Preparing Kitchen Cabinets for Painting: Stripping and Scraping

Welcome to our Budget DIY Kitchen Remodel project. Links to each step of the project can be found on our Budget DIY Kitchen Remodel home page.

My kitchen’s cabinets aren’t anything too special, and they’ve even got a bit of wear and water damage, but they are wood – and that means I can strip them clean and paint or stain them however I like! Preparing kitchen cabinets for painting is a project in and of itself.

The whole cabinet painting process is going to go like this:

  1. Strip existing paint/varnish with Citristrip and a scraper (this post!)
  2. Sand cabinets with an electric hand sander (next post!)
  3. Prime cabinets with a primer
  4. Paint cabinets with a quality enamel 

This step is about stripping the cabinets. I hauled each cabinet door into the garage, smeared them with Citristrip gel, and let ’em sit for a while.

Citristrip stripping gel for kitchen cabinet painting

Below are two cabinet doors coated with paint stripper. Why are they already painted? Let’s just say that was a failed experiment at putting latex paint directly onto the cabinets. Do not put latex paint directly onto the cabinets, it will not stick – it will flake off and look crazy ugly.

preparing kitchen cabinets for painting with stripping gel

I used a plastic paintbrush to get the stripping gel into every nook and cranny.

preparing kitchen cabinets for painting with stripping gel and a brush

Citristrip works fast – after about 30 minutes I was able to start scraping. This was messy and tedious work.

preparing kitchen cabinets for painting by scraping off existing paint and varnish

It took most of the afternoon to strip and scrape each of the cabinet doors, but they are now paint- and varnish-free.

preparing kitchen cabinets for painting ready for sanding

Next step: sanding the cabinet doors.

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