How to Restain Cabinets: A Step-by-Step Guide

Over time, your kitchen cabinets may have become worn out or outdated, and it’s understandable if you’re itching to remodel your kitchen. However, before you tear down your entire cabinetry and rebuild, you might want to consider restaining them instead. By refinishing your cabinets with a fresh coat of stain, it can instantly give your kitchen a new look without breaking the bank. Plus, staining is an excellent option for anyone who wants to give their cabinets a new look without the hassle of painting. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of restaining your cabinets, from prepping your surfaces to putting the final coat of stain.

1. Determine the Type and Condition of Cabinets

Before diving into how to restain your cabinets, you’ll want to assess their current state. First, determine the type of wood that your cabinets are made from. This will help you choose the right type of stain and tools for the job. Next, check for any damage such as scratches, dings, or water damage. If any repairs are needed, complete them before starting the restaining process.

2. Remove Cabinet Doors and Hardware

To properly restain cabinets, you’ll need to remove the cabinet doors and hardware. This will allow for easier access to the wood and ensure that the stain is applied evenly. When removing hardware, be sure to label each piece to make reassembly easier.

3. Clean and Sand the Cabinets

Once the doors and hardware are removed, it’s time to clean and sand the cabinets. Use a degreaser to remove any dirt or grime, then sand the wood to create a smooth surface that will hold the stain evenly. Be sure to wear a dust mask and eye protection during this step.

4. Apply the Stain

Now it’s time to apply the stain. Use a brush or cloth to apply the stain in the direction of the grain. Start with a small area and work your way around the cabinets, being sure to blend the stain at the seams and edges for a seamless finish. Let the stain dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Apply a Second Coat (Optional)

If you want a darker finish, or if the first coat didn’t fully cover the wood, you may want to apply a second coat of stain. Be sure to let the first coat dry completely before applying the second.

6. Let the Stain Dry

After applying the stain, let it dry completely. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight depending on the type of stain and the humidity level in the room.

7. Apply a Clear Coat

Once the stain is dry, you’ll want to apply a clear coat to protect the wood and give it a glossy finish. Use a brush to apply the clear coat in thin, even layers. Be sure to let each layer dry completely before applying the next.

8. Reinstall Cabinet Doors and Hardware

Once the clear coat is dry, it’s time to reinstall the cabinet doors and hardware. Use the labels you created earlier to ensure that each piece is put back in its correct place.

9. Finishing Touches

After reinstalling the doors and hardware, check for any touch-ups that may be needed. Use a fine-grit sandpaper to gently sand any rough edges or areas where the stain may have bled. Wipe away any dust, and you’re done!

10. Maintenance

To keep your newly restained cabinets looking their best, it’s important to maintain them properly. Use a soft cloth and mild soap and water to clean them regularly. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubs that could damage the finish. Additionally, touch up any scratches or dings as soon as they occur to prevent further damage.

5 Steps to Restain Your Cabinets

Restaining cabinets can be an affordable way to bring new life to your kitchen. A well-done restain can cover up scratches, nicks, and other wear and tear on your cabinets, giving them a whole new look without the expense of replacing them altogether. However, the process of restaining cabinets can seem daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. In this article, we’ll break the process down into 5 easy steps.

1. Remove Cabinet Doors and Hardware

The first step in restaining your cabinets is to remove the cabinet doors and hardware. Label each door with a piece of masking tape to make it easier to remember which door goes where when it’s time to reattach everything. Set aside the knobs, handles, and screws in labeled sandwich bags to avoid losing them. If you’re working with framed cabinets, remove any trim and crown molding as well.

2. Clean and Sand Your Cabinets

Next, you’ll need to clean and sand your cabinets thoroughly. Use a mixture of warm water and soap to gently wash off any dirt and grime, using a sponge or cloth. Pay attention to any hard-to-reach areas, such as the inside corners of cabinets, and remove any built-up grease. After cleaning, let the cabinets dry completely.

Next, sand your cabinets with a fine-grit sandpaper, ensuring that any scratches, dings, and other imperfections disappear. Sand with the grain of the wood, and apply gentle pressure only. Be careful about the corners and edges, as these can become over-sanded faster. Finally, wipe down the cabinets with a tack cloth to remove any lingering sawdust.

