How to care for your metal kitchen cabinets – circa 1960 instructions

how-to-clean-metal-kitchen-cabinets-460Reader Erika Rae found these instructions about how to clean St. Charles steel kitchen cabinets, enameled right inside of  one of her cabinet doors. I presume these instructions still hold. Errr, umm, does anyone know where to get St. Charles Cleaner & Polish?

Interestingly — if you look at my cabinets, there *is* rust on the bottom of the base cabinet doors, close to the floor. Ahhh, the janitors at the cooking school (my cabinets’ original home) did not take care to “always wipe off sub base and bottom of door or drawer above sub base with clean cloth after kitchen floor has been washed.” Alas, but fortunately the rust does not seem to be spreading. Thank you, Erika Rae!

Meanwhile, this is a good opportunity for Renovate-Safe-Pam to remind readers: Remember that old painted surfaces on metal cabinets (and other places in your home) may contain lead (and asbestos may be elsewhere in our vintage homes, etc.), so take responsibility to inform yourself and consult pros about proper attention to environmental and safety issues. For example, the EPA hosts a website on lead in the home and a website on asbestos in the home.

  1. Debbie Ann Gallagher says:

    I just bought a whole kitchen set of Lyons metal cabinets. I have been getting estimates on how to restore them from powder coat finishing and the price is around $5000.00 which I cannot afford.
    What are other options for having my cabinets painted and restored?


    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Debbie, I am not an expert on this issue. I suggest you consult with painting experts. Importantly: Be aware that old materials and products can contain hazards – be sure to consult with your own properly licensed professionals. For more info see our Be Safe/Renovate Safe page here.

  2. Allison says:


    The photo is not showing up for me– is there a problem with it? I’m looking all over for instructions on how to clean steel cabinets, but I’m not finding them– I feel like it is probably right under my nose, what am I missing?

    1. pam kueber says:

      yes, i fear it is lost. i will look for it, maybe i can find it and reload it. but my filing system is not very good, alas.

      1. Anastasia says:

        Hello! I’ve been lurking around here since Hubby and I purchased our 1957 ranch nine months ago. I just purchased a small set of Youngstown cabinets and would like to clean them up a bit. I can see a thumbnail of the instructions on the “Cleaning FAQs” page, but it disappears when I click the link to this particular article. Any advice?

        1. pat says:

          Same request for 1950s cabinets polish and cleaner. always used johnsons clean and shine now discontinued was great product used for 50 yrs need advise.

  3. atimicbowler-dave says:

    I just went to the link for St. Charles that Frank posted.

    I will spend my Christmas vacation cleaning all the slobber marks off the keyboard at my work computer!

    It took restraint not to lick the screen.

  4. atomicbowler-dave says:

    Two suggestions for a cleaner/polish–
    Meguiar’s products from your local autobody supply house or through your local NAPA jobber…
    Mirror Glaze #6 cleaner/wax is a very fine hand compound combined with a caranuba wax in liquid form.
    Mirror Glaze #7 is a “finishing/reseal glaze” and works well by hand. Would be a great last step to make the cabinet faces gleam.

    So little of the product is left behind I really wouldn’t worry about using it on a countertop myself…if that is a concern, there is an old-school paste wax that’s pretty much straight caranuba called “Trewax”. Follow the instructions carefully, and don’t use it on the enameled fronts!

  5. Rina says:

    Awesome!! Thank you!! Just bought a 1962 house with steel cabinets and have been looking up all sorts of info on how to repaint, care for and maintain the cabinets!!

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