How To Restain Bathroom Cabinets [5 Steps]

If you want to give your bathroom cabinets a new look but don't want the expense of replacing them, restaining them is an easy and effective option. You can complete this step by yourself at home too, further reducing your cost. Are you a novice at home DIY and wondering how to restain your cabinets on your own? We've done extensive research to make the process easy to understand. 

You can follow these steps to make restaining your bathroom cabinets and easy DIY project:

  1. Prep your work area 
  2. Remove hardware 
  3. Sand the cabinets 
  4. Stain your cabinets 
  5. Finishing up 

If you follow these 5 steps, you will have beautifully restained bathroom cabinets before you know it. Keep reading to learn more about each of these steps. We will explain them in detail so you can feel confident about taking on your bathroom makeover.

stained wood cabinet in a bathroom with sink faucet and vanity mirror, How to restain bathroom cabinets [5 steps]

Staining Your Cabinets 

Step 1: Preparing Your Work Area 

Make sure that the area you are working in is protected and supplied with everything you need before you begin working. You can use tarps, painter's tape, or large sheets to cover everything that you are not staining, including the floor and the walls. If you have items inside or on top of your cabinets, you will want to put them somewhere else temporarily, so they do not get ruined. 

The supplies you will need for this step are painter's tape and sheets or tarps. 

Step 2: Removing the Hardware 

It is easier for a neat and clean finished look to remove the cabinet's handles and any other accent hardware installed. That way, you can stain the wood surface without worrying about avoiding the attached hardware. 

For this step, you will need a screwdriver. 

Step 3: Sanding the Cabinets 

Now that your area is prepped and your hardware has been removed, it is time to prep the wood surface. It may be tempting to skip this step, with the thought that staining the cabinet will hide any imperfections. Unfortunately, though, the opposite is true. If you stain over your cabinet's imperfections and blemishes, they will stand out in the finished product. Taking the time to sand before staining will make the difference between a finished product that looks professional and one that looks rushed.

To complete this step, start with a 180 grit sandpaper to remove all of the blemishes, scratches, and bumps in your cabinet's surfaces. Then, use 220 grit sandpaper to sand your cabinets into a nice even finish. Not only should sanding remove all of the imperfections in your cabinets, but it should also remove any finish or color that was previously applied. When you are done with this step, your cabinets should be sanded down to raw, unfinished wood. 

The supplies you will need for this step are a dust mask, 180 grit sandpaper, 220 grit sandpaper, and a sander (optional). 

Click here to see this sandpaper variety pack on Amazon.

Or, make this step easier by using a power sander.

Click here to see it on Amazon. 

Can You Restain Cabinets Without Sanding? 

As discussed above, sanding your cabinets before staining them is highly recommended in most cases. However, if your cabinets are brand new or have very little damage, you can get away with not sanding them first. If you choose not to sand your cabinets, be sure that the new stain you choose will cover any existing finish or color that was on your cabinets previously. 

Step 4: Staining the Cabinets 

Now that your cabinets are all prepped, they are ready to be stained. Use a paintbrush to apply the stain to your cabinets. It is important to take your time during this step and make sure that the coat you are applying is even. Stain is not as forgiving as paint, and an uneven application or haphazard brush strokes will be noticeable when the project is finished, and the stain has dried. 

If you are familiar with paint, you know that multiple coats cover the previous color and make the application look even. Your wall's final look will match the color you have chosen, no matter how many coats you apply. This is another way that stain is different from paint. Each time you apply a coat of stain, the resulting color will be darker. To ensure that you get the shade you want, take the time to let each coat dry before adding a new coat. Remember that you can always add another coat of stain to make the color darker, but you can't do anything short of starting over if your final color is too dark and you want to lighten it. 

The supplies you will need for this step are paintbrushes, stain, and sealer. 

What Kind of Stain Should I Use? 

Water-based stains are preferable for the bathroom environment because they are resistant to mildew and mold. They also dry quicker than oil-based stains, making them a good match for the naturally humid bathroom environment. 

Click here to see all the options for this stain on Amazon. 

Step 5: Finishing Up 

When you are pleased with your cabinets' color, and you have let them dry, you can begin cleaning up your space. Remove all of the materials you have used to protect your surfaces and return all of your items back to their original places. 

Of course, you can re-install the hardware that you removed before you began your project, but this is a good time to give your hardware an upgrade as well. You may find that a different finish of hardware will match better with the color you have chosen for your cabinets. Our article "10 Best Finishes for Bathroom Fixtures" is a great source of inspiration for learning more about the available finishes. 

For this step, the supplies you will need are your existing or new hardware set, a screwdriver, and a lint-free rag to give your bathroom a final polish. 

Should I Seal Stained Wood? 

While sealing wood after staining it is not required, it is recommended. Sealing the wood keeps it protected from scratches and stains, and it prevents the stain from fading. If you choose to seal your cabinets, you will complete this step after your stain has dried and before you clean up your workspace. 


Restaining your cabinets is an easy and cost-effective and way to refresh your bathroom without having to undergo a major renovation. Since wood stain is available in a wide variety of shades, your cabinets can fit into any aesthetic you wish you use in your bathroom, from trendy to classic.

If you are looking for more inspiration for your bathroom cabinets, these articles might be worth a read! 

"Dark or Light Cabinets In Bathroom? 5 Tips to Keep in Mind" 

"Does Bathroom Hardware Have to Match?" 


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