Man sanding down wood

How to Stain Your Cabinets

By Cabinets Direct USA  on  January 20, 2020

Staining your cabinets is a cost-effective and easy way to transform a worn, outdated space into a beautiful one that you will love for years to come! Whether you are looking to update your kitchen or your bathroom, the right stain can give you the look you want without having to replace your cabinetry. Keep reading below to learn more about cabinet stains and how to do it yourself.

What is a stain?

A stain is a type of finish that is applied to wood to change or enhance its appearance. Stains are used to change the color of the wood or protect it from damage. Wood absorbs the stain into the grains while still keeping the characteristics of the natural wood intact. 

What Are The Top Cabinet Stain Colors?

There are hundreds of stain colors that you can choose for your cabinets. Choosing the right color for you will be determined by your personal style, the type of wood your cabinets are, the current color of your cabinets, and the overall color scheme of the space. Some of the most popular stain colors include:

  • Blonde

    This stain color is most often associated with oak or pine cabinets. As these are more traditional wood types, blonde stains generally have a more traditional feel.

  • Brown

    Dark brown cabinets look great in a kitchen, as they have a strong contrast with stainless steel appliances. 

  • Black

    Black stains are a good choice for those looking for a more modern space. It’s important to note that black cabinets can make the room look smaller. If you’re using black cabinets in the kitchen, we recommend using a lighter color for your upper cabinets to keep the space feeling large and open.

  • White

    White stains are great for small spaces and will pair nicely with any appliance color. Many people choose white stains when they love the appearance of wood grain, but want a crisp and clean look.

  • Gray

    Gray stains are extremely versatile. When combined with flat-fronted cabinets and industrial-style light fixtures, gray cabinets give off a high tech style. But, when combined with a more conventional cabinet style and other rough textures, gray cabinets can give off a rustic, country vibe.

How To Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets

You don’t need to be an expert to stain your cabinets! Follow our simple steps below to transform your outdated cabinets into ones you’ll love for years to come.

  1. Set Up Your Space

    To start, prepare your space to help keep the stain from settling on surfaces other than your cabinetry. Use drop cloths or plastic sheeting to help protect your countertops, flooring, and other parts of the room. Remove all cabinet hardware, including the hinges, before setting the cabinet doors aside. The cabinet frames can remain in place.

  2. Clean Your Cabinets (If Not Already Stained)

    If your existing cabinets are not painted or stained, you are going to need to give them a thorough cleaning. You can use a clean cloth and mild detergent, followed by plain water to eliminate the soap residue. If your cabinets are painted or stained, you can skip this step.

  3. Remove The Existing Finish From The Cabinets

    There are two ways to remove the existing stain from your cabinets. You can either sand it off or use a chemical stripper. If you choose to sand it off, we suggest using an electric hand sander, first with heavier grit sandpaper and then again with finer sandpaper (about 220 grit). Using a chemical stripper can help save you time and energy, but you must pay close attention to any warnings included in your chosen project. A chemical stripper usually takes about 30 minutes to set in. Once it is set, the finish will come off easily with a scraper. 

  4. Use Wood Conditioner

    Before jumping right into the stain, we suggest using a wood conditioner. This helps make sure that the stain adheres evenly for the best possible outcome. Use a paintbrush to apply a thin layer of the conditioner and then allow your cabinets to dry before scuffing them lightly with #000 steel wool.

  5. Apply The Cabinet Stain

    Now the staining begins! We recommend testing your chosen stain on a small, inconspicuous area before applying the product everywhere. Once you have confirmed you like the stain, use a paintbrush or a clean, soft rag to apply it, working in the direction of the grain. You want to apply a light, even coating. If there is a spot that seems darker than what you’d like, use a fresh rag to rub the excess stain off.
    It may take a day or two for the stain to dry completely. Once the stain has fully dried, you can decide if you need an additional coat. If you opt for multiple layers of stain, be sure to lightly scuff the cabinet surfaces with steel wool in between coats.

  6. Seal The Cabinets (If Needed)

    Many stain products come with polyurethane in them for one-step finishing. If this is the case with your product, you do not need this step. For more traditional stains, you will need to seal your cabinets with polyurethane to help keep them from everyday wear and tear. Apply the polyurethane to dry cabinets in long, overlapping strokes. For the smoothest possible finish, sand the cabinets one more time when the seal is completely dry. 

  7. Rehang The Cabinet Doors

    When you have achieved a color that you love and everything is completely dry, go ahead and rehang your cabinet doors and reinstall your hardware. All that’s left to do is admire your work!

The Top Kitchen Cabinet Retailers in New Jersey

If you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen or bathroom cabinets, Cabinets Direct USA is here to provide you with all the necessary information to get the job done right. For more information on cabinet stains, be sure to visit our Learning Center and watch Episode 6: What is a Stain. For help deciding on what color stain to choose, visit our idea gallery for design inspiration! If you decide to add new countertops or need new cabinets, we have six convenient showrooms around New Jersey and one Florida location in Boca Raton. Contact us today to learn more!