Cleaning cherry kitchen cabinets

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Forum topic by Carya posted 09-17-2014 12:58 AM 1149 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2175 days

09-17-2014 12:58 AM


A friend of mine has asked me for help cleaning beautiful custom cherry kitchen cabinets. Around the pulls there is now years of accumulated skin oil, dirt, etc. It’s not really bad but you can see it’s darker by the pulls and can feel the texture change. The cabinets were installed around20 years ago.

I’ve searched the net and cannot find anything for the manufacturer – Heritage Doors of New Holland PA – or the installer – Kitchens Furnishings Inc. of Orange, CT. – to get their cleaning recommendations.

The stain used was Heritage Custom Kitchen Stain; finish no. 57-4A and finish name Fireside. Over the stain is a semi-gloss to matte gloss clear top coat. Exactly what is unknown. I haven’t been able to find anything on the stain manufacturer either.

On the net I’ve found several recipes for ‘safe’ cleansers for kitchen cabinets. They involve a dilute mix of warm water and orange juice, lemon juice or dish detergent. To me the diluted warm water and dish detergent makes sense.

Is anyone familiar with that stain and and top coats used? What is the recommended cleanser? If not, does anyone know of a safe home grown recipe for a cleanser that will not damage the top coat. There are also a few deep scratches that need a stain touch-up. Shellac, varnish, lacquer and polyurethane are too glossy. Any ideas on what to use as a top coat touch-up over the stain?

My friend, who also used to be my boss, spent big bucks on the cabinets 20+ years ago and I’d hate to be the one to ruin them.

Any help is very much appreciated.


10 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2360 days

#1 posted 09-17-2014 01:02 AM

ZEP Shower, Tub, and Tile cleaner, after the pulls are removed.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2256 days

#2 posted 09-17-2014 01:06 AM

Try washing them with Murphy’s Oil Soap. LOML swears by it.

-- Art

View Rick Bailey's profile

Rick Bailey

247 posts in 1361 days

#3 posted 09-17-2014 01:10 AM

Scotts liquid gold.
Its more than likely a lacquer finish.

-- I'll bulid your dream,you tear it down.

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1848 days

#4 posted 09-17-2014 03:39 PM

I would try mineral spirits (paint thinner) or naphtha and plenty of clean rags. Neither of these solvents will damage a cured finish and they will dissolve the grease-base soil likely to be found on kitchen cabinets. I’d probably stay away from any water based cleaner, except as a last resort. Water and wood don’t really get along well.

View Quanter50's profile


278 posts in 2295 days

#5 posted 09-17-2014 04:03 PM

A bucket of water…...a wash cloth…...and a bar of “Fels Naptha” soap.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1062 posts in 2848 days

#6 posted 09-17-2014 05:40 PM

I just recently cleaned years of grime from some kitchen cabinets with TSP from the painitng aisle in the BIG BORG. It took the accumulation off in one pass, absolutely shocked the $hit out of me how well it worked, I anticipated a royal PITA to scrub it all off and one wipe & done. I bought the powder and mixed it with warm water to the reccomended dilution for “tough” jobs, but later did a bit with the “milder” recipe. You can run a test at an inside door location to test the product, but I’d give it a try before going to a solvent that is most likely going to require finish repair

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4930 posts in 3959 days

#7 posted 09-17-2014 07:12 PM

Gunk hand cleaner from the auto parts store. Works like a champ and won’t damage most finishes.
I wouldn’t use it on shellac.


View bonesbr549's profile


1549 posts in 3066 days

#8 posted 09-17-2014 07:24 PM

Try washing them with Murphy s Oil Soap. LOML swears by it.

- AandCstyle

+ 1 works great!

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View Carya's profile


10 posts in 2175 days

#9 posted 09-18-2014 11:51 PM

Thanks for all your suggestions. They’re a big help!

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2970 days

#10 posted 09-19-2014 12:06 AM

There is no cleaner I know of that works better than Formula 409 for grease based soil.
A light rub with 0000 steel wool after spraying with 409 will fix the texture problem and remove the grease.
And, as said already, you must first remove the hardware.

The finish is almost certainly lacquer. Cabinet makers all use it because it is fast and simple.

You can test this by rubbing a little lacquer thinner on a small inconspicious spot. See if it gets tacky.

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