How to Restore Kitchen Cabinets

Updated July 01, 2018

Real wood kitchen cabinets attract more grease, grime and dust than cabinets in other parts of the home. Sometimes a good cleaning is all that's needed to freshen them up, but if they're scratched or worn they need more attention. Restoring cabinets can be done with a minimum of tools if the wood is undamaged.

Make sure you know which doors go on which cabinets by marking them with pencil or coloured tape.

Remove the doors and attach the screws and hinges to the back of the door with masking tape so they don't get lost. Take off the door handles and soak them in warm, soapy water for at least a half hour.

Lay the cabinet doors on a dust sheet and wash them with a strong detergent and water, or with a commercial wood cleaner.

Use clean rags to rinse and dry the doors thoroughly. Place dust sheets under the cabinets and wash, rinse and dry the frames.

Lightly sand any damaged areas with extra fine sandpaper. Sand just enough to remove rough spots.

Buy a wood restoration product such as Howard Restor-A-Finish, Restorz-It or Homer Fornby's Facelift. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. The product is absorbed into areas where the original stain is damaged and blends them in with the rest of the wood.

Repair areas that the finish restorer couldn't treat with a wood touch-up marker or gel stain like Minwax. Apply a very small amount to the centre of areas where the colour has worn and smooth it out to the edges. Let it dry overnight and reapply until the colour matches.

Apply a light coat of wood oil or linseed oil followed by wax, or several thin coats of non-urethane varnish.

Polish the door handles and reattach them to the doors. Hang the doors after they're completely dry.


Use vinegar and water, a baking soda paste or a mixture of club soda and lemon juice to clean the cabinets if you don't want to use a chemical cleaner.


Don't use this method on veneer cabinets.

Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape
  • Screwdriver
  • Detergent
  • Dust sheets
  • Extra-fine sandpaper
  • Wood restoration products
  • Minwax
  • Linseed or wood oil
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About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.