How To Repair Wood Cabinets – Dents and Scratches

Owning a set of customized, expensive wood cabinets can be very fulfilling – until a dent or scratch happens. This similar situation happened to me whereby I accidentally ‘bruised’ my kitchen cabinet while trying to get my solingen pots from the top shelf. Not realizing how heavy the artillery were, I tried to get three pots at a time and lost my balance. Good thing I didn’t lose my balance completely or else it would’ve been me with a dent, God forbid.

Replacing the whole kitchen cabinetry is not an option since the dent is not as significant but being the obsessive-compulsive person that I am, I couldn’t ignore the damage. I couldn’t rest without repairing my prized kitchen possession, fast! So I researched over the internet for some popular solutions to common wood dents and scratches.

Since wood cabinets tend to be very expensive, you need to take extra caution in handling them. In most cases, repair and maintenance activities are better left to the pros to prevent further damage. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do some DIY repairs, which benefits most cash-strapped homeowners. Before doing the repairs, assess the extent of the damage. Ask yourself if you are confident or experienced enough to handle such an undertaking. There is a level of experience required in handling such repairs. There are different types of kitchen cabinets, wood types and finishes which means that varying techniques are also applied.

If you must do the repairs yourself, make sure that you’re working on a clean area, free from unnecessary clutter. Having other compounds on standby may contaminate or compromise your project.

Look for other unused wood from old cabinets, picture frames, or doors with stain or color closest to that of your kitchen cabinet. Measure the dent and strip off a small portion of the chosen wood filling. Using wax as the adhesive, press the wood strip onto the scratch and overfill in the gaps in between. Buff it down with a lint-free cloth made of cotton to ensure that fibers won’t be incorporated in the repair. Make sure that the buffing is done along the wood grain’s direction to produce an even, smooth repair.

For unfinished wood, you may be surprised that dents are ‘cured’ using your ever-reliable iron. Yes, the idea is to apply steam onto the dent in order to lift the dented area. First, wet the dent and iron a wet paper towel on top of the dent, making sure that the steam temperature is on ‘High’ settings. Do this in circular motion for 3 to 5 minutes and notice the dent get lifted.

Light scratches can be removed by sanding the dented area of your cabinet with a 0000 (extra-fine) wool pad. Sand according to the wood’s grain since doing otherwise can cause even more scratches. Once the dent is flattened out, rub mineral spirits onto the previously dented surface. Next, stain the repair to match, using a soft, clean brush for detail work. These mineral spirits are sold on hardware and paint supply stores and are generally used to blot out mistakes or excess paints while painting. They are considered a health hazard when ingested or inhaled so make sure that you’re in a well ventilated area while using this substance, away from any source of fire or heat. Always use rubber gloves when handling this solution as it is very flammable. Wipe off spills if any and clean the work area with water and soap. When done with the solution, keep the bottle locked tightly and store away from children and possible source of fire.

Brush off excess dust and dirt and stain the area. After everything has dried out, apply stain little by little to make sure that you don’t overdo it. Apply a thin coat and let it stand for at least 24 hours for the stain to completely dry. Adjust accordingly until the stain is in the same shade as the rest of the cabinet.

Another method you can explore is the use of a shellac stick to repair gouges. Choose a color similar to the area that needs repair. Melt the stick then using a palette knife, apply quickly into the break before the material becomes runny. Smooth out the repair and let it dry for a couple of hours. Sand the area and stain accordingly.

View Author’s ProfileMarie Christine Umali




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4 Comments

  1. Isomah
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    *The best! This is awesome! This is a good article for repairing cabinets.

    • Joe
      Posted February 22, 2015 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Posted April 13, 2015 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    These are some great tips for fixing small dings in your cabinets. Like this article says, it’s important to be really careful when fixing it yourself because even small mistakes can lead to irreparable damage. If you don’t feel comfortable trying these tips out, and have the budget for it, calling the pros is your best option. If you have some confidence though, I really like these ideas.

  3. Posted November 3, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Awesome tips. Just to add up. Stain-filled markers and pencils are available in many shades. Because scratches tend to absorb a lot of stain, we suggest starting with a color slightly lighter than your wood, then switching to a darker shade if needed. Lightly dab the marker on the scratch, then wipe away the excess stain. If your cabinets have deeper scratches, use a filler pencil to fill and color the scratch.

    Joel

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