3. Apply Stain, One Coat at a Time

Now it’s time to start staining! Before you dive in, read the instructions on your staining product of choice. Apply a thin coat of stain using a brush or foam applicator, and then let it dry completely. If you want a darker color, you can apply additional coats of stain. Make sure each coat has dried completely before applying another, or you might end up with an inconsistent finish. Check your work frequently to make sure there are no drips or uneven areas.

4. Apply a Finish Coat

Once your stain coats are dry, it’s time to apply a finish coat to protect your newly-stained cabinets. Wipe down your cabinets once more to ensure that there are no dust or debris particles adhering to them. Apply a clear coat using a brush or foam applicator, and let it dry completely. You might need to apply multiple coats to get the desired level of sheen or durability for your cabinets.

5. Reattach Doors and Hardware

When your cabinets and clear coat is completely dry, it’s time to reattach the doors and hardware. Take care while rehanging the doors, as they can easily get scratched or warped while you’re putting them back in place. Once everything is reattached, take some time to give your cabinets a final once-over. Check for any spots you might have missed with the clear coat or the stain, and if you find any, go back and touch them up.

Now you know the five steps to restaining cabinets! While it might seem like a lengthy and involved process, restaining your cabinets doesn’t have to be complicated. By following these steps, you can get a whole new look for your kitchen with just a little elbow grease. Once you’re done, sit back and admire your freshly restained cabinets – you deserve it!


Restaining cabinets is a great way to spruce up the look of your kitchen without spending a lot of money on a complete overhaul. However, as with any home improvement project, preparation is key. Follow these steps to ensure that your cabinets are ready for restaining:

Clean the Cabinets

The first step is to give your cabinets a thorough cleaning to remove any dirt, grease or grime that has built up over time. You can use a simple mixture of warm water and mild soap to clean them, or buy a special cabinet cleaner from a home improvement store. Be sure to clean both the inside and outside of the cabinets, as well as the doors and drawer fronts. Once you’ve finished cleaning, use a dry cloth to wipe away any excess water.

Remove Hardware and Doors

To get a smooth, even coat of stain, it’s important to remove all hardware and doors from your cabinets. This will allow you to access all the areas you need to stain, and prevent any drips or runs from forming. Use a screwdriver to remove all hardware, including knobs, handles, and hinges. Next, remove the cabinet doors, taking care to label them so you know where they belong when it’s time to reattach them.

Sand the Cabinets

After you’ve cleaned your cabinets and removed all hardware and doors, it’s time to sand them. This will remove any existing finish, and provide a smooth surface for the new stain to adhere to. Use a fine-grit sandpaper (usually 220 grit) and sand in the direction of the wood grain. Be sure to sand both the doors and the cabinet frames thoroughly, and don’t forget any other decorative elements, like trim or molding. Once you’ve finished sanding, use a dry cloth to remove all the dust.

Fill Holes and Cracks

If your cabinets have any holes or cracks, now is the time to fill them. You can use a wood filler to do this, which can be found at any home improvement store. Simply apply the filler to the hole or crack with a putty knife, and smooth it out. Allow it to dry completely, then sand it down until it’s flush with the surrounding wood. If you’re staining over an existing finish, you can also use wood putty to fill any small holes or cracks.

Tape Off Surfaces

Before you begin staining, it’s important to tape off any surfaces that you don’t want to get stained. This could include your countertops or walls, as well as any surrounding cabinets that won’t be restained. Use painter’s tape to cover these surfaces, being careful to apply it evenly and securely. This will help ensure that your restaining project is precise and clean.

Preparation Tips
Be sure to wear gloves and safety goggles while sanding and working with wood filler or putty.
If you’re repainting your cabinets as well as restaining them, use a deglosser after cleaning to help the paint adhere better.
Allow plenty of time for your cabinets to dry completely before starting to restain.
When labeling cabinet doors, use a numbering system that corresponds to the order you removed them in (e.g. “1A,” “1B,” “2A,” “2B,” etc.)
Choose a well-ventilated space to work in, as the fumes from stain can be strong.

Time to Give Your Cabinets a New Look

If you are planning to restain your cabinets anytime soon, you now have the basic understanding required to complete the task successfully. Always remember to take your time and exercise patience. Don’t rush through the steps to avoid missing out on any essential detail, as it can ruin the overall outcome of your project. With the proper tools, materials, and technique, achieving a new look for your cabinets won’t take too much time or effort. We hope you found this guide helpful and informative. Thanks for reading, and do visit us again for more DIY guides, tips and tricks to make your home even more beautiful and inviting.

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