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How To Prep Cabinets For Paint

5 Mins read

How to prep cabinets for paint. I get a lot of questions about painting cabinets. It is one of those projects that makes a huge difference without having to spend a lot of money. BUT, if you don’t do it right and don’t take the time to prep the cabinets properly, the outcome will not be worth all the work.

Along with the questions I get about painting cabinets, I get a lot of people dreading the process. I GET IT! To be completely honest, it is the one job that I don’t like to do at all. I have painted a few kitchen cabinets over the years and it is one that I will put off until it is the last thing on my list to complete. The good news is that since we have painted so many cabinets, I have learned the process that will give the best outcome without wasting a lot of time. (Knowing all of that still doesn’t make the project fun though 😉 ). 

A few years ago, we took the plunge and decided to paint our kitchen cabinets. They were the first kitchen cabinets we ever painted. It made the biggest difference in our kitchen and I shared how to paint kitchen cabinets and our experience that first time. 

Since our kitchen, I have painted cabinets in four of our five flip house projects.

It is a job.


But, it is the most inexpensive way to update a kitchen quickly. 

Our 5th Flip House - Before Photos & Plans

{Affiliate links are used in this post. Click on any of the underlined links to find the products I am talking about. You can read my disclosure HERE.}

We are going to be painting the cabinets in our latest flip house and I wanted to share how to prep cabinets for paint in case you have been thinking about tackling this job in your home.

How To Prep Cabinets For Paint

  • CLEAN!

If you are painting cabinets, the first step in how to prep cabinets for paint is cleaning! You need to make sure the cabinets are fully cleaned. The cabinets in our current flip house have been the dirtiest cabinets we have dealt with. They were so full of grease and grime. I don’t think anyone ever cleaned them after something was spilled on them. Since we were trying to finish our duplex makeover at the same time we got the flip house, I hired someone to come in and clean the flip house cabinets. She got those cabinets so clean. I asked her what she used and what worked best for getting all of that grime off the cabinets.

This was her answer: “In the case of cutting through that old grimy grease on cabinets and walls that are being prepped for painting, I will use the Scotch Green Scrubbers. I would never use these on anything that could possibly be scratched (which is probably everything else), but since the cabinets were being painted and they were so greasy and full of grime, the scrubbers worked great. First, I sprayed the cabinets with a 50/50 solution of Awesome cleaner. I also filled a bucket with hot water and added some Awesome cleaner in for good measure. I wiped down what came off easily with a washcloth. Then, scrubbed the cabinets with the green scrubby. And then, wiped them down again. Finally, I dried them with a clean, dry cloth. I go through quite a few towels as they get wet. The dry cloth seems like maybe it would be unnecessary, but it really makes all the difference! You don’t want water sitting around on wood for any length of time that’s not necessary. The Awesome cleaner, especially when used in such high strength, works so well. Make sure to wear thick kitchen gloves when you use it.” 

How To Prep Cabinets For Paint

  • Remove Hardware

Make sure to remove all the hardware from the cabinets before you paint them. This includes the hinges. If you are keeping the hardware, screw all the screws back into each pull and knob as you remove it so you don’t lose them. Keep all the screws for the hinges in the same place as the hinges. We use Ziplock bags for this. We keep all the hinges and the hinge screws in one and the knobs/pulls in another bag. You can always spray paint hardware if you don’t like the color. Changing out hardware and hinges can be a chore if they don’t match up with the same measurements, so we opt to keep the original hardware and hinges when we can and just paint them a different color if we don’t love the color. If you are needing to pick out new hardware, I wrote a post all about how to pick the right hardware for every project.

  • Remove Door & Drawers Before Painting AND NUMBER THEM!

This goes along with removing the hinges for the doors. As you remove the hinges, the doors will be off of the cabinets. You don’t want to paint the doors when they are still hanging on the cabinets. You also want to remove all the drawers from the cabinets before you paint them. As you remove the doors and drawers, make sure to number them or label them in a way so you will know where each one goes after they are painted.

  • Sand

You may not need to do this step, but if you find that the cabinets don’t have a smooth surface or there are areas that need a little sanding, make sure to tackle that now. I love using my orbital sander for jobs like this. After sanding, make sure to use a tack cloth or damp cloth to wipe away any dust from the sanding. You don’t want any of that getting into the paint.

  • PRIME!

Always prime the cabinets, door and drawers before you paint. The paint will adhere better and the outcome will be better. 

  • Sample It First

I suggest this with any paint project you are doing. Get some samples of colors you are thinking about and put them on a small area of the cabinets. Let them dry and look at them for at least a day at different times. The color will change throughout the day and you will get a real look at what the color does in your kitchen in the morning, afternoon and night. This step will save you so much time and money because it will ensure you get a color you love.

  • Use The Right Painting Tools

The right tools will make the process so much easier! We have found the painting tools that we will always use when we paint cabinets. We get these foam rollers and I use my favorite Zibra brush for all the cutting in and detail work. 

How to prep cabinets for paint will show you the steps to take in order to get the best outcome if you have wanted to paint kitchen cabinets.

  • Get The Right Paint

Research the paint and make sure you get a durable paint. Kitchen cabinets get a lot of use, so you need a durable paint that will stand the test of time. You may also want to do a top coat. Ask the person you are buying paint from what they suggest. Some paints don’t need a top coat and others do.

I hope these tips are helpful. I know I said that I don’t love painting cabinets, but it is doable. You don’t need a PhD in “cabinet painting” to do this job. A little research, following these tips and taking your time, will get the job done beautifully. You will be so happy with the end result. I promise. Just make sure to do all the prep, get the right tools and bring your patience before you start. And hey, I would love to see them when you are done! Send me photos of your finished cabinets so I can congratulate you on a job well done!


How to prep cabinets for paint will show you the steps to take in order to get the best outcome if you have wanted to paint kitchen cabinets.

If you liked this post, you will also love these tips:

How To Pick The Right Hardware For Every Project

DIY Kitchen Makeover

DIY Light Fixtures For The Kitchen

How To Update Your Kitchen For Under $50



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