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How To Prep Cabinets for an Amazing Paint Finish

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Today we’re going to learn how to prep cabinets for an AMAZING paint finish! Before starting a bathroom or kitchen cupboard makeover, you really need to prepare cabinets for paint.

prepare cabinets for paint yellow cupboards sprayed with krud kutter with gloved hand


Are you thinking about updating your bathroom cabinets?

Or painting your kitchen cupboards?

Well, before you start painting those ugly ducklings (that will soon be swans… just you wait and see!), you need to be sure to prep them for their lovely new coats… of paint, that is. (See what I did there?)

Today I’m sharing the second post in a 3-part series on how to paint cabinets the easy way!

Part I in the series is DIY Cabinet Repairs, the quick and easy way! Even before prepping your cabinets, the first thing to do is make any quick repairs!

My next post will be on how to actually paint your cupboards in one day! Be patient, it’s coming! 😉

So, let’s get right to the tutorial, in case you want to prep your cabinets today!

This post may contain affiliate links, at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my complete disclosure HERE.

How to Prepare Cabinets for Paint

What You’ll Need

To get the CLEANEST cupboards around, here’s what you’ll need, and also what was suggested by the paint kit I used. (Yep, I’ll let you know what kit I used in the next post!)

prepare cabinets for paint items for painting and prepping
How do you like my backdrop? And, yes, you definitely need a glass of water… keep hydrated, people!

Almost all of these items can be ordered online and picked up curbside at your local Home Depot!

What Do I Clean Cabinets with Before Painting?

Well, if you haven’t guessed, the first thing to do is to clean any dirt, grime, or residues that may be on your cabinets.

For the bathroom, that can include hair product build-up on edges and trims of your cabinets. For kitchens that means food, grease, and dust that accumulates in places you can’t see (sometimes 😉 ).

So what I found to the be best product for cutting through the crud is, well, Krud Kutter.

(Oh, btw, remove the cabinet hardware at this point (pulls and knobs)).

prepare cabinets for paint yellow cupboards sprayed with krud kutter with gloved hand
How do you like my pink painting sweats? I know, I’m so cool!

Just spray, let set for 30-60 seconds, and then scrub the trim and corners with a toothbrush to loosen up any residues. And wipe clean with a damp cloth (even a couple times).

yellow cupboards cleaned with krud kutter with gloved hand and toothbrush
I just realized my camera settings were wrong, thus the blurry photos! And selfies are always hard… Sorry!

Do You Have to Sand Cabinets Before Painting?

This is a question heard round the world. Okay, well maybe just on DIY blogs, but I digress.

It really depends on what type of paint you are using on your cabinets. (How do you like that answer?)

Many DIYers that I know have used chalk paint on their cupboards for a uber-matte finish. It’s my understanding that you don’t NEED to sand if you are using chalk paint (and when I chalkpaint furniture/wood items, I don’t sand them either).

However, with the paint kit I used, they recommend sanding your cabinets. Sanding helps prep your cabinets for an amazing paint finish by removing any gloss your cabinets may still have, along with removing anything you may have missed with the Krud Kutter.

man sanding wood with sandpaper
Cheater photo… this is what happens when you throw yourself into a project… you forget to take pics!

Sanding Is More Fun Than I Thought!

I recommend removing your cabinet doors at this point, in order to avoid any unnecessary tugging and pulling on the hinges while sanding. Don’t be afraid, I found this part to be easy, and strangely fun!

First unscrew the hinges inside where the door is attached to the cabinet wall. Then unscrew from the door and remove. (Remember to keep those screws and hinges in a zip lock bag.)

Then simply take your 320 grit sandpaper and lightly sand your cabinets. “Pro” tip: fold the sandpaper and use the fold to sand the trim areas.

Final Cleaning Steps to Prepare Cabinet for Paint

The last two things you need to do is clean, again… and again.

After the sanding is done, follow the directions on the TSP, and wipe down your cabinets with your wiping cloths or microfiber cloths (I prefer the microfiber for this). This will clean off the dust and remove more of the gloss on your cabinets, preparing them for great adhesion of your paint!

prepare cabinets for paint items for painting and prepping
Cheater photo #2, because I didn’t remember to stop cleaning!

After the cupboards are dry from the last cleaning, take your window cleaner and do a final wipe down, making sure to pay close attention to the areas where your hardware is placed (we want to remove any oils that may be left behind by our hands).

Taping Off Cabinets for Painting

The last step to prepping bathroom cabinets for a paint finish that looks like the pros is taping off areas that you want protected from the paint.

Pro tip: Just use Frog Tape… don’t mess with any other brand or color!

Frog Tape is easy to use, adheres like magic, and removes leaving behind crisp, clear lines! Just tear off from the roll, place two side-by-side rows along the areas you want to protect (think walls and counters), and ‘run-over’ the edges of the tape with a credit card. This will make those lines even cleaner!

yellow cabinet with doors removed and frog tape on edges
I added the second row of tape after this photo.

That’s it! You’re ready to paint!

Mind you, the prepping was the hardest part of this whole bathroom cabinet update. And, I took lots of breaks to hydrate and cool down! But, the end product was sure worth all the prep work that went into it!

Update: This 3-part series is now available to you!

Now It’s Your Turn!

Have you ever painted your cabinets? What was your experience like? Any tips for prepping that worked great for you? Let us know in the comments!

signature updated 2022
yellow cabinet with doors removed and frog tape on edges

How To Prepare Cabinets for an Amazing Paint Finish

Active Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours

Before starting a paint update on bathroom or kitchen cupboards, you really need to prepare cabinets for paint.


  • Krud Kutter
  • 320 Grit Sandpaper
  • TSP cleaner
  • Window Cleaner
  • Frog tape (1")
  • Latex-free or latex disposable gloves
  • Wiping or microfiber cloths
  • Old clean toothbrush (optional)
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Credit card or rigid, flat item
  • Bucket or plastic container


    1. Remove cabinet hardware and spray Krud Kutter on the surface. Let set for 30-60 seconds. Scrub the trim and corners with a toothbrush to loosen up any residue. Wipe clean with a damp cloth (even a couple times).
    2. Remove cabinet doors from frames using a screwdriver. Unscrew from the frame first, then unscrew from the doors and remove. Place hinges and screws in zip lock bag.
    3. Lightly sand doors and frames with 320 grit sandpaper, making sure to sand trim and corners. (Pro tip: Fold the sandpaper and use the fold to sand hard-to-reach areas.)
    4. Following the directions on the box, wipe down the cabinets with TSP using the microfiber cloths.
    5. Using the window cleaner, do a final wipe down of the doors and frames paying close attention to hardware areas.
    6. Finally, use Frog Tape to protect walls and counters from paint swipes. Use two side-by-side rows on walls, and go over tape with a credit card to ensure crisp, clean lines*.


*A credit card can come in handy to push the tape behind the cabinet frame that sits against the wall.

Did you make this project?

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  1. I agree that prepping is the worst part of a painting job and it takes so long, but its so worth it to get a great end result. It is wonderful that your landlord is allowing you to make improvements to your home that you can enjoy while living there.

    1. It really is worth it. I accidentally bumped the bottom of the cupboard with a ladder the other day… didn’t harm the paint at all (or the cabinet)!

  2. Great tip and product suggestions. Prepping is definitely worth all the effort put into a painting project. Yes, FROG TAPE ~ can’t say it loudly enough ~ the best tape ever!

  3. Great tips Julie! I always just want to jump right in and do it! My husband always has to slow me down and remind me to prep. I laugh and say, why do you have to complicate this? Ha! He’s right though, it’s always best to do it right! Thank you for linking up at Embracing Home and Family!

    1. So glad to be part of your party each week! It’s a lovely get-together. And, I’m SUPER glad I did the prep. I have actually hit the cupboard with a hammer (TP holder installation gone bad)… and the paint TOTALLY held-up… looks perfect still!

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