Fix Worn Spots on Kitchen Cabinets in 4 Easy Steps 

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Last updated: April 19, 2023

Of all the cabinet doors in the house, the kitchen doors take the most punishment. Kitchen doors deal with cooking heat, water steam, grease, lighting heat, food smells, and a lot of use. Conversely, the bathroom and laundry room cabinets deal with water steam and minimal door use.

Because of this, expect the look of your cabinetry to degrade faster than other cabinetry. Luckily, all it calls for is a little tender loving care from you. This article shows how to fix worn spots on kitchen cabinets and drawer fronts. In four easy steps.

It involves cleaning and examining the cabinets, removing the problem areas, painting/staining/topcoat, and finishing the cabinet with a sealer or polyurethane coating. These steps need all the time and patience you can muster. If you are ready to put forth the effort, the transformation from worn-out old cabinets to new cabinets is worth every time spent. 

Wash, Dry, and Examine Kitchen Cabinetry

The prep work begins by washing, drying, and examining the entire cabinet surface. You can check the doors first and wash and dry the affected areas. The first step order isn’t as important as doing the actual step.

The general rule is to separate the entire thing from its hinges with a screwdriver and use the same tool to remove knobs and handles. Cover the opening with fabric to conceal the contents inside. Keep the nails from the door and hardware in another place.

Washing and drying kitchen cabinets begin with a damp cloth to clean the surface, the damaged area, and worn out spots. It should be a mix of soap and warm water. Use a dry, clean cloth to remove excess water and let the cabinet dry.

a beautiful brunette woman cleaning kitchen countertop and kitchen cabinets are worn out.jpg

Examining cabinetry is more accurate when the cabinet is clean and fully dry. An examination offers some insight into where the problem may be before cleaning. It also tells you about the cabinet material and style (old English, plain, country, bespoke, etc.)

There are metal and plastic cabinet materials, but most are wood kitchen cabinets. The wooden cabinets divide into types of wood and wood finish (stained, painted, etc.). 

Before the next step, it’s essential to have a mask on to prevent inhaling chemical fumes. Wear long gloves; it shields your arms and hands from rashes, allergies, and reactions to chemicals and products.

The Removal of Cabinet Imperfections


Scratched wood cabinets can appear like a scratch, lightly scratched, or deeply scraped. Scratched-like marks are wax build-up, light scratches cabinets appear on the surface, and deep scratches go below the surface. You won’t know what the answer is until you do all the steps in order.

Waxy scratches are removable using mineral spirits, wax solvent removers, or a vinegar/cream of tartar mix on the affected areas. Wipe it off with a clean rag; see if the scratches leave or improve better than before. Finish diminished scratches with a topcoat.

a middle aged woman, with red hair, wearing apron as she prepares to clean kitchen cabinets to fix worn spots

If the scratches are the same, maybe it’s a surface scratch. Surface scratches cannot come off, but you can hide them to make them less noticeable. Your choice is furniture markers or sand/primer/paint. For furniture markers, draw over the scratch to hide it and finish it with a top coat.

Painting requires two types of sandpaper. Sand the whole door or the scratched area with medium-grit sandpaper first and fine-grit sandpaper second. After dust removal, prime and paint the entire wood surface or scratched area. 

Deeper scratches need wood filler inserted inside; use a putty knife to smooth out and remove excess filler. After it dries, sand them down with medium and fine sandpaper. Decide if you want to stain cabinets or paint them.

a cabinet specialist fixing dents, worn spots, and holes in kitchen cabinets

Holes, Cracks, Dents, Gaps, and Accidental Damages

Massive holes and cracks are the jobs of a cabinet repair specialist. If it is not salvageable, the expert will recommend a door replacement. That’s a simple fix, but it will be costly.

Meanwhile, a wax crayon is the best way to salvage small holes and cracks without a professional’s help. Show a photo of the hole/crack and the cabinet door to a hardware store worker so the person can find the best matches. At home, insert the wax crayon in the hole and rub it on the sides of the crack until filled.

Wood putty or filler are solutions for medium to large holes, cracks, dents, gaps, and accidental damage. 

Dried Food, Grease, and Water Stains

If the surface of the cabinet has smudge marks, water damage, and dried food/grease stains, a thorough cleaning is the best option. A water-white vinegar or water/baking soda mixture on worn spots loosens up dried stains. A scrubber like a scrubbing pad, sponge, or durable rag will remove stains on worn areas. 

Be careful not to damage the cabinet more when you scrub the stains. Wipe excess moisture off cabinets as you go to see the progress. Once all stains are gone, remove excess water and dry the cabinet completely; the water ruins the cabinet finish.

Stain or Paint

Stained Cabinet Repair

Cabinets with a natural look and shine may have a different look when the cabinet looks faded or discolored. Stained cabinets need kitchen cabinet refinishing to give them new life. The first thing to do is to repair imperfections.

Retouching cabinets depend on cabinet color. Light cabinets require different stain colors and stain finishes than dark cabinets. Regardless, prep for a cabinet painting by adding painter’s tape around the work area for good results; remove it when the project is complete.

Light-colored cabinets must remove the old stain from clean surfaces with a paint remover before repairing imperfections. Let the cabinets dry before adding wood grain matching stain. Let the liquid dry before adding a sealer, and let that dry before rubbing it with 000 wool steel. 

Dark-colored cabinets need a second cleaning of water and TSP cleaner on a paper towel as it removes stuff that soapy water misses. Let them dry completely before sanding the surface lightly in the direction of the grain. Finish it with a varnish-stain combo containing polyurethane or a clear finish.

Chipped Paint Repair

Painted cabinets may show signs of wear (i.e., chipped paint, cracked paint, discoloration, and fading). The original color of the cabinetry appearing underneath the current coat of paint can also occur. To renew painted cabinets, peel away the paint from the wood and repaint it.

Go to the paint store and buy a paint stripper and scraper. As you scrape most of the old finish (including the chipped area), you will notice its former look underneath the paint. Examine the bare wood for imperfections and handle those with a wood marker, putty or filler. 

After it dries, sand down the large or small area with medium and fine sandpaper. Wipe down with a tack cloth and add a peel stop primer to the smooth surface. Add a new coat of paint from a paint product on the dried surface.

After the first coat dries, paint a second coat if you want a darker shade. After that dries, paint a sealer on and let that dry. Grab 000 steel wool and rub lightly on the cabinet; remove residue with the tack fabric.

slim smiling woman in the kitchen at the table

The Finish Line

The good news is adding a sealer, or coating, is the final step. A sealer or coating on top of the existing paint is a shield that protects your hard work and prevents deterioration. A little polyurethane sealer or coating is suitable for cabinets and drawers in the entire kitchen. 

When polyurethane finished cabinets touch the grain of the wood, it maintains the cabinets’ good condition. The same is true for painted cabinets and topcoat-painted cabinets. Help keep it in pristine condition for a long time by using a soft cloth to remove a new stain that may show up.

Don’t forget to reinstall the hardware to the doors and the cabinet to its hinges when dry.

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