Last Update: 26 May 2020

How to Sand Cabinets

James Kelly
James Kelly

Hi! This is James. I'm a professional writer and working on this field for a long time. Basically I love to write about everything related to tools, diy and home improvement. All my writings speak for itself as I'm passionate about this. I love to explore new things as well as new places whenever I get free time. You'll never find me free for this reason!

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Wooden cabinets get tons of wear and tear in a long duration of use. Paying a professional to sand and paint your cabinets can be often expensive. Even a small amount of repair can cost a considerable amount of money. On the other hand, if you have the right tools, you can do it yourself. Speaking of painting, first, you need to know how to sand cabinets properly.

In short, you will be taking out all the cabinet doors and drawers with a screwdriver. Clean every part of the cabinet to remove any dirt. Fill any holes and cracks with wood putty. After that, Sand all the cabinet parts on both sides with proper sandpaper or power sander. Finally, clean up and give it a good varnish paint and dry. There you have it. Your cabinet is good as new.

Well, there are several reasons why would you want to sand your cabinets? For a starter, it could be weary and damaged. Paint may be worn off from places here and there, and you want that to look good. Or directly, you are working on a wood project, and need to do some finishing touch to complete—all the more reason to learn sanding stuff for yourself.

That’s where we come in, we have put together all the necessary information you need to know about sanding.

Things to Remember

You will need a workspace. It would be a good idea to do it in your garage, workshop, or basement. Having a dedicated workspace saves you from a lot of hassle. Remember, you will work with tiny screws, bolts, and tools, and sanding wood makes lots of wood dust. So, yes, the workspace will be conducive.

In your workspace, make sure there is enough airflow. As you will be using paint and other spirits, use fans to dry and dissipate harmful fumes from the workspace.

Keep all the screws and hardware together for easy access. Use a tool tray or tool chest for convenience. If you don’t have any of those, just use a container or box. The main goal here is not to lose any of your necessary screws.

Number each cabinet door and drawer. Using a marker, write down the door numbers on the far corner or on the space, which will be covered by a hinge. Also, remember to mark the backs of the drawers. Many people forget to this, Sander tools make a lot of wood dust. Use a mask and safety glass for your protection. Wood dust and fumes from the spirit are not a good thing to inhale. This can lead to various health issues. Better be safe than sorry.

Remember to discard oily stain rags into a bucket of water. Let them soak in and dry out any remaining spirit in the rugs. Only then, you can throw out with your trash. Never put them straight into the garbage or any closed container. The build-up of fumes can cause combustion anytime.

When Not to Sand Your Cabinet

Most people miss this. If your office is very old or painted before the 1980s. It may contain “lead” in it. This is a serious matter, and you need to be very careful about it. Try to find out if that paint is lead-based? If you are not sure, don’t try to sand the cabinet to buy yourself. Instead, Consult an expert for more information.

The thing with lead paint is, it’s hazardous for your health. When you are working with the sander tool, it will make a tremendous amount of wood dust. This wood dust will be a mixture of paint and wood dust. So, if you inhale this dust accidentally, no good can come from that.

Tools You Will Need

Guide - How to Sand Cabinets

Sander Efficient Dust Collection

This is a step by step guide for sanding your cabinets. The great thing about this guide is, any wood sanding is similar to this. So, if you know how to sand cabinets, you are covered for any wood sanding work in the future.

Step 1

First of all, carefully unscrew all the cabinet doors at the hinges. Use a proper screwdriver. If you’re only going to retouch the doors, you can leave the hooks attached to the cabinet boxes. Empty the cabinet drawers and remove them. Also, remove all the knobs and pulls. Electric drills or screwdrivers can make this go a lot faster.

Step 2

Next step, clean the doors you have removed. Scrub the surface of doors thoroughly with a robust degreasing cleaner, like trisodium orthophosphate (TSP). Use a kitchen scrub-sponge and a toothbrush to get rid of grime collected in grooves and corners.
If you can’t get all the dirt off the first time, try another time. Unless the surface is immaculate, the new finish won’t adhere to the doors that well. After finishing cleaning, Rinse with water and allow them to dry.

Step 3

Now, it’s time to fill in holes or cracks. With times there will be holes, cracks, and dents within the cabinet doors and drawers. Before you proceed any further, make sure you cover all the holes and cracks with the carpenter’s wood putty. Let the putty dry, then continue.
You should keep in mind that wood putty color needs to be as close as possible to your cabinet color. Otherwise, there will be visible spots after you finish retouching.

Step 4

Time to sand all the doors and drawers thoroughly. Sand the entries using an electric sander and 100-grit sandpaper for the initial sanding—sand every corner and groove with sandpaper or a sanding sponge. Finish by sanding with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper. If you don’t have sandpaper, try sanding medium-fine sanding sponge by hand. It’s an excellent practice to sand along the grain of the wood.

Step 5

In this step, you will Clean off the dust. Remove all the sanding dirt from the doors and drawers with a vacuum attachment or “tack” rag (a sticky rag that picks up even the tiniest dust, available at the most paint stores). Confirm all the dirt is removed before refinishing the cupboard doors.

Step 6

After cleaning all the dust, apply the wood stain. It’s best to use a fine-bristle brush, generously apply the stain to the surface of the doors and drawers. Wait for 5 to 10 minutes, then wipe it off with a clean, lint-free rag. We await the stain to dry.

Step 7

Finally, apply the varnish. It’s best to wait about 24 hours for the stain to dry before varnishing. If you’re doing each side of the doors, wait about 8 hours before turning the doors over and marking the opposite side. Apply a minimum of two coats of compatible varnish or polyurethane. You can use either a sprayer or a high-quality brush. Sand the cupboards lightly between layers for a smooth and durable finish.

Frequently Asked Question:

Question: Do you need to sand cabinets before painting?

Answer: It’s best to sand any wood appliances before paint. So, new paint can get a good grip on the sanded surface. If it’s not appropriately sanded, color won’t adhere properly and may fall off quickly for old appliances. It’s compulsory to sand. In the case of a new factory finished wood, you don’t have to sand that crazy. Light sanding with 120 grit sandpaper will do just fine.

Question: Can you just paint over old paint?

Answer: It’s recommended to sand before painting. If your cabinmate is relatively new, you can paint over old paint. Though you will need a special bonding primer to help paint to get a good grip. Some other high-quality colors provide a smooth finish like Acrylic paint.

Question: Do you need to paint both sides of the kitchen cabinet doors?

Answer: When washing your cabinets, it’s not necessary to paint the interior of the cabinets themselves. The interior is only visible when the office is open. Leaving the inside of the committee as won’t have any effect on the final result. However, you will want to paint both sides of the cabinet doors just to look more aesthetic.

Question: What is the most popular paint color for kitchen cabinets?

Answer: The most common color people use in the kitchen is Yellow. There is a different shade of yellow you can try, like light, buttery yellow or a pastel shade more reminiscent of lemonade. Another popular kitchen color for walls and cabinets is Sky blue. It can make an airy, ethereal vibe and looks great with white and stainless-steel accents.

Sanding Kitchen Cabinets

Final Verdict

Doing your work is a fantastic privilege. Sometimes the amount of passion you can put in your work is unparalleled to others.

With that being said, we have tried to bring forward every information. So, you can understand better, what things to keep in mind while sanding cabinets. Importantly, maintaining safety while doing by yourself.

Hopefully, our step by step guide will be of great help in the future.

Top 7 Step How to Sand Cabinets | A Complete Guide 1