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July 10, 2023

How Do You Paint the Inside of Cabinets?

Do your kitchen or bathroom cabinets look nice on the outside but dirt, grimy, or faded on the inside? While cabinet replacement is an option, it can be expensive. However, painting the inside of cabinets is an inexpensive way to refresh an older kitchen or bathroom. Regardless of your experience, painting inside cabinets is an easy DIY project you can do in a few evenings with only a few tools. The following steps explain the basics of painting inside cabinets.

How To Paint Inside Cabinets

Painting the inside of cabinets is a relatively straightforward process, but it requires careful preparation and attention to detail to achieve a smooth and professional-looking finish. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you paint inside your cabinets:

Supplies Needed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Zip-top backs (optional)
  • Marker (optional)
  • Wood filler (optional)
  • Putty knife (optional)
  • Vacuum
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Towels or cleaning cloths
  • Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
  • Electric sander (optional)
  • Tack cloth or damp cloth
  • Painter’s tape
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Paint Brushes
  • Foam roller
  • Paint tray
  • Drop cloth or old newspapers

Steps For painting the inside of cabinets

The following process works for painting the inside of kitchen or bathroom cabinets.

1. Empty the Cabinets

Start by completely emptying the cabinets. If you are painting one or two cabinets, you can leave the items on the countertop or a nearby table. However, consider putting items into boxes if you are painting multiple cabinets at once. Label the boxes so it is easier to put items back once you finish.

2. Remove the Doors and Hardware

Next, you need to remove the doors, shelves, and hardware. If you are planning to paint the inside of the door, remove the door pull or handle. Unscrew the hinge from the door, then unscrew the hinge from the cabinet.

If you are not painting the inside of the door, you can leave the handle or pull on. But you will still need to remove the hingle from the inside of the cabinet.

For easy reassembly, put the screws, handles, and hinges for each door inside its own zip-top bag. Then either label the which door the bag goes to or tape the bag to the door with painters tape.

While this may seem unnecessary, it helps keep everything organized. The hardware should be universal, but this also makes reassembling easier just in case.

3. Repair Cracks or Gaps in the Cabinet

If you have gaps or cracks in the cabinet walls or floor, you can make repairs with wood filler. Use a putty knife to spread a smooth layer of filler over the damaged area.

In most cases, it will take 12 to 48 hours for the product to cure. Read the directions on your filler for curing time and cleanup instructions.

Once cured, lightly sand the area until it is smooth. If there are still gaps or uneven areas, repeat the process until it is smooth and even.

4. Clean the Cabinets

Then clean every surface you plan to paint inside the cabinet. Start by vacuuming out the cabinet to remove loose dirt and dust.

Use liquid dish soap and a damp rag or cloth to scrub down the bottom, sides, and back. Make sure you thoroughly remove all the dirt, grease, and grime. This will help the paint adhere better and limit the chance of it chipping or peeling.

If you are painting the inside of the cabinet door, clean that as well. Let everything dry thoroughly before proceeding.

5. Sand the Surfaces

Sanding helps to create a rougher surface, allowing the primer and paint to adhere better.

If the cabinets have a seal coat, you need to completely remove that with sandpaper. If they are bare wood or paint, you only need to sand the surface lightly.

In either case, start with medium-grit sandpaper and sand all of the interior surfaces. Then switch to fine-grit sandpaper and repeat the process.

While you can sand the inside of the cabinet by hand, an electric sander takes less effort and is much faster.

6. Remove Dust

After sanding, vacuum out the inside of the cabinets again to remove any dust and debris you created. Then use a tack cloth or a damp cloth to remove anything still clinging to the surface of the cabinets.

While this may seem unnecessary, the dust from the sanding will make it harder for the paint to cling to the cabinet surface. If you use a damp cloth, let the surface dry completely before moving on to the next step.

7. Mask the Area with Painter’s Tape

Use painter’s tape to protect areas you do not want to paint. In most cases, this includes the edge along the front of the cabinet. Try to keep the tape lines as straight as possible to prevent painting the face of the cabinet.

You can also apply painter’s tape to any other area you do not want to paint. This may include sink drain pipes, plumbing shut-off valves, and other fixtures inside the cabinets.

Lastly, put a drop cloth or old newspapers on the floor around the cabinets. This will protect your flooring from accidental paint drips

8. Apply Primer

Start painting the inside of your cabinets with a high-quality latex primer. While this may seem unnecessary, primer creates an even surface for the paint to cling to later.

