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How to Paint Cabinets Without Sanding

How to Paint Cabinets Without Sanding.

I have to be honest.  I feel a little blasphemous for saying this, especially when so many of you out there are pro-DIYers, but….IrarelysandwhenIpaintoverwood.  

Phew!  Now, that I’ve got that out of the way, let me explain just how I get away with painting things, like cabinets, without sanding.

First, I have to take a moment to brag give you a little background about my dad.  He’s spent his entire life in the construction business.  He started on the job when he was quite young, then moved into the office as an estimator.  When the owner of the company he worked for retired, he took over as part owner for 12 years.  Owning a company involved an incredible amount of work and stress though, so he eventually resigned from that company.  He moved to another company where he was essentially doing the exact same job, just without the stress of ownership.  My dad is a perfectionist through-and-through and has won numerous national awards for his work.  So, needless to say, when it comes to any type of home project, I trust his judgement fully.  (Okay, bragging explaining concluded.)

My dad has remodeled/renovated the house that I grew up in (and that my parents are still living in) many times over.  So, whenever my brother and I have questions about home projects, he is our first, and often only, source of information.  And this is the method he recommends for painting wood.

(This post contains affiliate links.  For my full disclosure, go here.)

Supplies needed:

      1. Paintbrush (and roller) – We use Purdy products
      2. Deglosser/Liquid Sander – (My dad recommends the brand Paso.  It can’t be found in my area though, so I use this.)
      3. Some type of soft rag – An old t-shirt works well for this
      4. Primer – Our favorite is Sherwin Williams Pro-Block
      5. Paint – Again, our favorite is Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic in semi-gloss
      6. Small square of sandpaper – (I know I said no sanding, so just stick with me here.)
      7. Drop cloth 
      8. Paint thinner (for cleaning brushes)
      9. Painters tape (if needed)
      10. Chemical resistant gloves (if you have sensitive skin)

And that’s it.  So, let’s get started.

The first step is to wipe down the entire surface that you are painting with the deglosser.  


Simply pour a generous amount onto your rag and rub the surface in a circular motion.  Fold and re-saturate the cloth frequently.  Repeat until entire surface has been coated.

Liquid sander/deglosser essentially breaks down the surface that it is applied to, or micro-etches it, allowing paint to better adhere.  Bear in mind, it does use chemicals to achieve this, but it saves a massive amount of prep time.

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without sanding!
My husband very generously let me use his hands for the photo. 🙂

Let this dry for about 10-15 minutes, and you are ready to move on to the next step – painting!

Now, here’s where it may get a bit tricky.  The Sherwin Williams Pro-Block and Pro-Classic are available in both latex base and oil base.  My dad has always recommended using oil based paint when painting over wood.  Oil paint provides an amazing looking finish, and it is significantly more durable than latex.  It can be a bit tough to work with though, especially if you’ve never used it before.  (You’ll need to make sure that your paintbrushes are suitable for oil paint.  Oil brushes have different bristles than latex brushes.)

Once your deglosser has dried for 10-15 minutes, give your cabinets a coat of primer.  

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without sanding

Make sure your brush strokes are going with the grain of wood, not against it.  With oil paint, you don’t want to get too much on your brush at a time, and you’ll want to move somewhat quickly.  You certainly don’t need to feel frantic or rushed, but oil paint becomes quite tacky after it’s been applied to a surface.  So, once you have created a brush stroke, you won’t be able to brush over that same spot again and again to smooth it out perfectly because the paint will be too tacky.  Don’t panic, though, when your first coat looks terribly uneven.  Oil paint really does a pretty good job of leveling itself out.

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without sanding!
This is why I say don’t panic. Here is what our cabinets looked like after one coat of primer.

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without sanding!

For our cabinets, we removed the doors and painted them in the garage.  The doors of our cabinets are actually two separate pieces.  The inside panel of the door is removable.  So, after removing the panels, my husband painted them with a roller.  The outside frame of the doors, as well as all of the stationary cabinet, were painted with a brush.  (Another important note: Oil paint is more prone to running than latex.  So, this is another reason you want to be careful not to use too much paint.  Stick to fairly thin coats, otherwise you may end up with drip marks.)

If you have a piece, or cabinet, that has a large flat area, feel free to paint that with a roller, as it will probably be quicker and more even.  Any detail work though, will obviously need to be done with a brush.

