Paint Not Sticking To Cabinets? – Why? What To Do?

Are you painting your cabinets, and it's not working? Your paint doesn't stick to your cabinets, or it's slipping. There are reasons why this happens. This post will give you the information you need, from the reason behind the paint not sticking and the right way to paint your cabinets.

Your paint doesn't stick to your cabinets because the surface had not been sanded and wiped before painting. You may not have removed the oil or grease on your cabinets with a grease remover or applied primer. These are necessary for the paint to adhere well.

Follow the proper steps in painting your cabinets for a successful DIY project. Leaving out one step necessary during the preparation could ruin your whole project. But don't worry. Stay on the page to learn more details about cabinet painting and what mistakes to avoid.

What To Do If Paint Is Not Sticking To Your Cabinets

Painting your cabinets will upgrade your cabinets, at the same time, the whole area or room. Painting your kitchen cabinets, for example, can give a refreshing atmosphere throughout your kitchen. You can make your old cabinets look modern. 

Man painting cabinet on the kitchen

It also adds to the reselling price of your house when you want to sell it in the future. Remodeling and painting will increase the value of your property. You can change your storage layout and make it more spacious. 

One thing more, it is one of the easiest ways to give a new look to your cabinets. You can avail of some paints without much preparation or multiple coatings in the market.

Sand And Wipe Off Dust

A handyman using a piece of sandpaper to smoothen out the edge of a wall cabinet prior to painting

Your paint is not adhering to your cabinets or can be easily scraped off with a fingernail because you may have missed sanding and wiping off the dust in the preparation part. Preparation is equally essential to applying the paint or doing the main job.

It is very important to remove the dust and sand so the primer will stick well. Use medium grit sandpaper. Fold the sandpaper to reach the narrow areas.

Put painter's tape on your cabinet wall edges to cover the areas for not sanding. Of course, cover all the nearby appliances in your cabinets to protect them from sand dust.

Don't forget to wear protective gear such as an eye protector and working gloves. You can use sponge sandpaper or a regular one using your hand to sand the surface of your cabinets.

Check out these medium-grit sandpaper sheets on Amazon.

Remove Oil Or Grease

Cleaning the kitchen cabinet from grease

Paint is slippery, with traces of oil on your cabinet surface. Use the correct degreaser that matches the type of wood surface you have. Use a damp towel to clean the dust before and cleaning after applying. 

Use acetone in removing old remains of paint, if you're repainting, and dirt from your cabinets. It makes the new application of paint smooth and will stick properly. Wear protective gloves since you will be dealing with chemical solutions.

Check out this wood clean and shine spray on Amazon.

Apply Primer

A handyman applies a first coat of wood primer on the end panel of a cabinet

Apply a few coats or three coats of primer will do. Painting the cabinets right away can be a mistake. You need a primer for the paint to stick well on the cabinet surface and cover the unwanted scratches or smudges on the surface.

First, apply primer with a brush inside the cabinets, starting at the back and moving to the front. Cover all the edges and details inside with even brushes and finishes. Then, work on the outside frames.

There's an option to buy a special primer for smooth surfaces. It makes the paint adhere right on the surface and averts chipping off of paint. 

Check out this bonding primer on Amazon.

Brush, Roller, Or Spray

Different tools for applying paint on cabinets

There are different tools for applying paint on cabinets; a brush, roller, and spray. Each has unique features to help the paint adhere to the wood surface. 


A brush gives you solid strokes that make the paint stick and seeps on the surface. It also reaches the narrow spots of your cabinet, such as the interior details. However, the brush patterns can look too obvious, leaving brushy marks on your cabinets.

Check out this paintbrush set on Amazon.

Brush And Roller

Using a brush and a roller makes the painting project easier using only one tool. Use a roller on the exterior and a paintbrush on the interior with the small spaces. This combination results in a smoother paint look on your cabinet exterior.

Check out this paint roller on Amazon.


Spray painting your cabinets is the fastest way to finish the paint job. It provides a factory-finish look on your cabinet surface without brush strokes and drips from a paint roller. The result is consistent from one cabinet to another.

On the negative side, you have to use more paint, so it's costly. You need the experience to achieve a professional outcome for your cabinets, and you need to work with your working area.

You have to remove your cabinets or their parts, such as drawers and doors, outside or cover all the spaces where spray paint can unnecessarily reach.

Check out this paint sprayer on Amazon.

Tips For Painting Cabinets

A man applies wood putty to the corner gaps inside the wall cabinet

Aside from following the necessary preparation steps, your cabinets will have a smooth and flawless appearance with some painting tips and tricks. You may have overlooked tiny details, but the tips and tricks will remind you of the things you should not miss.

  • Fill obvious-looking grains with putty to have a smooth appearance.
  • Set aside 4 to 7 days for your preparation time. Be committed to your DIY project.
  • Protect your countertops and the insides of your cabinets with newspaper, drop cloths or painter's tape.
  • It is advisable to use a 2-in. angle brush for painting the cabinet interior. Use a fine-textured roller, and if you have experience using a sprayer, you may do so.
  • Detach the cabinet doors, drawers and knobs, and hinges to paint them in a suitable working area, prevent the wearing off of paint, and properly paint every angle and corner. And label them to know where to re-install the parts exactly.
  • You can have a different color with your upper cabinets from the lower ones. However, before purchasing colors, have a tester to have a grasp on what it would look like.
  • Dry the cabinets and the parts thoroughly before installing them back to avoid smudging the paint. Wait for at least 48 hrs. to dry your cabinets and the parts.
  • Apply numerous thin layers of paint instead of brushing it in one go with a thick layer. 

Check out this wood putty on Amazon.

How To Maintain Cabinets

Hands in yellow protective rubber gloves is cleaning handles of kitchen cabinets at home

Regular maintenance provides your cabinets with a longer lifespan and is hassle-free. Painting and upgrading your cabinets can be a grueling task. But maintenance is a non-negotiable task in ensuring your cabinets are sturdy and long-lasting.

Here are ways to maintain your cabinets so they'll still look new:

  1. Wipe off oil, food, liquid spills, and hand marks on your cabinets regularly.
  2. Never expose or contact your cabinets with moisture, such as damp towels or any sources of moisture.
  3. Remove dust from your cabinets with a microfiber cloth instead of a sponge or dishcloth that may draw bacteria.
  4. Inspect for any cracks, dents, and scratches for an immediate fix. Never leave minor damages for days before attending to it.
  5. Deep clean your cabinets every year or twice a year.
  6. Regulate the drawers, screws, runners, and hinges to keep them tight and in position.
  7. Perform routine checks for the overall condition of your cabinets to see if there are any overlooked damages.
  8. Wood expands, warps, or becomes too dry in high temperatures or humid places. Manage the indoor temperature where your cabinets are in a moderate or cool temperature to avoid such damage.
  9. Never use strong or harsh cleaners. Avoid using cleaning agents with bleach, ammonia, organic solvents, or citric acid. It will destroy your cabinet's finish.
  10. Clean your cabinets with a soft, damp cloth without any strong cleaner. Avoid using rough cloth or sponges in wiping your cabinet surface.

Check out this microfiber cleaning cloth on Amazon.

Summing Up

The paint on your cabinets doesn't stick or chip off because you skipped sanding, didn't apply primer, or forgot to remove oil or grease.

If you missed any of these steps, there's a big chance that your paint won't adhere to your cabinets well. Follow all the necessary steps during preperation.

Discover more about preparation and painting wood in these posts:

How Long To Let Primer Dry [Inc. Before Paint, Before Sanding, Before Wallpaper, Or Between Coats],

How To Paint Laminate Cabinets [8 Steps]

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