Use a small brush to paint the corners of the cabinet, then use a foam roller to apply a thin and even layer of primer to the flat surfaces.

Allow the primer to dry before applying a second coat. To keep the paint fresh in between coats, put the lid back on the paint can. Then wrap brushes and rollers in plastic bags.

Wait a full 24 hours for the primer to cure before moving on to the next step.

9. Paint the Cabinets

Once the primer has cured, you can apply the top coat of paint. Use quality latex paint for durable, long-lasting results.

As with the primer, start by painting the cabinet corners with a small brush. Then use a foam roller to coat the flat surfaces.

Let the first coat of paint dry completely before applying a second coat. Again, close the paint can and wrap rollers and brushes in plastic bags to keep them from drying out.

Allow the paint to cure for 24 hours before putting the cabinets back together.

10. Paint the Shelves and Doors

While the inside of the cabinets are drying, you can paint the shelves and doors. Follow the same steps as before, applying primer and paint, allowing proper drying time between coats.

Use painter’s tape to mask the exterior side of the doors to prevent accidents. Also, lay the doors and shelves flat to dry to prevent paint drips.

11. Optional: Apply a Protective Finish

For a long-lasting and durable finish, consider sealing the painted cabinet surfaces with a clear coat. From clear latex paint to polyurethane or polycrylic finishes, there are many options available.

Using certain products could actually cause the paint to peel, so read the label carefully before buying. Look for a product that specifically says it works with latex paint.

12. Clean Up the Painting Supplies

You should clean up the painting supplies as soon as you are done with each step. Thoroughly wash brushes and rollers with clean water until they are completely free of paint. Then rinse out paint trays.

You can store leftover primer and paint for months or even years. If you want to dispose of the paint, leave the lid off the can until it dries up. This usually takes several days to a week or more. You can then put the can in your garage.

13. Reassemble the Cabinets

Once everything is thoroughly dry, you can reassemble the cabinets. Rehang the shelves, then install the hardware and attach the cabinet doors.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Inside of Cabinets

What Type of Paint Is Best for Inside Cabinets?

Strictly speaking, you can use latex or oil-based paints when painting the inside of cabinets. However, oil-based paint is more difficult to work with and has a more intense smell.

For this reason, we recommend latex paint for inside cabinets. That said, if your cabinets already have oil paints, you should continue to use them. Painting latex paint over oils or vice verse can cause the paint to bubble and peel.

While you can use enamel paints inside of cabinets, they are much more expensive and even more difficult to use than oils. Unless you are experienced with enamel paint, they are not worth the cost or time for cabinets.

Spray paint is an inexpensive option for cabinet insides. However, it can be difficult to get an even layer. They are also more likely to drip or run. The overspray can also leave paint on other surfaces in your kitchen or bathroom.

If you choose to use spray paints for painting cabinet insides, wear a ventilator or work in a well-ventilated area. Also, cover the floor, counters, and face of the cabinet box with a drop cloth or newspaper.

Can You Use a Paint Sprayer To Paint Inside Cabinets?

While you can use a paint sprayer, there is a risk of overspray leaving paint on the area surrounding your cabinets. Just like spray paint, the sprayer turns the paint into a mist.

While most of the paint mist will shoot directly on the cabinet surface, a small amount is left to float in the air. It can spread throughout the room and eventually settle on surfaces you do not want to paint.

If you choose to use a paint sprayer, cover your countertops, flooring, and other surfaces with either newspaper or a drop cloth. Use even spray pressure while moving the sprayer across the cabinet for an even coat of paint.

You can also create a paint trap using a box fan and a furnace filter. Put the furnace filter on the side of the fan that blows out and use a bungee cord to hold it in place. Then place the fan close to the cabinet, using the fan to suck the excess paint into the filter.

Who Can I Hire To Paint Inside of Cabinets?

If you want to paint the inside of your kitchen or bathroom cabinets but do not want to do the work yourself, you can hire a handy person.

While you might think a professional painter will do it, not all do inside cabinets. Most painters specialize in walls, trim, and, occasionally, exteriors.

Whereas most handy persons have a wide range of skills, including painting. They can quickly dissemble the cabinets, make repairs, and paint the insides.

While they are experienced, remember that the bulk of the time is spent waiting for the paint to dry. In most cases, they will only save you a minimal amount of time overall.


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