When painting cabinets, we usually use sandpaper to “roughen up” the surface of a cabinet door, helping primer and paint to stick to the rough surface.
But you don't always need to sand cabinets before painting! You can also learn more about the difference between cabinet refinishing and cabinet refacing on our blog! You can also learn how to paint thermofoil cabinets.
Here we show you how to how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding in 9 easy steps, making your next DIY home improvement project easier than ever before.
Let's get to it!
Things You'll Need
- Grease-cutting dish soap or specialized cleaner
- Scrubbing sponge or scouring pad
- Soft cloth
- Liquid Deglosser
- Screwdriver (or power drill)
- 2.5-inch paintbrush
- Small 4-6 inch paint roller
- Painter's Tape
- Enamel Paint for cabinets
- Gloves & surface coverings
How to Paint Cabinets Without Sanding in 9 Steps
Step 1. Remove cabinet doors
First things first, remove the cabinet doors from their hinges and immediately label them so you know where they all came from.
Be specific with your labels (i.e. descriptions) or perhaps use a numbering system with the corresponding cabinet frames.
Don't forget to organize the screws and fittings too!
Step 2. Scrub the cabinets clean with dish soap
If you want to paint cabinets without sanding, you need to clean them incredibly well. Use grease-cutting dish soap and a scrubber or scouring pad to clean the cabinet doors, frames, and shelves thoroughly.
Make sure there is no dirt, grease, or grime left over – the deglosser needs a super clean surface to adhere to. If you're having problems with stubborn grease and grime, we have tips at the end of the article to help you out.
Step 3. Apply liquid de-glosser
Apply a liquid deglosser to the cabinet doors. This acts as a primer and is the best way to make painting cabinets possible when not sanding the surface down first.
Deglosser essentially acts as a bond coat, helping coats of paint to stick to it.
Step 4. Paint the cabinet fronts
Now that you've primed the surface, use the paint roller to start applying your enamel cabinet paint in whatever color you've chosen.
Paint the backsides first. Then, use your thumbtacks and stick 4 – 1 tack in each corner – to the backside of the cabinets. Now flip them over. This allows you to paint the front side while the back side is still air drying.
Now repeat on the front side, painting the cabinets with your paint roller.
Step 5. Apply paint to molding & details
Now you're painting the fronts, make sure you get out your paint brush and start getting into the molding and details in the wood.
Feel free to use a combination of the paint brush and roller on this wood furniture, getting into all those small cracks, crevices, and details.
Try to keep coats of paint in the direction of the wood grain for a more seamless effect.
Step 6. Paint the cabinet shelves
While your door units are drying, it's time to apply deglosser (if you want to) and paint to your shelves!
Use the same thumbtack method to flip the shelves over and paint both sides at the same time. You can get heavy-duty thumbtacks from a decent DIY home improvement store like Home Depot.
For the shelves, you probably only need one bond coat and one paint coat, but feel free to double up if you put your shelves under a lot of stress.
Step 7. Paint the cabinet frames (wall units)
Next, while the door and shelf units are drying, paint the cabinet frame units. In other words, the remaining areas that are attached to your wall.
Be careful to place coverings around the area when painting these edges of the wood trim – you don't want any stray paint on the floor during this part.
If you've got any drawers, be sure to paint them at this stage too.
Step 8. Allow to dry and re-assemble the cabinets
Allow all the painted areas of your cabinets to dry, usually for 1-2 hours but check the specific drying time on your tins of paint.
If you look at your new cabinets and decide that the color isn't strong enough or it's showing through the wood, consider a second coat of paint at this point.
You won't need to use de-glosser or primer again, but a second coat of paint and a couple more hours of drying could take the DIY project from “okay” to brilliant.
When everything is dry, clean up and start to reassemble the cabinets. Use your labels to put each thing back in the right place.
Can You Paint Over Kitchen Cabinets Without Sanding?
Yes, you can paint over kitchen cabinets without sanding them down with sandpaper first, but it's not ideal. The surface will need to be unvarnished wood or wood furniture that has been recently painted (perhaps a color you didn't like).
You must make sure that the furniture is VERY clean before you paint it – the primer and coats of color need a clean surface to affix to without dirt or dust etc.
While these projects are possible, you should ideally still sand down the cabinets with sandpaper if you can. The new rough surface helps the de-glosser and enamel to stick.
Tips For Painting Wood Cabinets
Doesn't matter if you're painting laminate wood, hardwood or any other sort of wood, use these simple tips to smartly paint your cabinets.
Use silver spray paint for hinges to make them look better
Hinges on kitchen furniture can often get rusty and grimey thanks to the steam-filled, messy environment of your kitchen. As a result, some homeowners use silver spray paint and spray their fittings bright silver, making them look good as new.
Alternatively, you could also replace them with new fittings if you can find the correct fittings at your local DIY home improvement store.
Try an old toothbrush to clean tough spots
Having trouble cleaning little corners and crevices in your kitchen cabinets? If you've got an old toothbrush lying around, use it to get into all these hard-to-reach places easily.
If you've got an old electric toothbrush, this is even better – it does all the scrubbing work for you!
Spray white vinegar on old grime
If your old cabinets are VERY grimey, then you can use something like a white vinegar spray to help loosen up the grease and grime.
Simply spray on liberally, leave for 5-10 minutes, and then wash off with a damp cloth or sponge. It'll make the cleanup step a lot easier and get rid of excess grease, dust, dirt etc.
The Bottom Line – Who Needs Sanding When There's De-Glosser?
Okay, so while deglosser can be a useful tool to paint cabinets without the need for sanding, it doesn't work in all scenarios.
Ideally, you should also lightly sand your wooden surfaces before priming and painting them, but if you want to update your kitchen cabinets and you're working with unvarnished wood or recently-painted wood, then these 9 steps may do the trick.
However you end up painting your cabinets, we hope you get the dazzling results you desire. Good luck!