5 steps to stripping kitchen cabinets

October 31, 2014

The first step to updating wooden kitchen cabinets is often stripping them. Follow these five easy steps for safe and efficient cabinet stripping.

The old adage “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” has never been truer than with wooden kitchen cabinets. If yours are fairly old – even if they’re sticky with layers of stain – they’re probably much more solidly constructed than today’s flimsier, chain-store varieties.

Therefore, many Canadians are opting to simply refinish their sturdy old cabinets, bringing them up-to-date with today’s kitchen decor trends, without adding to landfill waste. Unfortunately, a beautiful refinishing job always begins with the task of stripping.

Stripping your kitchen cabinets won't be such a painful chore if you follow these five steps:

5 steps to stripping kitchen cabinets

Collect these supplies:

  • Screwdriver
  • Eye protection
  • Rubber gloves
  • Tin can, plastic bag or similar container
  • Dish detergent
  • Old toothbrush
  • Paper towels
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain remover
  • Rags
  • Wax paper
  • Garbage bag
  • Wood sealant
  • New wood finish

Prepare stained cabinetry for stripping

If your cabinets have been stained, realize that stain seeps into the wood – so a small layer of the wood will have to be removed with sandpaper in order to get down to the natural wood.

  • Stripping kitchen cabinets starts with dismantling them, to some extent. Unscrew the doors and the cabinets themselves, making sure to drop each screw into a tin can or other container so you won’t lose them.
  • Take knobs and hinges off the doors and soak them in warm, soapy water. Scrub them with an old toothbrush, rinse and dry.
  • Hint: You can change the entire look of your cabinetry with new hardware. Consider shopping for new knobs and hinges for an updated look.

Strip carefully!

Use a stripper that has been deemed safe for indoor use. You’ll still need eye protection and rubber gloves.

  • Read all manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Apply stripper to the cabinets and use sandpaper to strip off the first layer or two.
  • Reapply the stripper, cover with wax paper, and let sit for a half hour.
  • Remove and discard the wax paper, wipe the stripper from the cabinets and then rinse them. Sand cabinets again.

Apply a sealant to the wood

Doing so will strengthen the surface of the wood you just stripped.

  • Be sure to read manufacturers’ instructions before starting.
  • Allow plenty of time for the sealant to dry.
  • Be aware that some of the stain colour will remain. The point is to get down to the natural wood surface.

It’s a good idea to test your new colour of stain or paint on an obscure bit of the wood to make sure it covers well or at least blends with the old pigment.

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