How To Refinish Kitchen Cabinets Without Stripping

How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets Without Stripping

Do your kitchen cabinets need a little work? They’re looking old and worn. The finish doesn’t stand out like it used to. It’s time to refinish your cabinets so they can look nice as the rest of your kitchen again. Learn how to refinish kitchen cabinets without stripping.

But stripping away the old finish from your cabinets takes too much work. And it’s not exactly a fun activity.

Yes, it’s possible. If your cabinets don’t need refacing, why would you go through all that work?

You can skip over stripping your cabinets while refinishing them. And it’s a lot easier than you think.

We’re going to go through the steps on how to refinish kitchen cabinets without stripping them.

Step #1 Remove the Kitchen Cabinets 

It’s almost impossible to refinish kitchen cabinets when they’re not off the hinges. So, you’re going to want to remove them.

When you have a lot of cabinets, you’re going to want a system so you know where they go when you’re done refinishing them.

One way to go about this is to mark the door and it’s matching cabinet with the same number. You can take a piece of paper or use masking tape.

All that matters is you know where they go when you go to put them back.

Take your drill and remove all the screws on your cabinets so you can remove the cabinet doors. Unscrew the hinges as well. If your hardware is old, consider replacing it while you’re working on the cabinets.

That way you won’t have to do all the extra work of removing them again to replace the hinges. 

Step #2 Clean, Clean, Clean 

Step #2 Clean, Clean, Clean


Everything has to be clean before you start the harder work. Dirt and debris will ruin your finish, regardless of what you use.

First, take a putty knife to scrape up anything you won’t be able to get with soap and water. Get all it off, including rubber bumpers. Everything must go!

Take a rag and dip it into a bowl of hot soapy water. Wipe down the entire kitchen cabinet. This will remove grease, grime, and dirt so it’s clean.

When the grease is too tough and is still greasy after soap, try mineral spirits. They always get the tough greasy stuff off.

Take another rag and soak it in plain water. Wipe down the kitchen cabinets so there’s no soap residue left.

Now use a towel to dry the cabinet doors off. Make sure they’re all the way dry before you go on to the next step. 

Step #3 Sand or Degloss Kitchen Cabinets 

Now that everything is clean, it’s time to sand the wood cabinets. When it comes to the sanding process, you have two options. We’ll go over both of these options.

First, you can sand by hand, the traditional form of sanding. Take a 220-grit piece of sandpaper and fold it into thirds. Don’t forget the moldings and the trim.

Always sand in the direction of the wood grain.

Once you’ve finished sanding by hand, clean up all the dust with a clean rag. You don’t want to add any new smudges by using a dirty rag.

Your second option is to use deglosser. If you’re not familiar with deglosser, it removes any glossy layers. It saves you time and it’s easier than sanding by hand.

Take a scouring pad or rag covered in deglosser and scrub the entirety of your kitchen cabinets. You should also scrub the moldings and trims while you’re at it.

After you’ve deglossed everything you need to, let it sit for one to two hours so it can dry.

What method you choose is your preference. Both options work very well.          

Step #4 Time to Stain the Kitchen Cabinets 

Step #4 Time to Stain the Kitchen Cabinets


First, consider grabbing a touch-up pen. These pens allow you to touch-up those small areas that don’t look quite right.

There are several kinds of these pens that include different wood tones. You should be able to find a matching color to your cabinets.

But if you want to do the entire kitchen cabinet, you’re ready to use wood stain. Pick the right stain color for you. Pick one that will complement the finish.

Take a paintbrush and paint the stain on the wood cabinets. As you go, use paper towels to soak up any excess stain you used.

Now you only have to wait for the stain to dry before you head on to the next step. Drying can take up to two hours, sometimes even longer. 

Step #5 Apply the Finish 

With a new paintbrush, apply the finish you chose to the stained cabinets. Make sure you apply the finish evenly. Try long up and down strokes.

Apply two layers of finish for the best look. Between the two coats, you’re going to want to sand the cabinets one more time.

Use 320-grit sandpaper. You don’t have to do a perfect job. At this point, you’re only sanding out any imperfections that remain.

Clean all the dust up with a clean rag once you’re done sanding.

The finish can take up to 12 hours to dry but make sure it’s dry before you sand or do anything else.

And once the finish is dry, you can put together your kitchen cabinets with their hinges and screws.

This is when you’ll be happy you marked your cabinets. It’ll save you time and frustration knowing where everything is. 


If you only want to refurbish your kitchen cabinets, there’s no need to go through the hassle of stripping them. We hope these steps make your life much easier.

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