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How To Clean Bathroom Cabinets Before Painting Them

So you've decided to paint your bathroom cabinets, but you noticed they look a little dusty and there are a few toothpaste drips here and there from your child brushing their teeth. You know you need to clean them before you start painting, but what's the best way to do that? Well, we've researched the topic in-depth and have a solution for you. 

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Follow the steps below to clean bathroom cabinets before painting:

  1. Remove the doors and drawers if you can.
  2. Dust or vacuum away any loose debris.
  3. Use a degreasing cleaner, such as TSP, to clean the surfaces.
  4. Rinse off the cleaner with a clean sponge or rag.
  5. Prep the cabinets for painting.

We've given you the basic steps for cleaning bathroom cabinets, but keep reading as we elaborate on each one and discuss any materials you might need to get the job done. We'll also answer some other questions you might have about prepping your cabinets for painting. 

Beautifully designed contemporary bathroom, How To Clean Bathroom Cabinets Before Painting Them

Cleaning Bathroom Cabinets Before Painting

It is important to clean your cabinets before painting. If you don't, you might be left with dust particles painted onto the cabinets. This will leave you with an unsightly finish instead of the revamp that you hoped for. 

Step 1: Remove Doors And Drawers

If you haven't already, place drop cloths down. Since you need to remove your doors and drawers before painting anyway, go ahead and remove them now. It'll be easier to clean your cabinets this way. Place the doors and drawers on the drop cloth. 

Step 2: Dust & Vacuum The Cabinets

Take a vacuum or duster to your cabinets and give them a quick once over to remove any loose dirt or debris. You can also dust the doors and drawers.

Step 3: Use A Degreaser To Clean The Cabinets

This is the important step. You will need to purchase a cleaner that has degreasing properties. You can use trisodium phosphate and make a cleaning solution following the packaging's directions, or you can purchase an already prepared cleaner like Krud Kutter. Apply the cleaner to the cabinets. 

Step 4: Wipe and Rinse Off The Cleaner

Once you've applied the cleaner following the directions on the manufacturer's packaging, make sure to wipe your cabinets down with a clean cloth to remove any remaining product.  If not rinsed off properly, trisodium phosphate can leave a layer of film that will make it difficult for the paint to adhere to. 

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Step 5: Prep Your Cabinets For Painting

Once you've finished cleaning your cabinets, you are ready to begin prepping them for painting. 

What to wash cabinets with before painting?

We gave you a couple of options above, but let's discuss these and a few more products you can use to wash your cabinets further.  

Trisodium Phosphate

Trisodium Phosphate, or TSP, is the most recommended cleaner for prepainting. However, it is a hazardous material and can be unsafe for the environment. Be sure to use the proper protective clothing if you choose to use TSP. Typically, one part of TSP is combined with four parts of water to create a solution. 

Click here to see Trisodium Phosphate All-purpose Cleaner on Amazon.

TSP Substitute

If you want to avoid using TSP, look for a TSP substitute like Jasco TSP No-Rinse Substitute Cleaner. or Sunnyside Phosphate Free TSP Substitute.

Click here to see Jasco TSP No-Rinse Substitute Cleaner on Amazon.

Krud Kutter

Krud Kutter is a brand of cleaner. They have different cleaners for different situations. For prepainting, Krud Kutter Original Cleaner and Degreaser will work. They also offer a cleaner specifically for prepainting that is TSP-free. Either will get the job done. 

Click here to see Krud Kutter Prepaint Cleaner/Tsp Substitute on Amazon.

White Vinegar/Dawn

If you don't want to or don't have time to purchase a cleaner, you can create a cleaning solution at home using vinegar and dawn dish soap. Dawn has degreasing properties. This cleaner will not work on extra greasy cabinets but is good to use if you're in a pinch. 

How do you prep a bathroom cabinet for painting?

Close up of painting bathroom cabinets white

Cleaning the cabinets is an important step in prepping them for painting, but there are a few more additional steps you must do as well. 

Make sure your bathroom is prepped first. Put down drop cloths where you intend to paint to protect your floor from any drips.

Remove The Doors, Drawers, and Hardware

The first step to prepping your cabinet is to remove the doors, drawers, and any hardware. You shouldn't try to paint your cabinets while the doors are still attached. 

Make sure you take notes or mark the area the hardware went, so you know where to put it back. If you can, remove the front of the drawers as well. This isn't required but can make painting the surfaces of the drawer easier.  

Place the doors and drawers on a separate drop cloth where you have space to paint them. 

Clean The Cabinet

Once you've deconstructed your bathroom cabinets, it's time to follow the steps we listed earlier to clean your cabinet. 

Repair Any Damages and Sand The Cabinets

Bathroom cabinets are in a high-traffic area, so it's likely they have at least a few dings, dents, or scratches. You will need to repair these using a wood filler or putty before you can paint. Once you've applied the putty and let it dry, create a smooth, even surface by lightly sanding any extra product away. 

Click here to see Water-Based Wood & Grain Filler on Amazon.

Sand the entire area you are going to paint. Sand it lightly with sandpaper until it has a dull look. This will help both primer and paint adhere better. 

How can I paint my bathroom cabinets without sanding?

Sanding can seem tedious, so you may be wondering if there's a way to paint your cabinets without doing it. 

Though most people recommend not skipping sanding before painting your bathroom cabinets, it can be done. However, to still achieve a good finish on your cabinets, you will need to choose a quality primer. You can also choose a paint that doesn't require sanding or priming. 

Click here to see Beyond Paint All-in-One Refinishing Paint on Amazon.

Tape and Prime

Next, grab some painter's tape and tape around any areas you do not want to get paint on. Don't forget to tape along the edge of the interior of the cabinet as well.

Using a roller and paintbrush, apply a layer of primer to your cabinets. Let it dry and if needed, apply a second coat. Remember to follow any directions listed on the primer's can. 

Do I need to prime bathroom cabinets before painting?

Like sanding, your finish will look better if you do prime your cabinets before painting. This is even more important if you are painting over a darker color of paint. However, as we mentioned above, some paints can be applied directly to your cabinets without sanding or priming required. 

After you've cleaned, repaired, sanded, and primed, you are finally ready to begin painting your bathroom cabinets. 

Now that you're ready to paint your cabinets check out our other blog post for tips on what kind of paint to buy: What Kind Of Paint Should You Use On Bathroom Cabinets?

Final Thoughts


comfortable bathroom in modern design, wooden floor

Cleaning your cabinets before you paint them is very important to get a good finish. Hopefully, our article has explained the best way to clean your cabinets in preparation for painting and has given you some options for cleaners as well. Good luck with the rest of your project!

We've told you how to clean your cabinets, but we can also tell you how to paint them as well! Check out our other blog post on the topic here: How to Paint Bathroom Cabinets [9 Steps]