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Can you Paint Kitchen Cabinets without Sanding?

Can you paint kitchen cabinets without sanding? If you can paint kitchen cabinets without sanding, what products should you use?

Painting kitchen cabinets can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before. There is so much information and so many opinions about how to paint kitchen cabinets that it’s hard to read just one “how to” post and learn everything you need to know. By the way, this post can also pertain to painting furniture without sanding too.

Today I’m not sharing a “how to” post, but rather my experience with painting kitchen cabinets without sanding. I’ve shared how it turned out and a few tricks I’ve learned along the way. Let’s get right to it!

can you paint kitchen cabinets without sanding?

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Can you paint kitchen cabinets without sanding?

Yes you can, but it all depends on the surface you are painting and what paint you are using. The purpose of sanding cabinets before using paint is to create enough texture for the paint to grip to. If you forgo the sanding, you need to make sure the paint you are using has a bonding agent OR you need to use a bonding primer before you paint. There are also other products that can achieve similar results as sanding (like liquid sandpaper) without the mess of it!

Are there paints that don’t requires sanding? Yes, but proceed with caution. What I mean is that just because they say that primer or sanding isn’t required, doesn’t mean it’s the best solution. Ultimately, it all boils down to how the paint will react to your surface. Always test a small area before you proceed with an entire set of kitchen cabinets.

If you are looking for a “how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding” post, I’ve got you covered. Even though this post talks about painting laminate cabinets, you would still follow the same tutorial for other surfaces.

painting kitchen cabinets without sanding

Note; There are loads of different ways to paint cabinets without sanding that are successful. There is no right or wrong way to paint kitchen cabinets. In my experience there are tools and products that will allow you to forgo the sanding process. That being said, every now and then you will find a cabinet surface that WILL do better with sanding.

Paints that don’t require sanding before refinishing kitchen cabinets

Are chalk paints and chalky style paints good for painting kitchen cabinets?

Even though chalky style paints don’t require sanding because they bond really well to most surfaces, I wouldn’t recommend them for painting kitchen cabinets. My personal opinion is that the durability of chalk style paints aren’t good enough for kitchen cabinets and high traffic surfaces. If you DO plan to use them anyway, make sure you use a really good top coat with the chalk paint.

Products like liquid sandpaper and cleaner/degreasers work well to clean and create better adhesion when you start to paint.

Good cleaners/degreasers used to prepare kitchen cabinets without sanding

I’ve used all three of these products with success. My personal favorite is the Liquid Sandpaper product because it not only cleans well, but lightly “etches” the surface to help prepare it for primer or paint.

The TSP product is for surfaces that need a lot of cleaning and degreasing. Use with care and make sure to use gloves as it can be moderately toxic.

Good primers to use before painting kitchen cabinets

You can see I’m a fan of the Zinsser primer products. Which one do I like best?

Having used all three, I always prefer the water based primer. Furniture painters, hear me out.

It is true that the oil based and shellac based primers will cure to a harder finish and might adhere better, but when it peels (and any high traffic surface WILL peel or knick over time), it will peel in thicker sections than the water based will. For this reason, it makes touch ups harder to cover up. Also, the oil based and shellac based products create much higher VOC’s and clean up can be difficult. The Shellac primer can be used in some paint sprayers, but isn’t recommended.

Read more about why you need to use primer and more of my thoughts on different primers here.

angle brush and fine finish roller for painting kitchen cabinets

Painting cabinets without sanding

Painting cabinets without sanding first is possible, just know that the surface still needs to be prepped with a cleaner/liquid sandpaper product and a good bonding primer. There are also ALL-IN-ONE paint products that do a good job of combining the paint and primer in one step. It’s always a good idea to test a small area of the surface before diving into a large paint project.

I hope this post sheds some light on prepping your kitchen cabinets for paint without the tiresome task of sanding.


For more cabinet painting posts, check out my list below:

How to Paint Melamine or Laminate Cabinets without a Paint Sprayer

How to Repaint Laminate Cabinets

A Year In Review of How my Painted Laminate Cabinets Have Held Up

Painting Kitchen Cabinets Without Primer; Does this Work?

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets the Right Way

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  1. Jenny main says:

    Thank you Lindsey. You always have such good informatiom.