How to Clear-Coat Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets come in a wide range of colors and wood types. Although many cabinet manufacturers apply a clear coat to cabinets at the production site, it has a tendency to wear off with heavy usage, especially near door handles that get touched frequently. If your cabinets have seen better days, don't feel you need to replace them. Clean and refinish the clear coat to give your kitchen cabinets new life.

Keep your kitchen cabinets shiny with a clear topcoat.

Remove hardware, such as hinges or handles, and lay the cabinet down on a flat surface.

Clean the surface of the cabinet with synthetic steel wool and mineral spirits to remove grime. Pay close attention to areas on the cabinets with darker wood, such as by the handles, where body oil accumulates.

Prepare the surface with fine-grit sandpaper, sanding along with the grain of the wood. Smooth away nicks or cracks. Wipe away any dust with a slightly damp towel.

Scrub the area with a refinisher solution to balance the color of the wood. Wipe away any darkened refinisher that puddles up with a towel. Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area and use skin and eye protection when working this type of chemical.

Fill-in imperfections with a wood putty if necessary and allow the putty to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Apply a then layer of clear topcoat --- not polyurethane -- to the cabinets with a rag.

Wait a few hours and reapply the topcoat and allow it to dry. Repeat several times until you are satisfied with the thickness of the clear-coat on the cabinets. Leave the cabinets glossy or lightly brush the surface with fine steel wool for a satin shine.

Things You Will Need

  • Flat work surface
  • Screwdriver
  • Synthetic steel wool
  • Mineral spirits
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood putty
  • Refinisher
  • Clear topcoat
  • Rags


  • Don't touch the topcoat while it is drying or you could leave fingerprints behind.


  • Don't use polyurethane on wood that has already been treated; it won't adhere well. Instead, use an oil-based varnish or oil and urethane topcoat.

About the Author

Daniella Lauren has worked with eHow and various new media sites as a freelance writer since 2009. Her work covers topics in education, business, and home and garden. Daniella holds a Master of Science in elementary education and a Bachelor of Arts in history from Pensacola Christian College.

Photo Credits

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