How to keep wooden dresser drawers from sticking

Updated April 17, 2017

Wooden dressers, especially those from older furniture pieces, can stick and jam so that you can't easily open the drawer. Not only is this frustrating, it can eventually result in damage to the furniture piece if you repeatedly exert excessive pulling, tugging and pounding on the drawer in order to open it. You can remedy the cause of the sticking drawer using some common household items.

Remove the drawer from the dresser. You may need to remove surrounding drawers so that you can manipulate the drawer from the side or from beneath. Gently wiggle the drawer from side to side and back and forth to work it loose. If you can get the drawer open enough to reach in and remove all the contents, do so. If it remains stubborn, try lifting and shifting the dresser itself, as this may shift the frame enough to ease the drawer out.

Remove the contents if you haven't already done so. Check inside the dresser framework for clothing or other items that may be wedged inside, causing the drawer to stick.

Examine the drawer for structural integrity. Check to ensure that the drawer bottom is still securely attached or still snugly inserted completely into the side and front dado slots: If the drawer bottom is loose, the edges can catch the dresser frame and cause the drawer to stick. Re-nail the drawer bottom, if necessary, by hammering in new nails to replace those that are missing, or are no longer properly holding the bottom in place. Use a nail set to countersink (hammer in) the nails so that the nail heads aren't higher than the drawer frame. Countersink all nail heads that protrude above the surface of the drawer frame. Insert the drawer into the dresser to see if it moves in and out smoothly. If the sticking problem isn't solved, go to step 4.

Examine the drawer edges for rough or splintered edges. Sand those areas smooth with sandpaper. Try the drawer in the dresser again. If the problem is not solved, go on to step 5.

Spray a cloth lightly with all surface spray cleaner. Clean the exterior of the wooden drawer. Allow it to dry completely. Rub the paraffin or a candle over all surfaces of the drawer that contact the dresser frame. The wax will lubricate the drawer, making it slide easily and quietly into the dresser.


If there is increased humidity in the area around the dresser, caused by unusually damp weather or flooding, the wooden drawer has likely absorbed excess moisture and has swollen. If you suspect humidity is the culprit, empty the dresser and move it to a warm, dry place for a week to see if this solves the problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail set
  • Sandpaper
  • Cloth
  • All surface cleaner spray
  • Paraffin wax or a candle
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About the Author

Gretchen Maron has written content for journals, websites, newspapers, radio news and newsletters, ranging from the International Horn Society journal "Horn Call" and the Air America Radio website, to non-profit organization websites. A librarian for over 30 years and a professional writer since 1996, she's an experienced, knowledgeable researcher.