Moving on.  Because oil paint is so tacky, it takes a while to fully set and dry.  So, you’ll want to make sure that each coat has dried enough before moving on to the next coat.  We had no problem doing one coat per day until the project was finished.  

After getting a coat of primer on, it is time to break out the paint.  This is actually where the little square of sand paper comes in.  We did a very light sanding in between coats.  Truly, it was nothing heavy duty.  Just a very quick once over to help the next coat adhere.  (Honestly, it’s not a necessary step.  So, feel free to use it, or not.)  

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without sanding!
This was after the first coat of paint.

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without sanding!

The same rules that I mentioned above apply here as well.  If you are working with oil paint, don’t get too much on your brush, move relatively quickly, and don’t repaint over the same area too much.  You’ll find that with every coat you do, you will become more and more comfortable working with oil paint.  

I would recommend at least a full day in between coats.  My husband and I did 1 coat of primer and 2 coats of paint on these cabinets.  Once you have completely covered the original surface, you’re done! 

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without the work of sanding.
This is what we started with.
Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without sanding!
And here’s the finished product!

A fantastic, and easy, way to paint cabinets without sanding!

Here's a fantastic, and easy!, way to paint cabinets without any sanding

Note: As I mentioned earlier, oil paint takes a while to fully dry and set.  Once you’ve completed painting, you will need to be careful with your project for a few days to a week.  The paint will be easier to nick if it has not fully set yet.  So, just be gentle for a little while.  🙂

Another note: Oil paint can only be removed with paint thinner or mineral spirits (although paint thinner works best).  You will not be able to clean your brushes, or your hands, with just water.

So, there you have it.  That is how I paint without sanding.  This particular painting project was part of a quick bathroom redo that we did right after the holidays.  I’ll be revealing the whole thing next week.  So, stay tuned!

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18 Comments

    1. You should go for it! It makes such a big difference in a room. Although kitchen cabinets are definitely a big undertaking… Thanks for taking a look! And good luck with your painting. 🙂

  1. I wish I would’ve seen this before I painted all our bath vanities. I didn’t sand and used your process of primer + paint. But I think I used the wrong type of paint as it knicks easily and feels gummy. My plan to escape the summer heat is to redo them all. Will have to try oil paint. Visiting from Happy Now Party.

    1. You’ll definitely want to use a deglosser first. This is the step that allows you to skip sanding. Hopefully, you will be happier after redoing them. Oil paint definitely won’t feel gummy (after it fully sets). And while it can still be knicked, overall it’s very durable. It’s a little tricky to get used to, but it really is fairly forgiving. Good luck!

  2. I’ve been wanting to paint my cabinets forever. You can’t know how relieved I am that I can cheat the sanding process. (Nobody has time for that, right?!) You did a fantastic job, by the way!

    #happynowlinkup

    1. Exactly! This is such a time saver. You should go for it with your cabinets. It makes such a big difference to any space. Thanks for taking a look, and good luck!

    1. I love white cabinets! We painted our kitchen cabinets white a couple of years ago, and I love how much brighter the kitchen is now. It can be a time-consuming project, especially if you’re tackling a lot of cabinets at once. It’s so worth it though! Thanks for taking a look!

  3. Thank you for this information! I’ll be painting a piece of furniture this weekend, and really don’t want to sand it. Deglosser is now on my list and I can’t wait to get started!

    1. Yes! This makes the process so much easier! Good luck with your painting project. It’s always fun to transform something. 🙂

  4. The sanding is what has kept me from doing my cabinets! Your cabinet turned out great Amy!!! Thank you for the great tutorial and thank you for joining us at first edition of Create and Celebrate!!

    1. I would probably never paint anything if I had to sand first. Haha! Thanks so much for taking a look! And I’m loving the Create and Celebrate concept! I’m looking forward to stopping by every week. 🙂

  5. I bought deglosser a couple weeks ago for the 1st time and I’m so excited to give it a try. It sounds like a dream, really 😉 Your cabinets turned out beautiful! Now I just need to give oil based paints a shot too

    1. Yes! I love deglosser! It’s so easy to use and saves so much time. Good luck with whatever project you’re using it on. 🙂 Thanks for taking a look!

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