Sparkle & Smile

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Green Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Do you know how to deep clean woodwork?

January 31, 2017


According to Maid Brigade’s 2017 Cleaning Calendar and Checklists, special attention should be given to woodwork every three months, like your baseboards, molding, doors and cabinets. For DIY cleaners, read on to learn how to deep clean  woodwork.

When I’m asked how to deep clean woodwork, my first reaction is to answer with another question. “What exactly are you trying to do?” I ask this question because there are three different types of cleaning for baseboards, woodwork, doors and cabinets. Let’s start off with the easiest and work our way up to the more intense cleaning.


Dusting woodwork, baseboards, doors and cabinets is a very simple job. Don’t try to make it complicated. Dusting, by definition, is removing dust from a surface. We can do that by using a dry microfiber cloth and simply wiping it over the surface. That’s all you need to do to remove the dust.  Baseboards are the one place where using a feather duster can make dusting more efficient.  A quality feather duster with a longer handle can remove the dust without having to bend over. Look for ostrich or microfiber. (Also helpful, hopefully, is my recent blog about microfiber.)


If you haven’t been keeping up with your regular dusting you will find a buildup on the wood. This takes more work, extra time and the right supplies.  To deep clean woodwork start by removing as much of the built up dirt without using water. Use a vacuum with the upholstery tool attachment or a microfiber cloth. Wipe or vacuum the wood (whether painted or natural) and remove as much of the dirt and dust as you can.


  • Mix up a spray bottle of distilled white vinegar and a drop (only one) of dish soap. Spray the microfiber cloth with this mixture and wipe the wood to remove the additional buildup. Do not spray the woodwork as it will turn to a muddy liquid and run down to the flooring and leave a dark stain on the trim.
  • You can also use a steam cleaner with a pointed nozzle attachment to get into the corners and indents of the wood. Be careful to test this in a discreet area as the steam can spray the dirt onto the walls and make an even bigger mess. Steam can also degrade varnish and polyurethane if overused, so go lightly.
  • An eraser sponge works well on very smooth surfaces to remove buildup as well as stains. If the wood has a rough finish, the eraser sponge will break apart and leave a white film in the wood’s pores that will be difficult to remove. Make sure to test the eraser in a discreet area.
  • Corners and crevices hold more dust and can be cleaned with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol. Just dip the swab into the alcohol and work it into the tight areas. The alcohol will work to cut through the built up and then evaporate quickly.


Polishing is adding an oil to a wood surface to protect the finish.  We have been told by the manufacturers of cleaning products that we need to polish our woodwork on a regular basis. But remember that oils not only add moisture to the wood, but also attract dust and make the surface harder to clean. Polishing really only needs to be done if the wood is looking dull, cloudy or very dry.

  • Never polish a wood surface unless it has been dusted and cleaned first. If you add polish to a dusty wood finish you will be sealing the dust into the layer of oil you’re adding to the furniture.
  • Don’t spray a polish directly onto furniture. Instead spray a microfiber cloth and apply a light coating. Some brands of furniture polish contain an ingredient that cuts through the older layer of polish to prevent “a waxy buildup”. By spraying the polish directly onto the furniture, there can be spots left where the spray lands and will leave a permanent mark. Instead, spray a cloth to prevent spotting on your furniture.
  • Look for beeswax as a main ingredient when looking to wax your furniture. This natural oil penetrates the wood and leaves it looking brand new. It is the perfect polish to use on your kitchen cabinets.  One of my favorite brands is made by a company called Howard’s. Their Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish combines a citrus base oil along with Carnauba oil and bees wax to clean, feed and polish your wood.
  • Another option is to use coconut oil on your wood. Heat it up in the microwave for a few seconds before using it on a wood surface. Place a few DROPS on a microfiber cloth and work it into the wood to give it a natural luster. You can also try using some olive oil mixed with mayonnaise to make your own DIY polish (see video below). One question I always get asked is “does the olive oil and mayonnaise go rancid”.  Rancid actually means that the oils and fats are breaking down after being exposed to air and light. The answer is yes to the question. Both olive oil and mayonnaise do break down but this is not something that we need to worry about when using them for cleaning.  And from my research I’ve found that most of the olive oil’s we use in our cooking would be considered “rancid” after sitting on the grocery store shelves.
  • Kitchen cabinets usually have a buildup of grease that accumulates from our hands on the doors and drawers where we touch them most. Remove those spots with rubbing alcohol. Be aware that when greasy fingerprints mix with a wood finish they work together to break down the finish of the cabinets. Be very careful when trying to remove the buildup as you may also remove the finish. Test this technique in a hidden area of the cabinet first.

Knowing how to deep clean woodwork not only makes the job go faster, it also makes the results more pleasing and long-lasting.

Download Maid Brigade’s printable 2017 Cleaning Calendar and Checklists and follow along for a clean home, all year long.

Leslie Reichert is a cleaning expert that uses her sparkling personality, great sense of humor and contagious passion to encourage people to think differently about what they are using in their homes. Leslie is known as a Green Cleaning Coach and she is changing the world – “one spray bottle at a time”.  She is a national lecturer, a frequent home-keeping expert on The Dr. Oz Show and Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Maid Brigade’s DIY Cleaning Expert and author of the book: The Joy of Green Cleaning – a handbook for DIY cleaners. She works with Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, and other national publications.

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