The DIY Wife
DIY Gel Staining Kitchen Cabinets. The DIY Wife

DIY Gel Staining Kitchen Cabinets


Hi again… I wanted to add some details from my most recent mini kitchen remodel for you guys. For years, I have been hating the ugly cabinets all over my house. When I first moved in, I stripped and stained the cabinets in the spare bathroom. They turned out great, but it was a ton of work. Way too much work for the whole kitchen. Last summer, I came across some gel stain that I used in my master bathroom. I loved this process,  it was much easier and turned out great. The problem with doing it in the kitchen was that I didn’t want to do it the same way as my bathroom. I ended up putting it on really thick in there and it looked more like paint than stain. As I soon found out, it is really hard to apply gel stain and make it look like real stain. My living and kitchen décor is rustic beachy, so I wanted to match that style and got as close as I could. 


The process used was pretty straightforward. First, I removed hardware and doors. I made sure to take my time and label each piece as I removed them. I used a permanent marker and wrote the door code I wanted to use on the cabinet doors. For example, I used codes like ULS1 for upper cabinet, first one on the left of the sink. I used the sink and range as reference points. I also put all of the hardware for that cabinet in a sandwich bag and labeled it with the same code. You can use any system that works for you, I would just recommend using something. My system made it super easy to put everything back together. 

After everything was taken apart, I cleaned the doors and cabinet bases. I made sure to get all of the gunk off the front, back and sides of the doors and bases. I used a solution of dawn and warm water, but you can also use TSP cleaner found at home improvement stores for a really good clean. 

DIY Gel Stain Kitchen Cabinets Sand. The DIY Wife

After everything was clean, it was time to prep. This part took a while. I had to sand all of the doors and bases. I used an orbital sander with 120 grit sandpaper for all of the parts I could. To get all of the nooks and crannies of the doors, I had to use a sanding block, and loose sandpaper. Take your time with this process. You don’t have to sand off the previous stain, but the gel stain doesn’t stick as well if you don’t scuff the surface. There were some spots that I missed that caused a problem. The stain didn’t stick to them as well and when I put on the first coat of poly, it rubbed off. I had to sand and stain again in those spots. Also make sure you sand down any welts or water blisters in the doors. The gel stain will not cover those up. 

DIY Gel Stain Kitchen Cabinets Prep. The DIY Wife

Next, I vacuumed the dust off of the cabinets, doors, counters and floors. There was still some dust on the doors and cabinets, so I took a wet rag to them to get all of the dust. This is a really important step, if you miss any dust, it will end up in your stain. Make sure you let it dry completely before taping off the edges, drawer faces and floor. I also put down plastic drop cloths to make it super easy to clean up any messes when I was done. I know it sucks and feels like you are never going to get done at this point, but remember the more you prep now, the easier cleanup will be. It makes a world of difference to not have to fix your mistakes later. 

DIY Gel Stain Kitchen Cabinets Staining. The DIY Wife

Next came the hardest part…stain time. It took a lot of trial and error to find a technique that worked well for me. I had to get a feel for how thick to apply the stain and how to get as many marks out as possible. It turned out really rustic, which I liked, but may not be for you. I would recommend practicing on scrap wood or cardboard if you can. I put on some disposable gloves and went to town with a rag. It took forever to get a coat of stain on the base and faces. Don’t forget that you have two faces and the sides of the cabinets to stain. I let each coat dry for 24 hours and did the fronts and backs of the doors separately. It took about three weeks to get the stain the way I wanted it, and get all of the coats on. Be patient, three weeks was worth it. I am going to see those cabinets several times a day for the foreseeable future. I would rather take my time and do it right, than rush and hate it. 

After you have the stain the way you want, it is time to protect it. I used Minwax wipe on poly. It is quick and easy. I put on three coats total. You can do more or less depending on how much protection your cabinets need. It only takes 4 hours to dry and then you can recoat. Plus, it gives it a nice shine and doesn’t take long to apply. You just follow the directions on the can and use a rag to apply. Any time I am touching chemicals with my hands, I use disposable gloves. I don’t want to soak those chemicals into my skin, plus it saves my nails. 

Once the poly is dry, it is time to reassemble and clean up. This part was a breeze and all of the prep work was so rewarding. It only took an hour to reinstall all of the cabinet faces, thanks to my system, and a few minutes to pull off the remainder of the tape and drop cloths. I love how it turned out. 

DIY Gel Stain Kitchen Cabinets Finished. The DIY Wife

Check out the Mini DIY Kitchen Remodel post to see more pictures of how it turned out. 

Happy DIY-ing!

Please follow and like me: