How To Protect Kitchen Cabinets From Steam: 6 Proven Ways

We all know the kitchen is a naturally moist environment, but something we don’t think about often is the damage steam can cause. In fact, steam brings humidity to a whole new level, adding high temperatures to the game. It’s easy to understand how it can damage your cabinets, especially the upper ones located in the proximity of your stove.

The easiest way to protect kitchen cabinets from steam and heat is with a high-quality range hood. This appliance sucks out most of the hot, damp air as you’re cooking. A heat shield can also help protect your cabinets from smaller appliances, such as a coffee maker or instant pot. 

Does Steam Damage Kitchen Cabinets?

Steam is one of the most dangerous things menacing the finish and structural integrity of your kitchen cabinets. To understand the extent of the damage it can cause, think about how water and heat can damage your cabinets separately, then combine the two.

Essentially, steam is water and heat in one. The hot air rising from your pots and pans can loosen the paint on your cabinets. The tiny water droplets that make up the steam can easily find their way under the protective coat, soaking the cabinet panels.

Damp kitchen cabinets are prone to developing mold, can become a thriving environment for bacteria, and will eventually swell and rot.

Considering how expensive kitchen cabinets are, you might want to find out how to protect them from the damaging factor. Let’s find it out.

6 Easy Ways To Protect Kitchen Cabinets From Heat and Steam

Steam can damage even the best kitchen cabinets, but before it does that, it can leave behind unsightly stains. Here’s how to deal with steam promptly and effectively to prevent all problems.

1. Install a High-Quality Range Hood

Ventilation in your kitchen is crucial, especially if your kitchen is small and windowless. Ceiling exhaust fans can do a good job in removing humidity from your environment, but they are not enough if you want to prevent steam damage.

Most steam in a kitchen comes from the stove – think about boiling water or cooking a soup or stew. For this reason, you have to invest in a good range hood (and, obviously, use it each time you’re cooking).

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a range hood is that ductless models don’t remove steam and moisture. You’ll have to install a vented range hood. If you don’t own your home or can’t install a vent hood for some reason, consider installing a ductless hood anyway and pair it with a potent dehumidifier.

2. Never Skip Range Hood Maintenance

Even the best range hoods on the market need maintenance. Without it, the duct can get clogged and fail at removing the steam.

It is generally good practice to wipe clean the appliance each time after cooking. Pay attention to remove any grease stains, as grease building up inside the vents is one of the most common reasons for clogging. You should also check and clean or replace the filters regularly.

Every now and then, have the hood inspected to make sure it actually sucks the hot, steamy air out of your home.

3. Install Heat Shields

While the stove produces most of the steam in your kitchen, the oven can also be a culprit. For this reason, you have to install head shields to protect the cabinets from the built-in appliance.

These shields are essentially insulating sheets with a plain metal side that deflects heat and steam away from the sensitive material. They go between the oven sides and your cabinet. Due to the waterproof nature of the material, they’ll direct steam and hot air to the front of the oven. From there, your kitchen exhaust fan should be able to get rid of the hot, moist mist.

If you just installed new kitchen cabinets, know that some manufacturers even void the warranty if you don’t install heat shields.

4. Protect the Cabinet Finish

No matter what range hood or heat shield you have, steam will eventually find its way to the cabinets. The only way to prolong their lifespan is by protecting the finish.

To begin with, all kitchen cabinets should be coated with a waterproof top coat. Then, you should treat steam like a splash or spill – deal with it as soon as possible.

You don’t have to sit by the pot with a cloth in your hand, wiping the cabinets throughout the cooking. However, you should wipe the steam off as soon as you’re done.

5. Place Your Steamy Appliances in an Unobstructed Space

When looking for solutions to deal with steam damage, most people focus on stoves and ovens alone. However, other small appliances can also output a lot of hot, damp air.

Among them, instant pots and coffee makers are the most commonly used. Other examples include air fryers, rice steamers, egg boilers, electric kettles, and the list could go on and on.

The easiest way to protect your cabinets from these appliances is by placing them in unobstructed spaces. If you have a kitchen island or a portion of countertop that doesn’t have upper cabinets above, use it for these steam-making machines.

Otherwise, you could at least move the smaller ones on the table while you’re using them.

6. Pay Attention to Where the Steam Goes

Not all appliances allow you to divert the steam, but some give you this possibility. For instance, pressure cookers and instant pots have pressure valves that let the steam out. When using these appliances, turn them with the valve away from your cabinets to minimize the damage.

Removing Steam Stains From Wood Cabinets In 3 Easy Steps

So, steam has damaged your wood cabinets, leaving unsightly white marks behind? Some solutions online tell you to remove them with a steam iron or even with mayo. However, don’t try that at home. Check out how to properly remove steam stains below.

Step 1 – Clean the cabinets

Start with cleaning the wood surface properly before trying to remove any stain. You should use warm soapy water and a soft sponge or cloth to wipe away all traces of grease and grime. When you’re done, rinse with a damp cloth and wipe the surface with a dry towel to absorb as much moisture as possible. Let it dry completely.

Step 2 – Treat the surface with beeswax or coconut oil

Beeswax and coconut oil are excellent wood protectors you can use on all furniture. They penetrate the wood and protect it from the inside by creating a water-resistant film on the surface.

Beeswax generally penetrates the wood faster; thus, it will remove the stains faster, too. Coconut oil also works, but it could take a few hours before you see the results.

Apply the wax or oil with a clean rag, rubbing it into the wood. Start with a small quantity of product and add more if needed. Check after a few hours and repeat if the stain is still visible.

Step 3 – Protect the surface from future damage

After you’ve removed the stain, prevent future damage by moving the appliance that caused it to another place (if it’s a small one) or with the help of an extractor fan and dehumidifier.

How Kitchen Appliances Contribute To Steam Damage

We’ve mentioned how some appliances, such as the stove and oven, can contribute to steam damage, but there are also some other hidden dangers.

Self-cleaning appliances

Self-cleaning appliances are such a great invention, but you may neglect the quantity of steam they release during the cleaning process. While this steam is usually well contained, some may escape through the seals and gaskets, damaging the nearby cabinet units.


Like self-cleaning appliances, most dishwashers keep the steam inside. However, some older models have side vents that release the steam. While these vents should be exposed and facing away from your cabinetry, installation errors can direct the steam right onto your base units.


Countertop microwaves will unlikely cause any steam damage, but an over-the-range one could cause irremediable damage to the cabinet under which it’s installed. That’s because these ovens have a tilt-up vent that directs the steam upwards.

Built-in fridges

One of the most unlikely appliances to produce steam is the fridge; yet, an improperly installed built-in fridge can overheat and produce more steam than you’d think. Needless to say, the steam can escape in all directions and damage the cabinet (as well as your fridge).

Frequently Asked Questions

While it is clear how steam can damage your wood cabinets, you may still have questions. Let’s answer them.

Will an air fryer damage a granite countertop?

While air fryers emit a small amount of heat underneath, they will unlikely get hot enough to damage a granite or stone countertop. Your air fryer could, however, damage your wood counter.

Would a wood cabinet rot with high humidity?

All wood furnishings, including your kitchen cabinets, can rot from the effect of excessive moisture. Moreover, the wood is also likely to develop mold and bacteria.

What is a heat shield for cabinets?

A heat shield is a thin sheet of waterproof and fire-proof insulation with a metal side that should be placed around a built-in oven. This shield prevents the heat and humidity from escaping, protecting your cabinets.

Next Steps

Steam and wood cabinets don’t go hand in hand, but you could make it work following the tips and advice above.

Have you ever dealt with steam stains? Do you have any tips or questions? Tell us in a comment.

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