Tips for Staining Kitchen Cabinets

If you’re not ready to invest in new kitchen cabinets just yet, you can always stain the current ones. Staining allows for you to give the cabinets a new look. Stain adds colour to the wood and bleach lightens it. Keep in mind that aside from certain types of sealers or varnish, bleach and stain do not protect the surface of the material. For protection, a coat of polyurethane, shellac, or lacquer is required.

Always select a stain that is compatible with the finish you plan to apply. Some polyurethane types and lacquer react adversely to the pigments in some stains. Find out if the manufacturer of your cabinets recommends sealing the grain prior to staining it or after. As for the final colour, choices are practically unlimited.

Make sure that as much of the hardware as possible before you begin the staining or bleaching process. It’s easier to stain cabinets when they are lying flat, so lay them flat if possible.

Sanding shouldn’t be necessary unless the cabinets have small scuff marks. If you have to do any sanding, use a fine grit sandpaper.

Choosing the Right Stain

Some stains are easy to use, yet lack versatility. Others are for perfectionists who don’t mind the numerous steps involved in achieving the clearest and deepest finish.

Here is an overview of some of the various stains available:

  • Oil-based

These traditional stains are the most common, and consist of pigments and dyes mixed in with mineral spirits. They are ideal for touching up kitchen cabinets. They are permanent and do not fade. It’s possible to darken the colour with oil-based stains with an additional coat. The downside to these types of stains is that they are flammable and not easy to clean up.

  • Gel stains

If simplicity is what you are after, then this is your best bet. Gel stains are the easiest to apply for amateurs, as they do not run – even against complicated vertical surfaces. They do not raise the grain. The problem with gel stains is that are available in a limited choice of colours.

  • Water-based

This is an environmentally-friendly alternative to oil-based stains. Water-based varieties offer a wide range of colours and intensities. No ventilation is required since they do not produce any fumes. They are easy to clean up – all you need is soap and water.

  • Combination

Some types of stain combine polyurethane and pigment that not only stains the wood, but adds a finish coat simultaneously .With the use of a combo product, you will save time. The downside is that it is not possible to control the level of finish or amount of stain required. It’s essential that you test the product on a scrap piece of wood beforehand to see what it looks like.

  • Penetrating-oil

These are high-quality stains that provide excellent colour depth to the finish. Some types of penetrating oil stains can be mixed together to create additional shades. They are compatible with most topcoats and sealers, and take at least one hour to dry.


This is just a rundown of the different types of stains for kitchen cabinets. Talk with your manufacturer to determine which one would be best for your needs.

Additional Articles about Kitchen Cabinets: