Stained Finish Kitchen Cabinets

Although stained cabinets are not currently as trendy as painted cabinets, stained cabinets are an excellent choice when you prefer a more natural look. Wood-grained stained kitchen cabinets create an extremely warm, earthy feel to any home.  Read more...


With stains, you will have many choices to choose from in a variety of colors and hues. Most stains are water-based, which absorb quickly and deeply into the wood grain, delivering the deepest color enhancement of the wood. 

What are the Benefits of Stained Cabinets?

  • Creates a warm, attractive space with beautiful wood grains. Hardwoods such as Oak, Hickory, Walnut, Cherry, and Maple have a beautifully pronounced wood grain,
  • Stained cabinets balance color and texture in any room, 
  • Stains bring out the wood’s natural qualities. Depending on the color stain you choose, some colors will enhance the natural wood and texture of your cabinets. Just as painted cabinets, lighter stains create an airier feel, whereas darker stains create more intimate space,
  • Any cracks or “witness” lines that may develop over the cabinet’s lifetime will not be as apparent. Cracks will be more noticeable on lighter cabinets than darker ones. With a stained cabinet, there is more “activity” going on visually (with the different grain patterns), so these cracks tend to be less visible. They may very well be there, you just won’t notice them as much,
  • Minimal touch-ups necessary,
  • Considered to be very low maintenance since dirt and dust are not seen as easily as on a painted cabinet,

How to Clean Stained Kitchen cabinets?

Empty them out

  • You may opt to stagger cabinet cleaning rather than attempt it all in one day since you’ll need to remove and temporarily store the contents on countertops or elsewhere,
  • Once cabinets are empty, peel off and discard past-its-prime shelf paper, if necessary,
  • Vacuum or wipe crumbs and dust from the shelves and drawers,

Tackle the tops

  • Squirt the surface with straight white vinegar, sprinkle on some baking soda, and give it several minutes of dwell time,
  • Scrub with a sponge, then scrape with a firm straight edge, like an old credit card, wiping off the gunk with a rag or paper towels,
  • Spray again lightly and wipe dry with a clean cloth.

Mix up a gentle cleanser

The goal is to clean, not damage, your cabinets.

  • A few squirts of mild dish soap in hot water are a safe and effective formula to use on stained wood (as well as metal, laminate, and vinyl). It will purge dirt, smudges, and moderate grease build-up; to give the solution to sanitizing oomph, add some white vinegar, which has antibacterial properties.
  • To use: Mix in a spray bottle but apply onto a microfiber cloth or sponge rather than directly on the cabinet surface, as it’s best to avoid saturating the wood.

Clean high to low

  • Start with the uppers and work your way down. Do interiors first: the back wall, then the sides, then the shelves and drawers. Give extra attention to corners, spritzing cleaning solution on a toothbrush, and scrubbing gently, if necessary,
  • Follow with a cloth/sponge lightly moistened with plain water to remove any soap residue. Wipe dry completely after rinsing, then close the cabinets,
  • Clean the sides of the boxes and do the doors/drawer fronts last,

Treat the trim

Grease and dirt love crevices, so both are bound to settle in cabinet trim—the more ornate, the cruddier it can become.

  • Patiently purge with your basic cleaning solution and a soft toothbrush or cloth wrapped around your index finger,
  • Rinse with a clean cloth moistened with plain water and dry.


Is Staining Kitchen Cabinets Worth It?

Stained cabinets may not currently be as trendy as their painted counterparts, but they remain an excellent option for infusing any space with an appealingly natural look. They deliver a level of practicality difficult to achieve with paint, especially as they're typically paired with durable, yet beautiful hardwood.

Balancing color and texture.

The latest interior design trends are all about dimension. While there's plenty to be said about the bold looks available with painted cabinets, there's no denying the appeal of the unique textures that stains highlight.

Showcasing hardwood.

The style of your cabinets will largely depend on the hardwood you select — and many beautiful varieties can be showcased with the assistance of the right stain. Oak, walnut, pine, and cherry benefit most from this approach, as stains bring out their natural qualities.

Minimize long-term maintenance.

If you dread the idea of touching up your cabinets on a regular basis, you can take solace in knowing that stains will keep them looking gorgeous for decades. The occasional touch-up may be required, but in general, stained cabinets are prized as the ultimate low-maintenance option.

Stains are less expensive.

While the hardwood cabinets associated with staining tend to be more expensive at the outset than their MDF counterparts, the stains themselves are surprisingly affordable. What's more, full replacements are less likely over time, as stains are easier to replicate than many paint colors.

How Durable Are Stained Kitchen cabinets?

Both stain and wood cabinets are fairly low maintenance and easy to clean. When it comes to repairing scratches, however, the stain is the easier of the two to deal with as it can be easily repaired with a touch-up marker. Painted cabinets are trickier because the finish is sprayed on rather than brushed on (giving it its uniform finish). It is very difficult to touch up a surface that has been spray painted.


How to Touch Up Stained Kitchen Cabinets?

You can touch up stained wood instead of opting for an upgrade to kitchen cabinetry, but you will want to clean it off and remove any dust, debris, or lingering dirt first. Once the surface area has been cleaned, you can use a felt tip marker that matches the color of the wood’s stain to fill in marks. If you want to re-stain the wood, clean the surface, remove any hardware you don’t want to be damaged, and buff out the surface, so it is even and smooth. Strip away any layers of polyurethane that may already exist, so the new coat of stain will adhere.

How to Paint Over Stained Kitchen Cabinets?

  1. Remove the cabinet doors and drawers. Tape off around the edges of the cabinets. Cover the floor with drop cloths.
  2. Remove the top layer of gloss from the stained cabinets, door, and drawer fronts, using a liquid deglosser. Sand the wood surfaces lightly and wipe off all dust with a tack cloth.
  3. Apply a coat of oil-based bonding primer to the cabinets. Work in long, straight strokes along the grain. Spread it as evenly as possible. Watch for runs and drips, and correct them while the primer is wet. Apply primer to the doors and drawers. Allow the primer to dry for at least two hours.
  4. Mix the paint thoroughly with a wooden paint stick. Apply the paint, working in long, straight strokes. Cover the entire surface of the cabinets, doors, and drawers. Allow the paint to dry according to the manufacturer's directions. Apply a second coat using the same technique.
  5. Reinstall the hardware on the doors and drawers once the paint has dried completely. Install the doors and drawers. Remove the masking tape and drop cloths.


How to Refinish Stained Kitchen Cabinets?


Prior to cleaning, use a screwdriver to remove the doors and drawers from the cabinets, as well as additional hardware, such as knobs and handles. Also, remove the shelves from the interior spaces of your cabinets. Wipe down the exterior cabinet surfaces with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits. You can also opt for a natural cleaner made from distilled vinegar and hot water.


Sand your cabinets with 200-grit fine sandpaper to remove any peeling varnish and to roughen up the stained surfaces. This provides a better bonding surface for the new stain or paints to adhere to. Wipe off the sanding dust with a clean cloth

Paint and Stain

Select a paint color that enhances your kitchen decor. White paint provides a cottage appearance when finished with a weathered look. Apply black paint with a distressed finish for a Tuscan look. Glossy, white, or black paint in a uniform finish tends to complement contemporary decor. Sage green paint is an ideal color for farmhouse style. Apply two coats of paint, followed by a protective polyurethane finish.