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The Home Depot

Why Are My Cabinets Sticky?

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Cabinets & Countertops > Why Are My Cabinets Sticky?
Why Are My Cabinets Sticky?

Kitchen cabinets play a huge role in the kitchen. Not only do they hold everything important for cooking and serving food, they also contribute to the overall appearance of your kitchen. Depending on the style and design of your kitchen, you might have open, glass or wood cabinets to hold dishes, glasses and food.


Sticky kitchen cabinets can be a common issue in kitchens. The Michigan State University Extension explains it well – because of the location of the cabinets and the cooking that goes on in the kitchen; your cabinets are in prime location to accumulate significant grime and sticky build-up. When you notice that your kitchen cabinets are sticky, clean them thoroughly to restore the surfaces.


Although sticky cabinets can be unsightly and frustrating, a little effort and elbow grease and your cabinets will be spic and span again.

  1. 1.Moisture from Cooking

    Your kitchen cabinets are in prime location to receive the brunt of the effects of your cooking. When cooking, grease from the stovetop enters the air regularly. In addition to the grease, steam is usually a common element that often hangs in the air. The combination of steam and grease together will usually settle on kitchen surfaces, including the cabinets. Because you probably wipe down your counters and appliances regularly, it’s easy to control the sticky build-up on these surfaces. If you don’t wipe down the cabinets regularly, the stickiness can accumulate to the point of an unsightly and unpleasant mess.

  2. 2.Food and Grease

    Creating a kitchen masterpiece often involves food spattering and spraying in all directions. If you don’t control where the spatters go and you don’t follow behind the mess with a cleaning cloth, the food and grease can accumulate. Over time, the build-up can be substantial, marring the surfaces and making them unpleasant to look at and touch.

  3. 3.Kid-Safe Cleaning Mix

    Although you could bring home half the cleaning aisle to attack your sticky cabinets, you might only need one single kid-safe ingredient to cut through the grease and grime. Try white vinegar, full-strength, on the cabinets to remove grease and restore the finish.

    Saturate a sponge with straight white vinegar and apply it wherever you see a sticky film on the cabinets. If the surfaces are especially grimy, try making a paste with white vinegar and baking soda. Apply the paste to the cabinets, work it in gently and then rinse it away. The cabinets should look and feel much cleaner after this cleaning process.

  4. 4.Make it a Habit

    When you want to avoid sticky cabinets in the kitchen, make a habit of cleaning your cabinet surfaces several times each week. Just as you wipe down your countertops, tables and floors, wipe down the cabinets frequently as well. Although wiping down cabinets regularly does require effort, in the long run, you will save yourself time. Which would you rather do – run the rag over your cabinets in fast and easy fashion or apply concerted effort cut through the grime?

  5. 5.Waxing Wood

    If you choose to apply a spray-on polish or wax to kitchen cabinets, at some point you’re going to have to give your cabinets additional attention to restore their beauty and healthy condition. You will know when it’s time to wax the wood because the wood will appear stained and blemished and it may be sticky to the touch.

    The first step involves cleaning the cabinets thoroughly. You might perform the cleaning with nothing stronger than simple dishwashing detergent. Another option for cleaning is mineral spirits, applied with a clean cloth. When you finish, years of grime and grease should disappear from the cabinet surfaces.

    After cleaning the cabinets thoroughly, you will need to protect the wood with a fresh layer of wood wax. The first step involves rubbing the cabinets with fine steel wood to make the surfaces slightly rough and give them “tooth.” This enables the wood to absorb the wax. Dust off any debris from the cabinets before applying the wax.

    Apply the wax with a cheese cloth to cover the wood neatly and thoroughly. Allow the wax to dry completely and your cabinets should be restored.

  6. 6.Refinishing Wood Cabinets

    Sometimes wood cabinets need a little more help than simply cleaning and applying new wax. If you wish to refinish the wood cabinets, you can extend the life of the cabinets at a minimal expense.

    The first step when refinishing wood cabinets is to remove the doors from the cupboards. Place the cabinets horizontally on sawhorses and apply stripper to the surfaces to remove all traces of the current stain or paint. Remove the stripper and the stain or paint using a steel brush, a putty knife and rags. Continue working until the cabinet wood is free of all paint or stain and then allow the wood to dry thoroughly for about 48 hours.

    Sand the wood thoroughly with fine sandpaper to prepare it for refinishing. Wipe the cabinets well with a tack cloth to remove all dust and debris.

    Apply the new finish – either stain or paint – with a paintbrush. Work carefully to apply the finish in a thin and neat layer. Allow the first coat to dry completely and then sand it lightly with the fine sandpaper to prepare it for another layer of finish. Wipe the cabinets with tack cloth again to ensure no dust remains on the wood. Apply a second coat of finish to the cabinets. Allow the cabinets to dry completely for at least 48 hours before rehanging them. Rehanging them before the finish dries completely may cause dings and damage to the surface.


    Whether your cabinets only need a small amount of maintenance or the project is more involved, when you finish, your cabinets should make a big difference in the overall appearance of your kitchen. You will probably find that you enjoy your kitchen much more with clean and sparkling cabinets again.

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