How to Release File Cabinet Drawers

Written by richard kalinowski
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Filing cabinets offer convenient, organised storage for your most important documents. A major downside to filing cabinet storage, however, is that bulky filing units are often very heavy. If you need to move a filing cabinet, or if you simply want to clean the inside of the unit, you'll need to remove the solid metal or wood drawers. Filing drawers do not simply slide out like a standard drawer. Because the drawers are heavy-duty, designed to support the weight of dozens of reams of paper, they often lock into place. Luckily, the process for releasing file cabinet drawers takes only a few minutes if you follow the right steps.

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  1. 1

    Empty all your files from the cabinet. Even though most file cabinet drawers are able to support dozens or even hundreds of pounds of weight, they are designed to be housed within the cabinet. Moving a fully loaded drawer outside of the cabinet will put a strain on the drawer, possibly bending or breaking the unit. Additionally, it's easier on you, since an empty drawer is obviously lighter.

  2. 2

    Slide the drawer out as far as it can go. Try gently lifting the drawer upward. Some light-duty file cabinet drawers do not lock into place. To release drawers from a light-duty unit, you'll simply need to lift the drawer over a small "catch" or bump on the track. After lifting the drawer over the catch, it should slide right out. The drawer will typically only lift an inch or two over the catch. If the drawer does not lift up and out, you'll need to release the drawer locking mechanism as indicated in Steps 3 and 4.

  3. 3

    Push the small metallic or plastic "release tabs" on each side of the drawer's track. The release tabs will only be visible when the drawer is kept pulled out as far as it goes. The release tabs act as a second catch to stop the drawer from sliding out involuntarily. On some filing cabinets, such locking mechanisms are released by pushing the tabs up or down, but in most cases you'll simply push the tab inward as indicated by's guide to removing lateral file drawers.

  4. 4

    Pull the drawer out while continuing to hold the release tabs. When the drawer is successfully removed, you can let go of the release tabs, letting them return to their normal "locked" position.

Tips and warnings

  • To put the drawer back in, make sure the empty sliding track is extended as far as possible, then reinsert the drawer and slide it inward until the catch locks the drawer into place.
  • In very rare occurrences, filing cabinets will not have a catch or a release tab. With these models, you'll have to unscrew the cabinet drawer from the sliding track using a screwdriver.

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