My Go-To Hack for Reviving Wood Cabinets Works Every Time (It Takes 5 Minutes!)

published Apr 24, 2024
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One thing I love about my home is the solid wood cabinetry in the kitchen, which has held up for at least a couple decades and has a couple more in it, too. But there are little ways those cabinets show their age, one of which is sticky drawers.

Many kitchen drawers today have metal slides on both sides that help the drawer smoothly move in and out, but not all — wood tracks centered underneath drawers are still very much in use, and were all the more common in older cabinets. (You’ll find the same type of track in solid wood vintage furniture.) Thankfully, there’s an easy fix, and you already have it on hand: You can use a candle to help your drawers glide more smoothly.

Here’s how it works: Over time, the wood rail on the bottom of drawers and the wood track in which that rail sits can get a little roughed up, causing friction that can lead to sticking. You might not notice it at first, but once you start having to give a big heave every time you close your dresser drawer, it can get pretty darn annoying. That’s where the candle wax comes in.

This project takes just a couple of minutes. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Pull out the offending (and offensive) drawer, and remove the contents.
  2. With your drawer upside down, rub a paraffin or beeswax candle onto the slide on the bottom of the drawer. Press firmly enough that you leave some residue behind (that’s what’s going to prevent your sticking).
  3. Rub the same candle onto the track that’s inside the dresser.
  4. Slide the drawer back in place. That’s it!

This is a trick I picked up from my days editing at This Old House magazine, where seasoned contractor Tom Silva advised using wax to lubricate the sashes of antique windows. It works just as well on drawers that use the same wood-on-wood sliding mechanism and it’s been a go-to for me ever since.

If you don’t have a candle handy, bar soap can also be effective for adding a little bit of glide to those wood surfaces. When the drawer starts to feel sticky again, just pop it out and repeat this process. It will take you only a few minutes and you’ll be rewarded with smoother drawers instantly.