How to Stain Wood Cabinets 2019 | DIY Experience

How to Stain Wood Cabinets


Don’t fret. All they need is a little TLC — and a bit of direction.

Learning how to stain wood cabinets yourself isn’t as laborious as it seems.

By following our steps, you’ll be able to give your home the professional face-lift it needs without breaking the bank (or your back.)

Why Is It Worth It?

how to stain wood cabinet

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Staining home cabinets is an easy and inexpensive way to turn a worn or outdated room into a modern and stunning area in a matter of days. While one of the downfalls in wood cabinets is their tendency to wear and dull.

That being said, one of the greatest aspects of having wood cabinets is their endless changeability.If you ever get bored of your cabinet’s look, the option of refinishing it is always there.

And it does more than just spruce up the wood itself — it has the ability to change the overall appearance and feel of the room. If you’re wondering how to stain wood, the reality is, you don’t need to be an expert to tackle it.

By diving in with the right tools and the steps we provided below, you’ll be calling up your friends and family for a dinner party at your place in no time.

6 Steps On How To Stain Wood Cabinets

While staining wood may take less than 6 steps, if you’re a first-timer to this DIY project, it’s beneficial to take a few extra steps to ensure success.

That being said, once you’ve done this type of project once, the next time around will take a fraction of the time.

When it comes to knowing how to stain wood, expertise on the subject happens fast. Time to give your home the fresh, new face it deserves!

Step 1: Choose A Stain

Wood stain

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This step can be extremely important as the color or shade of your stain will determine the feel and aesthetic value of your room. Before deciding, you should have a basic idea of what you envision your finished cabinets to look like.

If you’re looking to open up your room and make a small space seem larger, look for a lighter stain. If your kitchen or room is in need of some warmth and coziness, go for a darker stain.

Another important aspect to consider before choosing your stain is what type of wood your cabinets are made of. Some stains work a lot better with certain wood types.

You want the color of stain you choose to compliment your wood. In order to do this, it’s important to keep in mind the natural color of the wood and the pore size of the wood.

For instance, some woods such as cherry, mahogany and rosewood are types that hardly get stained due to their natural look and feel.These types of wood are typically protected by a clear coating.

Other types of woods such as Maple have smaller or less pores and are therefore harder to stain.

The best way to decide what your specific type of wood needs for its face-lift is by visiting your nearest hardware store to ask an expert. That way, you can buy the stain you need on the spot!

 In terms of stain choices, there are a few you can look up so that you can have a basic idea of what you’re looking for before heading to the store:

  • Oil-based
  • Water-based
  • Water-based
  • Stain/sealer all-in-one formulas

Oil-based stains are able to penetrate the wood easily without affecting the grain, however, they have a strong odor which should be kept in mind if you have young children in the house.

Water-based stains are a great choice as they are both eco-friendly and provide an easier cleanup. The only difference and potential downside is this type of stain requires a bit of sanding to reduce the amount of grain rising.

Step 2: Take Off Hardware, Drawers And Doors And Prepare For The Stain


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Now that you have your stain color, you’re ready to get your hands dirty. To get started, take off the cabinet drawers and doors along with their handles, knobs, hinges and any other hardware by using a screwdriver.

If you choose to stain your wood cabinets with the doors on, removing the hinges isn’t necessary. Simply cover them up with painter’s tape. However, it should be noted that while taking off the doors may seem strenuous, it may be easier in the long-run.

While removing hardware, make sure you keep track of which drawer and door match the specific hardware. Protect your countertops and floors or any other surfaces in the vicinity by using rags, lots of newspaper or large, plastic sheets which are typically used for painting projects.

Next, clean your wood with some trisodium phosphate (TSP) which is a strong cleaning powder. To do this, dilute the powder with water by following the specific instructions on the label. Use a sponge to wash all the doors and cabinets. Then, let them dry thoroughly.

Step 3: Old Finish Removal

Finishing woodstain

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The next step to your how to stain wood cabinets, DIY adventure is to remove the existing finish on your cabinets and drawers. This can be done by using a medium or low-grit sandpaper. Make sure to sand carefully around any details in the wood or carved areas so as to not alter the appearance.

Also, make sure to always sand in the same direction of the wood’s grain. Any different sanding patterns will show after staining. If you’re looking for a faster method to remove the finish, you can use a chemical stripper.

Take a medium-sized paintbrush and paint an even layer of the chemical stripper over the surface of the wood. Let the solution soak in for around 20-30 minutes before removing the finish with a scraper or putty knife.

After the chemical solution does its job, the wood may be a bit soft to make sure not to damage it with your tool of choice. Let the wood dry entirely and make sure you check the direction on the label of the stripper before using it.


Always wear rubber gloves and goggles when using harsh chemicals such as paint strippers. Don’t ever use this product near an open flame as strippers are highly flammable.

Also, use strippers in rooms with good ventilation such as fans or open windows. Alternatively, take your cabinets and drawers outside or in the garage for extra safety.

After the finish has been removed, go over the wood again with a clean rag to remove any leftovers. Let the wood dry completely.

Also, a tip is to go over the wood again with sandpaper after it’s dry to ensure a strong bond between the stain and wood.

Step 4: Apply A Sealer

Painted bricks

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Think of this step as priming: The sealer helps the stain absorb evenly into the wood. To start, shake the sealer container well and apply a couple thin coats with a paintbrush.

Make sure to not let the sealer fill in any decorative areas, holes or grooves. Wipe off the excess with a clean, soft cloth.

Allow the sealer to dry before gently sanding the wood with a medium-grit piece of sandpaper in the same direction of the grain. Wipe the wood down again with a clean cloth.

Step 5: Begin Staining

Wood stained

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Take a medium-sized, clean paintbrush and begin applying the stain onto the wood. Let it penetrate into the wood.

For a lighter stain, you’ll only need one coat, however, if you’re looking to obtain a darker shade, apply more coats. Wipe away any excess stain with another clean cloth and let the wooden piece to dry all the way through.

Also, remember to gently sand between each coat while using a fine-grit piece of sandpaper.

It’s also helpful to remember that if you’re using a water-based stain, you can reduce the raised grain effect by dampening the wood with a moist cloth and sanding it.

Let the wood to completely dry and then sand it again with a fine-grit piece of sandpaper.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Wood Grain

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Once you’re finished staining your cabinets and all surfaces have dried completely, double check that you’re happy with the final color.

If the color is what you wanted, you can then take a small or medium-sized paintbrush to paint on a light coat of polyurethane sealer or a clear varnish in order to give it an extra layer of shine and protection that will help keep the color and quality for years to come.

Put the cabinet together again, along with its drawers and hardware once everything has completely dried.

How To Stain Wood Cabinets: Final Words

You did it! A whole new look for your kitchen or special room without breaking the bank and hopefully, while having a bit of fun.

Be sure to always follow the instructions when using harsh chemicals and keep the room you’re working in well-ventilated.

This is especially important if you’re living in a house with younger children or pets.

Once you have your safety tips down pact, go wild!

Start creating the home of your dreams with your own two hands and some basic tools and products.

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