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How do I make my dull cabinets shine? You have nice kitchen cabinets and countertops, but they have lost the shine they once had. Sometimes these cabinets and countertops lose their luster, but other times they just never had enough luster to begin with. Luckily there are ways to make your dull cabinets shine again, with a little work and some off the shelf products.
Table of Contents
- Ignore all of the articles telling you to sand or use abrasives
- Use oils or oil soap to restore the shine
- If you need something stronger
- Call a pro
- Restoring dull countertops
Ignore all of the articles telling you to sand or use abrasives
The most important thing you can learn from this article is NEVER sand or use strong abrasives on your cabinets or countertops.
You’ll find a lot of articles suggesting to use very fine sandpaper or mild-to-moderate strength abrasives on the countertops to get them back to their original shine. While this can work for professionals, unless you’ve practiced it at least a hundred times, you shouldn’t even consider attempting this.
Pros will often sand and then buff and polish items like cabinets to a fine finish, but this type of work requires you to know exactly when to stop and have perfect technique. If you don’t you’re likely to permanently damage the cabinets or countertops. You will need to then call in a professional to get them fully resurfaced.
Use oils or oil soap to restore the shine
When I want to make my dull cabinets shine, I go straight to the Murphy’s Oil Soap, or a Danish oil.
Murphy’s Oil Soap is a safe solution that restores the lacquer to your cabinets, even if it has diminished over time. To apply the Murphy’s Oil Soap, put a small amount on a soft rag or cloth and rub gently with the grain of your cabinet.
If you apply some Murphy’s Oil Soap to the cabinet, but it still doesn’t look shiny, wait 24 hours and let the product dry before adding more.
If the cabinet has lost some of its color and needs to be darkened, you can try a Danish oil, which will reapply some of the stain and help with shining the lacquer. However, be careful when you do this, as the wrong color can ruin the look of your cabinets.
When using Danish oil, choose a small, hidden area to test the Danish oil on first. Then wait 24 hours after testing to make sure that the color is still to your liking before moving forward.
If you need something stronger
When I want to make my dull cabinets shine and the Murphy’s Oil Soap doesn’t work, I move to a white vinegar solution.
In low concentration, the white vinegar is actually less abrasive to your cabinets than Murphy’s Oil Soap, but you’ll need to do some trial and error in order to get the right strength. I don’t suggest using white vinegar as a first option because of this.
The amount of vinegar you use depends on how strong of a cleaner you want. My suggestion is to start with 5 parts warm water to 1 part white vinegar. If that isn’t strong enough, you can gradually increase the concentration of white vinegar.
Put the warm water and white vinegar into a spray bottle. Then, find a hidden area of the cabinets to test the solution on. Spray the solution on the area and buff lightly with a cloth or rag. Then, gently wipe the solution off with a dry cloth. Wait a few hours to ensure that the solution isn’t too strong before doing more of the cabinets.
If you still have some loose cabinet doors or other parts, these are the best options to test on. I recommend that people buy an extra cabinet or two when having their kitchens done. Or at the least, request an extra door sample from your cabinet supplier. You can use these extras in the future to test cleaners and other products.
If the solution above is not strong enough, you can gradually increase the percentage of white vinegar. Just be aware that the vinegar will slowly wear away the finish on your cabinets if you use it too often.
I only use this technique to make my dull cabinets shine when absolutely necessary. For regular cleaning, you should stick to a cloth with a small amount of warm water on it. Then dry it with a dry cloth.
Call a pro
If you’ve tried the Murphy’s Oil Soap and tested different white vinegar solutions and still can’t get a shine, it’s time to call a pro.
As I mentioned earlier, pros can use more abrasive methods such as lightly sanding the cabinets or using a harsh cleaner and polish compound. These are not steps you would want to take yourself, as they require years of practice to do correctly.
Professional cabinet experts can assess the level of dullness and recommend a treatment that will require minimal danger to the cabinets.
Restoring dull countertops
Countertops are generally — but not always — less sensitive to chemicals than cabinets. That means there are several safe countertop restoration products you can use.
If you have a solid surface countertop and you want to return the shine, I suggest using a light buffing tool with a solid surface countertop polish. The buffing tool can bring a high gloss shine back to your countertop. Just remember to use a soft buffing pad and low speed.
If you have a marble countertop, you need to be much more careful. There are a few marble polishes out there, but I have yet to find one that works especially well. Unfortunately, in most cases, a dull marble countertop will need to be fully refinished.
Granite and quartz maintain their finish well, so there’s less need to restore a shine from a dull finish. However, you can find several products that work well with these stones. But don’t use a buffing tool — stick to using your hands and a soft cloth.