How to stain wood cabinets?


How do I stain my wood cabinets? Do I have to remove them and put them back, or can I stain them while they are attached?

  18 answers
  • You can do either way, but down is always much easier. But instead of removing the boxes simply remove all the doors and hardware will be the way to do it if they are currently up. Also stain is really left to unfinished wood surfaces. Paint is a faster way to go. What color or look are you trying to achieve?
  • Z Z on Jan 25, 2013
    Many folks use a gel stain over existing stain to darken the wood. Here's a few Hometalk members that have done so....
  • If your cabinets have a sealer or varnish on them, the stain will just sit on top. Stain is meant to be absorbed into raw wood.
  • Z Z on Jan 26, 2013
    @Kass, is correct, but there are products out there that do work over prefinished wood. Personally I don't think they look as well as it does when one removes the old finish. I was just giving an idea of what others have done. Minwax actually has directions now for using their Polyshades over previously finished wood. Though they (minwax) recommend to removed the old finish before using their gel stains I know many have used them over previously finished wood with results they were happy with. Like I said, I prefer to start with raw wood. I highly recommend whatever the original poster chooses to do they do a test first somewhere inconspicuous. Like on the inside of a seldom used door.
  • MONA MONA on Jan 28, 2013
    Thank you ladies so much. I do have a very light wood in my kitchen. Mrs. Becky and would like to darken it up. Just not my taste, However it does have a varnish on them. I was told that I could use a mineral spirit to strip the stain.. Is that correct? Kass thanks for the info. I dont want to make a mess of things..
  • MONA MONA on Jan 28, 2013
    If it has a varnish on them and I wanted to strip before I restain. Can I use mineral spirt to strip if I have real wood? My cabintes are light and I want to go darker.
  • Z Z on Jan 28, 2013
    Mona, without seeing photos of your cabinets I can't give you a definite answer. I'd suggest you remove a door and take it with you to make sure you buy the correct product for removing the old finish. If the doors are flat you and are only varnished/clear coated/no stain you can just sand instead of using a chemical stain remover though.
  • Becky has this right. Take the door to one of the specialty paint stores (like Ben Moore or Sher Wms). They are trained to know which products to use on which surfaces.
  • William William on Mar 06, 2018

    Can't stain over paint. Stain absorbs into wood grain. You will need to strip the paint off, sand smooth, then stain and seal.

  • Ken Erickson Ken Erickson on Feb 09, 2019

    Gel is very easy to apply since it won't run down like other stains. The can should give instructions. Rub the gel on with a rag and wipe off excess. Ensure it is dry before you put on any top coat of finish. Be sure to get rubber gloves unless you want your hands to match the cabinets.icon

  • Karen Krysowaty Karen Krysowaty on Oct 05, 2017

    If there is a sealer on top then you will need to sand it off and then restain

  • Dl.5660408 Dl.5660408 on Oct 05, 2017

    Yep! Take the doors off and the hardware, sand well and wipe residue off, then stain. You can use a stain then finish with a poly sealer in your choice of sheen, from flat to high gloss or use a stain that already has a sealer in it. I like Minwax also

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Jul 12, 2023

    You could stain in situ, but for best results remove the doors and do them in a airy space, where you can let them dry!

  • Mogie Mogie on Sep 05, 2023

    Remove Hardware

    Remove Cabinet Doors

    Clean Surfaces

    Sand Surfaces

    Remove Dust

    Apply Stain

    Apply Second Coat

    Replace Hinges and Drawer Fronts After Stain Is Dry

  • Dee Dee on Sep 05, 2023

    Try using a gel stain on those dated orange-yellow honey oak cabinets to give your kitchen a new look. There are a lot of good reasons to gel stain cabinets when you want to refresh the color of wood cabinetry. It's an easy way to give your kitchen or bathroom a new look without sanding or stripping.

    I have lightly sanded my cabinets down in the past and then used General Finishes stain. They came out great. I also used a top coat from General Finishes.

  • Betsy Betsy on Sep 05, 2023

    Hi Mona: Be sure to prepare your surface first. The best way to a great job is preparation. And, remove the doors and hardware before staining.

    Check these sites for some help:

  • Annie Annie on Sep 22, 2023

    This video has some great info:

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Oct 31, 2023

    You could leave in situ, but you are going to have to be extr careful by using drop cloths and Artist brushes to go around the hardware.