Can You Paint Cabinets Without Sanding?

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Repainting old and out-of-style cabinets is all the rage nowadays. However, you may feel a bit apprehensive about taking on the big task of repainting your cabinets.

If you’re doing it on your own, your worst fear is doing something that ends up looking bad.

In this blog post, we’re specifically going to talk about whether or not it’s necessary to sand your cabinets before painting your cabinets.

If you’re ready to give your cabinets a fresh coat of paint, then let’s go and save time without sanding, then read on…

Why Skip Sanding

Sanding down can create the potential for moisture to seep in our out of the wood and we all know that moisture inside of the wood is NO BUENO.

Especially for cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom that are exposed to liquid on a daily basis.

When You Should & Shouldn’t Skip Sanding

Here’s when you’ll want to sand:

  • Your cabinets are damaged, have peeling paint.
    It’s a really shiny surface because of the material or a specific coating.
    If the old paint is chipping, the cabinet is scratched or generally in bad shape.
    If you’re going to use a water-based primer

If your cabinets are in such bad shape that you really need to aggressively sand them, maybe you should consider just replacing them.

If that’s not an option for budget reasons, then go ahead and sand away.


Instead of sanding the cabinets, we’re going to use a liquid deglosser. You’ll also need a scrub pad, cloths’, paint, and a protective topcoat.

We also recommend using the Rust-Oleum’s Cabinet Transformation Kit because it comes packaged with everything you’ll need to get the job done.

Painting Cabinets Step By Step

Protect Non-Painting Area

To get started, we need to prep the area. This is no different than painting cabinets with sanding or even painting any other type of service.

Get as much furniture out of the way, cover the light sockets & apply builder’s paper to protect the floor from the deglossing liquid.


Use soap and water to wash and wipe clean the cabinet doors. You’ll want to remove grime, grease, dirt, and oil prints from your fingers.

Apply Deglosser

Pro Tip: Make sure you’re wearing gloves before you start applying the deglosser

Grab your scrub/scouring pad and rub on the deglosser in the direction of the grain, then wipe the cabinets down. You’ll want to apply the deglosser liberally so it gets in every nook and cranny. As liberally as you apply the deglosser, you’ll want to use a wet rag liberally to wipe the entire surface giving you a matte finish.

Pro Tip: Avoid scrubbing one section for too long because it can scratch the wood.

Make sure you get all the hard-to-reach places like corners and undersides of the cabinets with the deglosser.

Let everything dry for exactly 30 minutes (set a timer) so you can apply the primer.

Label Doors & Remove Hardware

We have a simple system for keeping track of hardware and screws. Simply put the hardware into the cabinet it belongs to with a piece of tape to indicate the bottom hinge.

You can also put all the items in a box labeled with their location (which cabinet and where).


You’ll want to prime your cabinets with two thin coats of primer within 1 hour after the deglosser has dried. The deglosser usually takes about 30 minutes to dry so make sure priming is done within 90 minutes of you finishing the deglossing.


Apply a coat of paint to all primed surfaces as well as a second coat of paint using top-to-bottom strokes along the grain.

Related: Kitchen Cabinet Painting

Reassemble & Rehang

After doing all of this hard work, you’ll likely want to put your cabinets back up ASAP to see your finished product.

NOT so fast my friend!

As boring as it is to sit and watch your doors dry on the floor, you’re better off waiting. Watching paint dry is about as boring as… Well watching paint dry.