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How NOT to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

In this post: How not to paint kitchen cabinets. Unless you want your cabinets to resemble a piece of furniture found in a dilapidated shed after 50 years!


How not to paint kitchen cabinets

When it comes to painting kitchen cabinets, a Google search will get you any number of tutorials. Everyone from DIY bloggers, to HGTV and the DIY Network seems to have a tutorial on painting kitchen cabinets.

In case you’re short on time, the gist of all of them is to remove your cupboards, clean them really well, sand them, prime and paint a couple of coats.

(Don’t mind the paper skeletons. The kids were learning about bones in homeschooling!)

There are a few variations such as using more than one coat of primer or sanding between each coat of paint.

Some people use tack cloths to remove sanding dust while other use a vacuum or wet paper towels.

A few brave souls skip sanding all together and just use a deglosser.

But everyone – EVERYONE – insists upon cleaning the cabinets to remove cooking grease and splatters. And lots of those people say to use TSP.

According to Wikipedia TSP is:

Trisodium phosphate (TSP, E339) is a cleaning agent, lubricant, food additive, stain remover and degreaser. It is a white, granular or crystalline solid, highly soluble in water producing an alkaline solution.

If you want to take the easy way out with TSP (and not have to mix the powder yourself), you can buy it in a spray bottle like I did. Nothing really wrong with that. But you should probably put your glasses on, or get a magnifying glass out when you read the directions.

The directions say “Spray on and wipe clean with a cloth soaked in clean water.”

Yeah. Unfortunately I read it as “spray on and wipe clean with a cloth.”

When really it meant “be darn sure to wash off all TSP with clean water or else your corners and edges won’t take paint or primer no matter how hard you try or how much you wish they would!

One coat of primer + one coat of enamel paint on top of TSP = no adhesion! The photo above is NOT sanded. That is what applying paint on top of TSP not washed off looks like!

On the other hand, I did discover a new way to get a really chippy painted look!

chippy painted white cabinet doors

I suppose instead of “How NOT to Paint Kitchen Cabinets” this post could be titled “For the Love of Pete, Wash Off ALL the TSP!”

chippy painted white cabinet doors

But I think you get the picture. If you don’t wash off all the TSP, your paint job is going to resemble a piece of furniture found in a dilapidated shed after 50 years! Not cool.

Unless you’re going for that look in your kitchen. Which was definitely not what we were going for!

Oh and you probably shouldn’t use enamel paint that has a cure time of 30 freakin’ days either. Don’t ask me how I know. I don’t really want to talk about it.

CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR FINISHED WHITE KITCHEN!

Subway Tile Wall Rustic Coffee Bar Kitchen

Have you tried painting your own kitchen cabinets? Any good or bad stories to tell?

how not to paint kitchen cabinets

When it comes to painting kitchen cabinets, a Google search will get you any number of tutorials. Everyone from DIY bloggers, to HGTV and the DIY Network seems to have a tutorial on painting kitchen cabinets.

In case you're short on time, the gist of all of them is to remove your cupboards, clean them really well, sand them, prime and paint a couple of coats.

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Comments

  1. Robert Goodwin says

    You are a funny Person and I love humor. Doing my kitchen cabinets and I appreciate the tips. Hope I don’t drive my poor wife insane while the kitchen is down.
    Wash with tsp
    Wash off tsp
    sand
    prime
    paint
    AND OFF I GO!!!

  2. Tom Huynh says

    LMAO!! I love your instructions! I am in the process of painting a rented house cabinets and have been on Google Search for the past few hours and stumbled across your article. It made me laugh with good humor! Kudos for sharing your lessons learned!!

    Sincerely,

    Tom

    • Tom Huynh says

      Add on Question: Can I take the removed cabinet doors outside and hose them down with water to be faster? Of course, the main frame of the kitchen cabinet will need to be wiped clean with water and cloth.

      Thanks!

      Tom

    • PJ says

      thank you for your tips on using TSP when repainting kitchen cabinet. my question is – how much sanding do you need to do after TSP and befor then primer? I’ve read that you do not want to sand too much, just enough to remove/smooth out flaking but is that enough if there is still a shine with the original, and yes very old (been on the cabinets since 1993) finish?

  3. Mary says

    Love your humor!! There needs to be more in this world. Is there a difference between TSP-PF and standard TSP deck cleaner? Should I use one over the other? I’m in the research prep phase of painting or kitchen wallpaper, cupboards and all. Thank you for your advice!

  4. MARILYN JOHNSON says

    I have both deglosser and TSP. Should I use both and if so which one? If not, what should I do?

    • Shannon Acheson says

      Hmm. Good question. TSP is more of a cleaner, I believe to get rid of residue and kitchen grease in this case. The deglosser will help if you have a glossy finish on your cabinets. I only used TSP, but my cabinets were pretty old and didn’t really have a shine to them once the gunk was cleaned off. Does that help?

  5. Tals says

    I’m sort of freaking out because I just finished cleaning my cabinets yesterday, and stumbled across this blog post, and realized I DID NOT wash the tsp off. I havent started painting yet, I’m just horrified that I get to spend the day tomorrow rinsing them off. Is this going to affect the adhesion because I’ve waiting so long to Rinse them?

    • Shannon Acheson says

      I’m so sorry. I honestly don’t know if you’ll have a hard time. I didn’t rinse mine AND painted before I figured this out. So I had to re-sand my doors. Let us know how it goes!

  6. Sandra Shephard says

    Ah ha! I came online to see if it’s necessary to use TSP if you are going to use a deglosser. Your article says, yes. I did wipe off the TSP with a wet rag, and am worried it was 100% clean, so you can bet I’m going right back to my project with yet another clean, wet cloth! thanks for your post!

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