The $9 Secret to Perfectly Painted Kitchen Cabinets (No, It’s Not Primer)

published Jan 12, 2024
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Kitchen with green painted cabinets, a black and white checkered backsplash, and a tan laminate countertop.
Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Now that the holiday festivities and new year celebrations are behind us, it may be time for a little kitchen refresh. We spend a ton of time in our kitchens prepping lunches, brewing coffee, scouring the cabinets for an afternoon snack, and catching up with family over dinner — and sometimes staring at the same cabinets every day can get boring. While completely gutting your kitchen might not be of interest to you (or your wallet), there are certainly plenty of ways to upgrade your space for a fraction of the cost — and, in this case, for less than $10.

TikToker Kalila of @livelovehouse recently shared a TikTok video of the process of repainting their kitchen cabinets using an unexpected find: liquid sandpaper. 

If you’re unfamiliar with liquid sandpaper — sometimes also called liquid deglosser — the primer is a chemical alternative to using sandpaper to prime the surface for paint; it removes some of the current paint, but not so much that it comes off completely. The chemicals dull the surface without wiping off the color entirely, providing a base that allows new paint to adhere easily. All in all, by using a tool like liquid sandpaper, you’ll have a far less dusty DIY experience and the liquid can get to those hard-to-reach areas traditional sandpaper can’t. Plus, you can snag a bottle for under $9 at Home Depot (and under $12 at Amazon). All you need is a brush!

To start, experts suggest washing your kitchen cabinet surface with soap and water to remove any grease. Apply the liquid sandpaper with your brush of choice and then allow the chemicals time to soften the exterior. Depending on the type of deglosser, you may need to wipe the liquid off with a wet rag in order to stop the chemicals from softening the surface any further; make sure to check the bottle for instructions beforehand. After it’s “sanded,” apply your cabinet paint with a roller to avoid visible brush strokes. (Having trouble choosing a color? Here are the best kitchen cabinet colors, according to interior designers.)

Kalila opted for Sherwin-Williams’ “Emerald” paint and the finished look is as sleek as can be. For an extra-smooth finish, the liquid sandpaper is crucial. “Prep is so important,” Kalila wrote in the video’s comments. “I get excited to start projects and then want them done quickly, so I don’t always prep well.”

Other TikTokers were gushing about the brilliant hack for getting professional-grade painted cabinets. “No dust. No sanding. Just a primer treatment to rough up the surface? I’m sold!” wrote one user, while another said, “I used it back in the ‘60s to repaint all my kitchen cabinets … it was great!”

If you’re searching for a way to revamp your kitchen without calling in the professionals (or spending big bucks), this is certainly the way to do it. Plus, it doesn’t take a DIY expert to get the job done!

Buy: Klean-Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser, $11.66