Refinishing Your Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinets – Cabinet Staining Tips

After the doors and frames have been fully prepared for your kitchen cabinet refinishing project, you are ready to move on to staining or painting your cabinets. Staining is a good option if you want the beauty of the natural wood to shine through.

If you like the color of your cabinets, all you may want to do is refresh the stain to remove blotchiness that can occur over time. Finding an exact matching stain color ready-made might be impossible, but with computer color matching it isn’t as difficult to match stains as it once was.

If you know the species of wood used to manufacture your kitchen cabinets, purchase a sample piece of wood. Take a door or drawer front and wood sample to your local paint store. You can test different colors for a stain match on your wood sample.

Once you’ve found your color the following cabinet staining tips will help you achieve professional results.

Applying wood stain to a cabinet with a brush, just before wiping off the stain with a rag.

  • Use clean white cloths to wipe the stain onto all surfaces. Old t-shirts work well because they don’t leave lint behind.
  • Use a pre-stain wood conditioner on soft woods to avoid a blotchy appearance.
  • Work your way from the center of the project to the outer edges. For example, if you are working on a cabinet door, wipe the stain in small even strokes starting at the center of the door panel and gradually work toward the frame. Working in this manner allows you to hold the door with one hand while using the other hand to complete the larger portion of the job.
  • On really large doors, you’ll get better results by starting from the top and moving downward. You don’t want to have a dry edge develop as this can lead to uneven coloring as you wipe another layer of stain over top of the dry section. While it won’t be as easy to hold the door, you can hold it steady with light pressure if you lay it flat.
  • Try rubbing the stain into any visible scratches to improve the look of the cabinets.
  • A small brush can be used for tight areas such as raised panels on the doors.
  • When finishing the sides of any cabinets which adjoin a finished wall, make certain to mask or tape the wall with the appropriate size of tape. Use the same type of tape that is used when painting walls. Your local paint or hardware store has tape of all sizes readily available. This added step will eliminate the possibility of smearing stain on your kitchen walls and any possibility of needing to repaint.
  • Remove the excess stain with a clean rag. Don’t wait too long as the excess stain will begin to dry and be difficult to remove.
  • Depending on the stain product, drying time can be several hours. Make certain to allow a drying time of 16 to 24 hours before applying any clear finish.

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  1. Sergio Freddson

    I had no idea how easy it could be to do a quick refresh on your own. Is this true of all woods or are there some that are more difficult to stain? I’ll have to look into doing something like this over the weekend! Thanks for sharing your tips with us! //

  2. Craig

    Hi, I find this is very helpful as sometimes when we’re called for a kitchen deep cleaning (I’m a cleaner) there are stains on cabinets that are rather a crappy painting job than dirt. Often people don’t make the difference until we explain it. I might as well give one of your tips when it happens again.

    Craig, cleaning technician for //

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