How to Clean Cabinets Before Restaining

Restaining cabinets requires a clean, smooth surface for the stain to adhere. Worn and dull colored cabinets qualify for restaining as long as the wear is not excessive. The cabinets should require only a slight sanding to even out the surface. Sanding the cabinets lightly before staining them smooths out uneven areas and gives the wood just enough grit to allow the stain to bond to the wood. Cleaning the cabinets before sanding removes any dirt or grease from the surface. Cleaning after sanding wipes away any dust. The end goal is to achieve a wood surface that is dirt and dust-free and not too shiny.

Restain cabinets that show signs of wear or need a color update.

Step 1

Remove the doors and hinges from the cabinet base to clean the doors and base separately. Lift out the shelves from the base. Lay the doors flat and place the shelves on top of a cloth on a clean counter or table. Remove the hinges and knobs or handles and set them aside.

Step 2

Dampen a soft cloth or a synthetic steel wool pad with mineral spirits.

Step 3

Wipe the cabinet surfaces, including the doors, shelves and all sides of the base, with the cloth two or three times to remove the residue. Use a new cloth or pad when it starts to look dirty. Continue to wipe the wood until the cloth or pad remains clean after wiping the surface.

Step 4

Wipe the cabinets after sanding with a dry cloth to remove any remaining dust.

Things You Will Need

  • Mineral spirits
  • Soft cleaning cloths or synthetic steel wool pad


  • Stain the cabinet doors and base separately and allow them to dry before reinstalling the doors.


  • Follow the safety precautions listed on the mineral spirits label.
  • Open all windows and allow for plenty of ventilation when using mineral spirits.
  • Do not work with mineral spirits around any open flames, including pilot lights.

About the Author

Sommer Leigh has produced home, garden, family and health content since 1997 for such nationally known publications as "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "Midwest Living," "Healthy Kids" and "American Baby." Leigh also owns a Web-consulting business and writes for several Internet publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in information technology and Web management from the University of Phoenix.

Photo Credits

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