabinets’ surfaces.

If the surfaces of your kitchen cabinets are not flat and have curves and bends, then you can achieve the same results using a high-build primer.

Apply it onto the cabinet surface one layer at a time, and sand each layer once it has dried before applying the next until all the pores are filled.


Painting your kitchen cabinets is already a hefty task, and you might be understandably reluctant to go through the cleaning process before painting.

However, following the steps mentioned above will help you get not only an excellent painting surface, but will also make the paint last longer and look nicer on your kitchen cabinets.

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