Cleaning Before Re-Coating Kitchen Cabinets On Site

Removing dirt, grease, and contaminants without damaging the appearance of the existing finish is the problem. Here are tips and suggestions. August 15, 2011

I have an old kitchen to re-clear-coat. What would work best? I'm worried most about the fish eyes that all the grease will cause.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Sure would be a bummer to run into all the possible fish eye problems and then have to add a bit of this and a bit of that to overcome the issue. Why not strip it down to bare wood, clean the bare wood real good, sand it real good, and then apply a real good coating?

That would be my choice, but if you bid the job already and you bid it for a quick clean, a quick sand, and a quick topcoat, it might be difficult to re-bid and get a positive response from the customer.

Some newer coatings really don't get along with the older coatings. Do you know what sort of coating is on there now? You could take a door or a drawer front and fool around with different procedures and see which works the best for you.

From the original questioner:
I finished this job 7 years ago, and time beat it up a little bit. It has CV on it now. Is there anything I can clean it with?

From contributor R:

How about a good scrubbing with paint thinner and a green Scotchbrite type of pad? Follow it up with a good washing of Ivory or Dove dish soap.

From contributor B:
Some soap and water, then a diluted TSP wash down is what I see used a lot. You also might want to consider a clear coat of Sealcoat (dewaxed shellac) after you clean it up to seal in any grease, etc.

From contributor D:
Challenger is a great degreaser and cleaner as well.

From contributor A:
All good advice so far. Use the soap first for the food, grease, fingerprints, etc. TSP is a good choice next, but could cloud up an old finish, so a quick test would be a good idea before you proceed. (You say it's conversion varnish, so you'll be fine.) If any furniture polish was used, I would wipe everything down with paper towels and xylene. Nasty work onsite or in the shop.

Work smart with these solvents! Keep a box of nitrile gloves at your side. Wear your respirator. Safety glasses? I don't need 'em, but think about it. And for god's sake, don't start a fire at the jobsite.

Start with the mildest cleaner first. Now you're ready to scuff sand and finish as usual.

From contributor A:
Simple green.

From contributor W:
You can clean the grease, wax or other oil contaminant with mineral spirits. Use a dampened rag with mineral spirits, and do your refinishing process.