Staining Cabinet Doors

Staining Cabinet Doors

If you are remodeling the whole kitchen or just refacing the cabinets, then you will need to decide how to finish your cabinets. Paint can be a great choice for introducing color into your space. However, paint does obscure the natural beauty of your cabinet’s wood. In order to both highlight and protect your cabinet doors, choosing a stain finish is best. In this quick guide, we are going to run through the steps for staining your kitchen cabinets.

Staining is Simple and Rewarding

Staining can be a tricky process if it is something that you have never done before. If it is done incorrectly, you could end up with a splotchy mess. Unlike paint, stain soaks into the surface, which means you cannot stain materials like MDF that lack a grain pattern. There are a lot of options for stains on the market today, and so finding a color that interests you won’t be an issue. Be sure to practice applying the stain to a test surface before you start, especially if this is your first time. If you are interested in a more thorough guide, check out our complete guide for finishing cabinets.

Supplies Needed

The supplies needed will vary from project to project, as stains can be applied in various ways. If you are using a sprayer, you would also likely need things such as drop cloths, drying racks, and safety equipment. However, if you are working on a smaller project, the below list should be sufficient.

  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Wood conditioner
  • A paintbrush (to apply the conditioner)
  • Wood stain
  • A rag (to apply the stain)
  • Polyurethane

Step by Step Guide

As you prepare your space to begin working, be sure you have proper ventilation and have any surfaces not being worked on protected. For ideal results, you will want to be sure the temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit with around 50-70% humidity.


The first step in staining your cabinets is to get them sanded smooth. If your doors already have paint or stain on them, then this step may take some elbow grease. You should start with coarse sandpaper around 100-grit and work your way up to 220-grit sandpaper. Be sure to carefully inspect all the surfaces to make sure there are no rough patches. Before moving on to the next step, be sure to clean the surfaces with a damp cloth to make sure it is completely free of dust and debris.

If you order unfinished doors from us at CabinetDoorMart, your doors will arrive pre-sanded with 220-grit sandpaper and ready to finish.

Wood Conditioner

A wood conditioner serves a similar function as a primer does when painting. The wood conditioner helps to fill in the wood grain so that the stain can be applied evenly. You will want to wait at least 30 minutes for the wood conditioner to dry, but you should not wait longer than 2 hours.


Typically, you will want to use a rag to apply your stain. You should wipe the stain along the grain to make sure you get an even coat. Any excess stain on the surface should be wiped off going in the direction of the grain as well. If you have the right conditions, your stain should dry in 1-2 days. During this time, it is important to keep air circulating, as this will help the stain dry and help with the odor. Also, be sure that no dust or debris settles on the doors, as these can become sealed to the surface.

Protective Coat of Polyurethane

Once your stain is dry, you will need to apply a protective coat of polyurethane. Before you apply the clear coat, you want to lightly sand the surface with fine sandpaper so that the polyurethane can cling to the door. Again, you will want to make sure your workspace has proper ventilation and is free of any dust or debris that could get on your doors.

Finishing Up

Hopefully, this quick guide gave you some confidence in tackling your staining project. It will likely be a bit tricky if it is your first time, but remember to practice first and take your time. Even though this process will take time and effort, the results will be worth it! A new finish can completely change the aesthetic and feel of your kitchen.

If you are ready to get started or if you have more questions, feel free to give us a call at 1-844-326-6680 or an email to