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How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets White (DIY Tutorial)

How to paint kitchen cabinets white - 9 steps

While repainting the cabinetry in your entire kitchen may not be a one-weekend project, it’s certainly one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to completely refresh the look of your home!

Why white? White kitchens are beautiful. They’re definitely popular. Likely it’s psychological in that white is calming and gives off the aura of clean, which counteracts the work and messes that occur in kitchens.

The project will be time consuming, but requires no special skills or expensive tools. You merely need to bring your dedication and patience along with some space and time to work.

Before we jump into the actual painting process, let’s cover some basic essentials you’ll need to fill your kitchen with sparkling white cabinetry. You’re going to need a handful of supplies to start, all of which we’ve detailed below.


  • Screwdriver or electric drill
  • Paint – Oil based or 100% acrylic latex, semi-gloss, or gloss.
  • Primer – Do not skip this! Aim for a primer labeled “high build” or “sandable.”
  • Degreaser or TSP (trisodium phosphate)
  • An angled brush
  • Sandpaper – You’ll want 100 grit (medium) and 220 grit (fine)
  • Sponge (to use with degreaser/TSP)
  • Gloves (to use with degreaser/TSP)
  • Tack Cloth

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Extras: you’re going to want some place to set the doors while they dry, either paint pyramids or boards with nails hammered through.

You’ll also want a shop vacuum to clean up the mess, and of course some plastic sheeting to protect your floors and countertops while you paint.

Let’s begin!

Supplies needed for painting kitchen cabinets

1. The first thing you’ll want to do is gather all necessary supplies and set up a workspace.

The easiest method will be to spread your materials and workspace on the kitchen floor.

Begin by spreading out your plastic sheeting or an old blanket over the entire intended work area. Be sure to put away any food, dishes, or other sensitive items before you fill the air with sawdust and paint.

Removing kitchen cabinets for painting.

2. Remove the cabinet doors and hardware.

Here is where we start working! Using your screwdriver or drill, remove the doors and attached hardware from the cabinetry.

Make sure that you have laid out your plastic sheeting below to catch all of the dust and grit that will fall out. You can also prevent scratches when setting the freshly liberated doors down.

Cleaning and sanding kitchen cabinets

3. Carefully use your degreaser or TSP and thoroughly clean every part of your doors and cabinet boxes.

Make sure to get any grooves or contours, edges, and any other hard to reach spots.

This step is essential in laying the groundwork for your future painting, removing any dirt, dust, stains, or grease that may have accumulated over the years. Remember to use gloves if you want to protect your skin!

Painting kitchen cabinets

4. Sand the cabinets and boxes with your 100 grit sandpaper.

Going with the grain, use some muscle and really get in there, roughing the surface completely. Make sure to get every angle of every bit of the surface for a uniform look.

When finished, make sure to vacuum up all of the excess dust immediately, before it has a chance to spread.

5. Using the tack cloth, wipe all remaining dust away.

You want the surface of your cabinets and doors to be as clean and particle-free as possible for the next step, so be thorough!

Priming kitchen cabinets for painting

6. Apply the primer.

When applying your primer, start with the inner panel. Go against the grain on the first pass, then go with it. This helps ensure that the grain is filled in, creating the smoothest surface possible.

Allow the primer to dry completely. You can prime your cabinet boxes while you wait.

7. Sand again.

Once the primer has thoroughly dried, it’s time to sand again. Using your fine-grit sandpaper, sand away any brush strokes or uneven primer. This is where you’ll create as smooth a surface as you possibly can.

Take your time with this step, and go into painstaking detail. Having an adequately prepared surface is key to great results with this project.

Make sure to vacuum any and all sawdust after this step, again. Use your tack cloth once again to ensure that the surface is perfectly clean.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 at least once.

This is crucial to making professional-looking cabinets that will absolutely pop with whiteness in your refreshed kitchen. It means applying 2 or 3 coats of primer, sanding with the fine-grit sandpaper between each coat, and one final time before painting.

Do not skip the repeat coats: this step will make the difference between something that looks good for only a moment, and beautiful cabinetry that will last for years.

Paint kitchen cabinets

9. Finally, paint the doors and cabinets.

You’re now ready to apply the paint! Grab that angled brush, and start on the back panels of your cabinet doors, just as you did with the primer. However, this time go with the grain only.

Apply a relatively thin coat. Avoid slathering it on or dripping. Let this coat dry before flipping it over and painting the other side.

Allow the paint to dry thoroughly, on a level surface. In the meantime, feel free to paint your cabinet boxes, using the exact same techniques.

Once completely dry, make a pass with the tack cloth to capture any remaining dust. Now, apply a second coat in the same careful, relatively thin manner. This will ensure your cabinets look perfect.

If you need a third coat (you might!), you’re well-versed enough at this point to know what to do.

Replacing kitchen cabinets

10. Dry and replace.

At this point, you’re going to rest. Let the cabinets dry and cure for a couple days at least. Once they’re completely dry, you can reattach the hardware and mount them back on the cabinet boxes.

Congratulations! You’ve now repainted your kitchen cabinets white. Luxuriate in your freshly pristine white kitchen and toast to a job well done. You’ve earned it!

Illustrated Summary (Infographic):

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets White - Illustrated DIY Tutorial

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