How to Strip Cabinets

Stripping and refinishing cabinets is an inexpensive way to freshen up a kitchen or bathroom. Kitchen cabinets collect grease, dust and grime. A good cleaning may be all that your cabinets need to look good as new, but if you're going to refinish them, they should be stripped first. The project is messy, but can be completed in an afternoon and doesn't require any special skills or tools.

Strip Cabinets

Label each cabinet door so you can put them back in the right place. Either draw a diagram showing where each door goes and label the door with a pencil or a piece of tape, or make a mark on each door and the corresponding cabinet it fits.

Remove the hinges and the door pulls. Tape the hinges and screws to the back of the cabinet with masking tape. Place the door pulls in a solution of detergent and water and let soak for at least an hour.

Lay the doors flat on a drop cloth.

Clean each cabinet with a strong detergent and warm water. Use an SOS pad (not Brillo) to scrub badly soiled spots.

Determine the type of finish on your cabinets. Shellac dissolves in denatured alcohol. Wax dissolves in turpentine. Polyurethane and varnish can be removed with paint or varnish stripper.

Use a commercial semi-paste or gel stripping product that's recommended for your finish. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Rinse the cabinets well with clean cloths and plain water. Use fresh cloths as needed. Let the cabinet doors dry well.

Use the same stripping method on the frames of the cabinets that you used on the doors. Use drop cloths to catch any spills. Don't let the stripper run down the surfaces. This could cause streaks.

Refinish, wax or paint the cabinets before you reinstall the doors. Scrub and polish the door pulls and reattach them.

Things You Will Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Drop cloths
  • Detergent
  • SOS pad
  • Stripper


  • Wear goggles and gloves when working with chemicals. Use chemicals in well ventilated areas.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.

Photo Credits

  • Kitchen Cabinet Mart, E-Z Way