How to Gel Stain Cabinets

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Applying a gel stain to your cabinets can freshen up your kitchen and make old, outdated cabinets look modern and new. Gel stain isn't terribly difficult to work with, providing you are careful and follow the recommended procedure. Before you get started, make the necessary adjustments to be without use of your kitchen cabinets for 24 to 48 hours.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Workbench (preferred)
  • Sandpaper or liquid sandpaper
  • Soft brushes
  • Painter's tape
  • Sealant (preferred)
  • Remove the cabinet knobs (or pulls) and set them aside. Have someone hold the cabinet door while you remove the hinges.

  • Set the cabinet doors on a suitable workbench. A garage or covered patio works well. The area needs to have ample light and be well ventilated.

  • Clean the cabinet doors with an all-purpose cleaner or degreaser. Scrub them down and let them dry. Clean the cabinets in the same manner.

  • Sand the cabinet doors and the cabinets with sandpaper. You need not scrub them them too much; a light sanding will work fine. You can also use liquid sandpaper instead (it's less messy). Wipe away any residue or shavings.

  • Tape the edges of your wall (where it meets the cabinet) with painter's tape. Brush the gel stain onto the cabinet and the doors. Do not apply a heavy coat; instead, apply a very light and even coat.

  • Let the stain work its magic for 24 hours. Examine the cabinets and the doors after the time has passed. Apply a second coat of stain if you want the cabinets darker.

  • Consider applying a sealant or coating to your cabinet finish (such as polyurethane). Although it's recommended, it's not required. It will, however, protect and seal your cabinet's finish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Pay attention to detail when applying the stain; it's more like painting a picture than a wall.
  • Removing your hinges and knobs presents you with a perfect opportunity to thoroughly clean them. Knobs and hinges are difficult to clean when attached to the cabinet.
  • If your cabinets are unfinished, you don't need to sand them down.
  • Don't get sloppy with the gel stain. Applying the stain is the most important part. A sloppy application of gel stain will result in sloppy-looking cabinets.

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