Recently a new home owner presented this problem the kitchen cabinets in their house were covered in a pink waxy buildup which we then discovered was silver polish used on wood cabinets. The idea behind this was not apparent but we came to the conclusion that the previous owner probably didn’t have the right type of cleaner so they used what they had on hand.
Now this is probably not going to be the case in your home but you are likely to find kitchen and even bathroom cabinets that have not been taken care of correctly or are just suffering from greasy waxy buildup or soap scum that has ruined the finish.
If the material in on the surface of the cabinets and the protective polyurethane or varnish coating has not been damaged then all you need to do is clean and strip the buildup and then if necessary apply a protective polyurethane finish to restore the shine.
Cleaning The Surface
The first thing you need to do is clean the surface from any large buildup and materials that may have embeded in the built up wax.
Use a standard household cleaner that is labeled for degreasing. Normally this is a moderately strong soap and water solution so you do not want to soak the area for a prolonged period or the water in the solution could cause warping of the wood.
Once the surface has been cleaned of the primary buildup you will need to use a Wax and Grease liquid cleaner that is petroleum based to remove all of the wax. When you finish cleaning the surfaces with this liquid there will not be any protective finish on it. This means you will either need to coat the surface with a polyurethane or furniture oil.
Wax and Grease Remover should be available at your local home store and is different then mineral oil because it does not leave a residue. Automotive Technicians use this cleaner as the final stage before painting and it can be painted over once the surface is dry.
Protecting and Caring For Your Wood Cabinet
Once you have cleaned the surfaces you will need to inspect the cabinets and make sure that the top finish is still in good condition. If you need to restore the finish I would suggest a Polyurethane finish because it does not require oil or wax to maintain it over the years.
Polyurethane comes in three basic finish types matt, semigloss and gloss finish. Most home owners will want a semigloss finish as it will not reflect as much light but your home store should have a display that shows you the difference over a variety of different woods.
If you find that the wax buildup has discolored your stain finish then you may need to either spot refinish or redo all of your cabinets for a constant match. If the wood is in good condition this is something that most home owners can accomplish on their own but it will take a little skill.
I would only suggest that you attempt to refinish your cabinets completely if you have already mastered painting your home and working on smaller wood projects.