If the wood cabinets in your kitchen are a bit drab and outdated, then you can work to update them as long as they are still in great condition. With a bit of color and some elbow grease, you can make the cabinets look like new. If you like the bold color of paint, but also enjoy the semi-transparent appearance of stain, then try your hand at applying gel stain to the cabinets. If you have never worked with the stain before, then learn about a few tips and tricks that will make it easy to use.
Prepare The Wood By Sanding And Cleaning
Before you begin your staining project, you will need to release the cabinet doors from the cabinets and remove all of the hardware. At this time, you will need to prepare the surface of the wood to receive the gel stain. You must clean and sand the surfaces. Unlike regular stain, gel stain will not absorb into the surface of the wood. It will instead sit on top of it, much like paint. This means that water-resistant polyurethane sealers and grease on the wood will both need to be removed so the stain can stick to the wood. Otherwise, you will end up with an uneven color.
While you do need to sand to release sealers, you do not need to sand aggressively to remove all the sealer or stain. Breaking the surface of the sealer is enough to leave the underlying wood exposed so the gel can adhere to it properly. Use a piece of 100 or 120 medium grit sandpaper to lightly sand the cabinets. The surface of the wood should be slightly rough to the touch and no longer shiny.
If the wood cabinets are extremely worn, then parts of the wood may have been exposed to food, grease, and other debris. To make sure that grease and debris is removed, use a sponge and a bucket of warm water and scrub at the surfaces of the cabinets. If you notice stains on the wood after the cleaning, then place a teaspoon of table salt in a dish. Add several drops of water and stir to create a paste. Add the paste to the stain and let it sit for two or three hours. Use a cloth to brush away the salt afterwards. The salt will draw the stains out of the wood by dehydrating the cellulose fibers.
Apply The Stain With A Sock Or Cloth And Add A Sealer
Gel stain comes in a small metal container like regular stain, but the material is much thicker and about the same consistency as finger paint or jelly. This consistency makes it difficult to add the stain with a roller or paintbrush. These tools will cause the stain to clump or form streaks. To prevent these issues, use either a cotton sock or a cotton cloth to apply the stain. Use the cloth to scoop up a generous amount of the stain and start to spread it on the wood cabinet doors.
You will want to apply a thick first coat to create a solid base on the wood surface. However, make sure the stain does not pool or clump up around corners, indentations, or decorative elements. Use your cloth to smooth out the stain if it gathers. The stain will need to dry for about 8 hours. Add an additional coat after 8 hours and then allow the stain to dry for a full day. You can then flip the cabinet door over and add stain to the back.
Gel stain will not seal the cabinets. This means that you will need to add a sealer over the stain if you want the cabinets to be protected from stains and general wear. Purchase a polyacrylic sealer to apply over the cabinets. This sealer is a water-based product that is easy to use and spray over the cabinet doors. However, since the stain is oil-based, you will need to wait for the stain to fully cure before you seal. Otherwise, the stain will repel the sealer. Wait a full one to two days after staining to apply the sealer. If it is humid outside, then wait three to four days and make sure the gel is not tacky to the touch before spraying the sealer.