Cabinet Renovation 101: How to Remove Paint from Cabinets

Cabinets can either look hand-crafted and gorgeous or like a horrible decoration depending on how the cabinets were painted.

If your cabinets are a color that throws off the entirety of your kitchen, you don’t have to worry about getting them professionally repainted. 

Removing paint from cabinets, no matter what your reason for it is, is an easy project to complete.

With the various methods that we will cover, you will find the perfect method for removing the pain from your cabinets.

Why Does Removing the Paint from Your Cabinets Matter?

For many, it may seem much easier to just cover up the old paint on your cabinets with a fresh layer of new paint. However, it’s not so simple for covering the paint on your cabinets.

paint flaking off

Painting without removing the old paint will work for some people, but on other cabinets, the paint will end up flaking off in a short amount of time. 

By removing the old layer of paint before adding a better color, you are making it much easier for that new paint to stick to the wood. You won’t have to experience bumps in the paint from an uneven surface or paint flaking away soon after the layer dries. 

Old paint deteriorates over time which creates an unstable surface for a new layer of paint. Give your cabinets the best look by removing the old layer of paint first.

How to Remove Paint from Your Cabinets

No longer will you have to deal with cabinets that are a completely clashing color from the rest of your kitchen.

Also, no need to watch as the current layer of paint cracks and chips, exposing the bare wood underneath.

With these following methods to remove paint, your cabinets will be bare and ready to be repainted in no time. 

Prepare Your Space

No matter what method you choose for your cabinets, your first step will always be to prepare your space.

Remove everything that was in your cabinets and keep them in a safe place. If there are counters underneath the cabinets that have objects sitting on them, remove those too.

You don’t want chemicals, paint flakes, or wood powder falling onto the things you use every day, especially the food you eat. 

Once you have everything removed. Put towels, newspaper, or some other barrier underneath your cabinets to stop any mess from damaging your counters and floor. 

Practice Safety

Keep windows open to push air through your home and increase ventilation. Make sure that you are wearing thick rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a face mask to prevent your body.

If at any point you are sanding your cabinets, the safety glasses and mask will keep the tiny particles from getting into your respiratory system and eyes. 

If you are choosing a chemical method for removing paint, wear clothes that cover the body. This will prevent any accidental splashes from getting onto your skin and causing irritation or burns. 

Have a bucket full of water and dish soap nearby along with an old rag so you can quickly clear away any mess that occurs. 

Remove Cabinet Doors

Now that you are prepared with your safety practices and clean space, take a screwdriver and remove all of the cabinet doors and hinges.

You can remove the paint from the doors separately and if there was any paint on the metal pieces, remove the paint from them. 


Sanding is either a great first step or an okay method for removing the paint from your cabinets.

If your cabinets only have a thin layer of paint on them, you can take a sander to your cabinets to remove the paint. Be careful so you don’t accidentally damage your cabinets. 

Sanding can also be done before you move on to another method. You can use a coarse piece of sandpaper and remove the exterior layer of paint from your cabinets.

This will make it easier for other methods to get through all of the layers of paint and remove them.

Sandpaper + Gentle Paint Stripper

Many paint strippers are extremely strong but also can be very painful if you get them on your skin.

If you start removing the paint from your cabinets by sanding the outer layer of paint, you can use a gentler paint stripper to get rid of the extra paint. 

Citristrip Aerosol paint stripper

Gentle paint stripper still is a chemical solution that can irritate your skin, but it won’t cause severe burns as some others can. Citristrip is a great gentle paint stripper to use after you have sanded down your cabinets.

Get an old paintbrush or a paintbrush dedicated to this project and dip it into the pain stripper once done sanding the cabinets. Spread the stripper across the cabinet and cover it in plastic wrap for about 15 minutes. 

Using a paint scrapper to scrape away the old paint
Using a paint scrapper to scrape away the old paint

Once the 15 minutes is up, use a paint scrapper and gently scrape away the paint. It should melt away after the paint stripper.

If there are still layers of paint that you can’t scrape away, add another layer of paint stripper and repeat the process until there is no more paint.  

Strong Paint Stripper

If you don’t want to sand down your cabinets and need something stronger, you can use any medium to strong paint stripper without needing much prep. 

You will use the same method as listed above. Take a dedicated paintbrush and spread a layer of paint stripper on your cabinets. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 20 minutes instead of 15.

Some paint strippers will have their own time that you need to leave on the cabinets for. Always follow the instructions of your specific paint stripper. 

After the time is up, remove the plastic wrap and begin scrapping the paint away. Repeat the application process as necessary until there is no more paint left. 

Sand Away Small Spots

With any of the methods listed above, if you see small spots of paint left over, you can use sandpaper to remove them.

Sandpaper can get rid of all the paint that has been too stubborn to be dissolved by a gentle or stronger paint stripper. 

Mineral Spirits

Finally, instead of using a chemical paint stripper, you can use mineral spirits.

Odorless Mineral Spirits

This is a slightly less toxic option than a chemical paint stripper, so it is great for people removing paint for the first time.

Follow the same instructions as for the paint stripper, leaving the mineral spirit on for 20 minutes before taking the scrapper to the cabinets. 

Paint Free Cabinets

With these methods listed above, you now are paint free with your cabinets. Don’t forget to apply the paint stripper, sander, or mineral spirit to the cabinet doors as well. That way, your cabinet will be consistent all the way around. 

If any messes have occurred while removing the paint from your cabinets, make sure to clean them as soon as possible so it doesn’t damage the other furniture in your kitchen.

With paint-free cabinets, you can go ahead and stain your cabinets or add a new color to them. This bare wood is full of possibilities so you can make your kitchen look the way you want it. 

2 Tips and Reminders for Removing Paint from Your Cabinets

Several Layers Will Be Necessary

Unless your cabinets only have a very thin layer of paint and you are using a strong paint stripper, you are most likely going to have to do several layers of stripper before all the paint is gone. 

The process of removing cabinet paint may take a few hours just because you need to do several coats of paint stripper.

Scrape as much of the paint off as you can after each round of paint stripper to minimize the number of coats needed. 

Stop If You Don’t Feel Good

Having good ventilation in your workspace is extremely important as these chemical paint strippers can make you feel sick. If at any time you start to feel dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, or any sort of unwell, stop working and step away. 

Make sure that all of your windows are open and turn on a fan for extra circulation. If necessary, go outside and breathe in fresh air until your symptoms subside. 

This is another reason why wearing a proper mask is important. Get a mask that is certified for protecting your lungs against wood particles. It should help to keep some of the chemical fumes out as well.

You might like: How to Fix Peeling Paint on the Ceiling

Final Thoughts 

It’s so easy to remove the paint from your cabinets, it just takes some time. With these methods listed above, you can get rid of that hated color so you can make your cabinets fit in with your desired aesthetic. 

Always remember to practice proper safety procedures when doing any home project. Your safety is of top priority. 

If you enjoyed learning how to remove the paint from your cabinets and are ready to start your next home project, let us know in the comments.

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