How To Make Kitchen Cabinets Look New? Step-by-Step!

Revamping your kitchen is one of the best remodeling projects you can undertake to increase your home’s value and aesthetic appeal.

However, renovating your entire kitchen can cost an arm and a leg.

An economical solution to this problem is to restore only the cabinets.

This will completely transform your kitchen and make it look brand new.

Here is a complete guide on how to make your kitchen cabinets look new.

How to Make Kitchen Cabinets Look New?

In almost every home, the kitchen is usually the most frequently used area.

You might be opening and closing the cabinets every few minutes, perhaps to fetch your favorite coffee cup or get dishes to set the dinner table.

Moreover, cooking can also lead to food splatters and oil splashes on your cabinets.

It really doesn’t take long before your cabinets get stained or the wood starts to fade. Such stain marks and faded spots can make your entire kitchen look unclean and old.

So, to help you out here is a DIY guide on making your kitchen cabinets appear brand new. Simply follow the steps outlined below and revamp your kitchen!

Step 1: Gather the Necessary Equipment and Tools

Before starting the remodeling project, make sure you have all the required equipment and tools.

Here is a list of all the items you will need to make your kitchen cabinets look new

  • Mineral spirits
  • Screwdriver
  • Dry cloth for wiping
  • A clean rag
  • Personal protective equipment, including eye goggles and gloves
  • Soap
  • Water
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Stripping solution (depending on the finish of the cabinets)
  • Brush
  • Primer
  • Brush
  • Wax
  • Paint

Step 2: Wipe Clean the Cabinets

Unscrew the cabinets from their hinges carefully using a screwdriver. Then separate the handles and knobs from the doors of the cabinet.

As you remove the cabinets, you should number the cabinet doors. This way, it will be easy for you to reinstall the cabinet doors in the right place.

Then take a clean rag and spray mineral spirits on it.

Use the rag to properly wipe clean the surface of your kitchen cabinets and make sure to remove the grease and oil residue from them.

The mineral spirits will cut through the grease and eliminate any stains.

Wipe the moist rag up and down to get rid of dirt. Once the rag gets dirty, replace it with a clean one.

Also read: How to Clean Sticky Kitchen Cabinets (5 Easy Ways)

Step 3: Protect Your Kitchen and Yourself

Cover your floor, appliances, and countertops with drop cloths if you’re working inside. This will protect your kitchen from any stains or spills of the wood cleaner.

Don’t forget to wear gloves as you will be using several chemicals and tools in the process.

Gloves and a shirt with long sleeves will prevent your skin from coming in contact with the chemicals you work with.

Wearing protective eye goggles is also important as you will be using chemical stripping agents in the next steps.

Step 4: Apply A Coat of Clear Finish

This step will allow you to gauge how your cabinets will look if you simply apply a coat of clear finish.

For this, you just need to apply a single coat of oil-based clear finish on your cabinets and check how they look.

If you like how your kitchen cabinets look after applying the clear finish, you can end the process at this step.

However, if your cabinets still look dirty, stained, unclean, or unappealing, you should move onto the following step.

Step 5: Pay Attention to the Hardware

To make your kitchen cabinets new again, you need to pay attention to the hardware too. Hardware includes the handles and knobs on your cabinets.

To clean these things, place them in a tub full of soapy water for thirty minutes. Then take out the items and brush them lightly using a brush with soft bristles.

After cleaning the hardware, let it dry completely. Once the items have dried up, polish them and allow them to dry up again.

Step 6: Determine the Finish of the Cabinets

The next step to revive dull, old cabinets is identifying what finish is already applied to them.

Be extremely careful and attentive in this step because mixing up finishes can have disastrous results.

A general rule is to avoid using wax products on polyurethane and oil finishes. Moreover, you shouldn’t use drying oils on non-oil finishes.

To determine your cabinet’s finish, you can test on an inconspicuous spot of the wood. The most common finishes include lacquer, paint, polyurethane, and varnish.

Start off by using a cotton ball with acetone on it and apply it to the cabinet. If the finish becomes tacky, then it’s either varnish or shellac.

If the finish beads, it’s polyurethane, and if it dissolves completely, it’s lacquer.

To distinguish between varnish and shellac, use a cotton ball to apply denatured alcohol. Varnish is going to react slowly, whereas shellac is going to dissolve immediately.

Wood with an oil finish is going to absorb linseed oil. If the oil beads on the cabinets, it’s most probably finished with varnish, lacquer, polyurethane, or shellac.

Lastly, you can check if wax has been applied by gently scraping your fingernail in an inconspicuous spot to see if the surface scratches.

Step 7: Initiate the Stripping Process

The stripping agent you will have to use depends on the type of finish of your cabinets.

Here is the stripping agent you will have to use for each finish to ensure effective removal.

Note that you should perform this step in a well-ventilated area. This way, the fumes from the stripping agents won’t cause you any dizziness, nausea, or headaches.


To strip off paint, soak a cotton ball or a clean rag in denatured alcohol and rub it on the cabinets. If the finish starts getting soft, it means it’s latex.

However, if the finish is an oil-based paint, you cannot use alcohol as a stripping agent.

In this case, you will have to sand and prime the finish and then coat it with Latex paint.


Lacquer thinner is the appropriate stripping agent to break down this finish.


Denatured alcohol is the right stripping agent for cabinets with a shellac finish.

Polyurethane or Varnish

Use a varnish remover to strip these surfaces.

Nevertheless, you will still need to use sandpaper to strip away the old finish.

Step 8: Fill in the Tiny Cracks

Next up, fill in the tiny cracks. You can use colored wax fill sticks, wax sticks, or fill pencils at this stage.

Just break a piece of the stick and sculpt it in the shape of the defect. Then, gradually press it inside the crack.

Pro-tip: When filling in cracks, make a wafer and slide it into the crack on the wood. Then, work the wax in both directions. This way, you can fill in the small crack without damaging the surface.

Step 9: Sand the Wood

After repairing the cracks and filling in the holes, allow the area to dry and use 220-grit sandpaper for sanding it gently.

Light sanding roughens the surface of the cabinets and allows the finish to adhere to them efficiently.

Just make sure you don’t sand over the numbering you did in the second step. After you’re done, use a clean, dry cloth to brush away the dust.

Step 10: Apply Primer

To make your kitchen cabinets look new again, it’s incredibly essential to use a primer.

Primers are chemically manufactured to dissolve the surface, which helps in hiding any defects. Moreover, they also allow the surface to absorb the paint properly.

Before you apply the primer, you should mix it properly. Then use a brush to apply the primer to your kitchen cabinets.

While brushing does take effort and time, it will lead to an even and thin layer on the surface.

A simpler method to apply primer is to use a spray primer. But you will have to apply multiple coats to achieve the right coverage.

Step 11: Paint the Cabinets

The last step in restoring your kitchen cabinets is to apply a coat of paint. If you come across any piece of unfinished wood, just add another coat of paint.

An excellent strategy to make sure that the paint lasts on your kitchen cabinets is to apply a coat of wax on top.

This way, your cabinets are going to get an extra protective layer and improve the appearance of the finish.

After the paint has dried up, use your screwdriver to screw up the cabinets in their right places.

The numbering you did in the second step will help you match the cabinet doors with the place you need to install them.

Wrapping It Up!

Restoring your kitchen cabinets might sound complex and daunting.

But if you have the necessary tools and equipment along with some DIY expertise, this process won’t be too challenging!

Not to forget, you can give your kitchen a completely new look without breaking the bank.

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