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- How To: Remove Paint from Carpeting
How To: Remove Paint from Carpeting
From muddy boots to spilled drinks, your carpet undergoes a great deal of wear and tear. That said, in the case of splattered paint, you might assume your carpeting has finally met its match. Maybe, but not always. You may be able to rescue your carpet with nothing more than water, soap, and elbow grease. Here's how.
It’s the stuff of nightmares for any do-it-yourselfer who takes on a weekend painting project. Even though you carefully covered the floor with drop cloths or plastic sheeting, drips and drops of paint still somehow managed to reach the carpeting underneath. It’s frustrating, to be sure. But the good news is that, more often than not, you can remove paint from carpet using only a handful of everyday household items. So for the time being, hold off on shopping for a replacement carpet. Whether the paint remains wet or has had time to dry, it’s well worth trying to undo your mishap by following these simple step-by-step cleaning instructions.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Clean rags
- Mild dish detergent
- Carpet stain remover (if necessary)
- Paper towels
- Table knife
- Iron or handheld steamer (for dried stains, if necessary)
If you notice the accident right away, move quickly to act before the paint dries.
Blot, Don’t Scrub. Whatever you do, no matter how desperately you want to remove paint from carpet, resist the urge to scrub. The last thing you want to do is force the paint into the fibers of the carpet. Instead, with paper towels (lots of them), gently blot up as much of the paint as you possibly can.
Grab the Dish Soap. With all or most of the excess paint out of the way, you can focus more closely on treating the affected area. In a small bowl, combine warm water with a modest amount of dish soap. Soak the corner of a clean rag in the water-and-soap solution, then continue blotting the stain. Start on the outside and gradually work toward the center. If, along the way, moisture accumulates on the carpet, soak up the water with paper towels. Continue blotting until you’ve removed all the paint.
When All Else Fails. So long as you’re dealing with latex or water-based paint, you can expect to see results with the combination of diluted dish soap and the blotting method. But if you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, remember that you have one other viable option: commercial carpet stain remover. Application techniques vary by product; be sure to act in keeping with the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you failed to notice the stain on the carpet until after the paint had dried completely, don’t lose hope. Removing dried paint takes more work, but it’s not impossible to do.
Clear a Path. Before doing anything else, first scrape away any loose, flaking bits of paint with a table knife (sharp enough to do the trick, but not so sharp that it would damage or cut off the carpet fibers).
Soak the Area. In a small bowl, combine hot water with a modest amount of dish soap. Carefully pour some of the solution onto the stain, letting the soapy water soak into, and soften, the dried paint.
Steam Power. If the hot, soapy water did not succeed in softening the paint, plan B is to steam the area using either a handheld steamer or a clothing iron configured to the steam setting. Note that if you end up using an iron, place a wet rag between the carpet and the iron to avoid scorching the fibers.
Scrape and Blot. Now that the dried paint has softened, go back to gently scraping it off the carpet fibers, bit by bit. If and when necessary, blot the paint with a moistened rag or dry paper towels.
When All Else Fails. Many homeowners have managed to rescue their carpeting by following the steps described above. Given all the variables at play, however, no technique can be guaranteed to work in all cases. If, for all of your efforts, some paint residue still remains, don’t hesitate to give commercial carpet cleaner a shot.
Indeed, even when you’re very careful, there’s always a chance, however remote, of paint ending up on the carpet. It happens to the best of us. Sure, a mishap like that might ruin your day—but it doesn’t have to ruin your carpet!
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Remove Moss from the Roof
How To: Remove Moss from the Roof
A layer of green moss might look cozy and rustic atop your house, but it can drastically shorten your roof's lifespan. Follow these three straightforward steps to clean off moss—and keep it from coming back.
A green, moss-covered roof may make you think you’ve wandered into a fairy tale, complete with a quaint little woodcutter’s cottage. But, in the real world, moss is much less a fantasy than it is a nightmare. Left untreated, the clumpy greenery can cause virtually any roofing material to degrade—most commonly wood and asphalt, but also metal, clay, and concrete—and thus drastically shorten its lifespan. Moss starts as a thin green layer on and between shingles, but then it proceeds to lift those shingles up as it grows, allowing water to seep underneath. Hello, wood rot and leaks. Fortunately, removing moss is a fairly simple task that you can perform on a seasonal or as-needed basis to keep your roof weathertight and great-looking.
TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Slip-resistant shoes
- Old clothes
- Safety glasses
- Rubber gloves
- Safety rope
- Garden hose with spray nozzle
- Long-handled soft-bristle scrub brush
- Commercial cleanser or DIY solution (below)
- Pump spray bottle
- Plastic sheeting
Carefully place a ladder near the area of moss growth, and don slip-resistant shoes, old clothes, rubber gloves, and eye protection. (You may also want to secure yourself with a safety rope.) Hose off the area with plain water, spraying at a downward angle. Then, use a long-handled soft-bristle scrub brush to remove the moss from the roof, scrubbing from the top down to avoid lifting shingles. As you continue, rub gently—don’t scrape, scour, or pound on the roof—and work in one small section at a time to avoid ripping, cracking, or breaking the shingles.
Note: Don’t use a pressure washer on the roof. The high-powered water jets can damage shingles and remove the shingle granules that protect the roof.
If your moss problem requires more than just a simple scrub, there are a wide variety of commercial cleaning solutions as well as DIY options that will get the job done. Just wait for the next cloudy day before you head out to the roof with your cleanser of choice—you don’t want the solution to evaporate too quickly. Keep in mind that both commercial and homemade spray cleansers can damage sensitive plants and discolor siding, decks, or pathways, so you may want to spread plastic sheeting below your work area before you get started.
Some popular cleansers at your local hardware store or home center include Wet & Forget, a spray-on product for removing moss, mold, and mildew; Bayer 2-in-1 Moss and Algae Killer, a potassium soap of fatty acids and inert ingredients that you mix with water and then spray on; and Moss B Ware, a 99 percent zinc sulfate monohydrate powder that can be applied dry or mixed with water. Whichever you choose, follow the manufacturer’s directions for application; some cleansers should be rinsed off after use, while others specify to be left on.
You also can make your own moss remover in a large spray bottle with one of these four DIY recipes:
• 8 ounces Dawn Ultra dish soap + 2 gallons of water
• 1 pound powdered oxygen bleach + 2 gallons of water
• 1½ to 3½ cups chlorine bleach + 2 gallons of water
• 1½ to 3½ cups white distilled vinegar + 2 gallons of water
For any of these homemade options, you’ll want to wet down the roof with plain water first, then apply the cleanser and let it sit for 20 to 45 minutes. Lightly scrub with a soft-bristle brush, then rinse with water.
Prevent a moss problem from returning by installing strips of zinc- or copper-coated sheet metal just below the top ridge on both sides of the roof. Copper is more toxic to moss and algae, but zinc is much less expensive. You can purchase sheet metal in rolls and cut it into two- to four-inch strips. Attach the strips to the roof using roofing nails or screws with a rubber washer. You also should consider pruning any tree limbs that overhang the roof—natural sunlight is a powerful moss preventive.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- Quick Tip: Use Vinegar to Give Wood a Weathered Look
Quick Tip: Use Vinegar to Give Wood a Weathered Look
Antiqued furniture can be a beautiful addition to a room, but the price tag can be much less attractive. Get this popular look for less with an inexpensive DIY stain made from two common household ingredients.
A weathered finish on a beloved table or chair chronicles the story of a bygone era. But while authentic antique pieces can make great investments, they aren’t always readily available—or within our price range. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to achieve this highly sought-after look on your existing furniture using nothing but two items you probably already keep in your pantry: steel wool and vinegar.
Start by ripping a pad of #0000-grade steel wool into smaller pieces and stuffing them into a mason jar. Next, pour in about 1½ cups of white vinegar. Let the solution sit for at least two days so the wool can dissolve in the vinegar, turning it a silvery-gray color.
While you wait for the mixture to oxidize, sand down your piece and take note of the type of wood. If it’s a light-colored wood like pine, you’ll want to pretreat it with a solution that’s high in tannins, such as tea. To do this, steep five black tea bags in a pot of boiling water for about an hour, then apply the tea to the furniture using an old paintbrush. Allow the piece to dry thoroughly before continuing.
When the vinegar-steel wool solution is ready, pour it into a large bowl, using a strainer to remove the solids. Next, apply the stain to the wood with a paintbrush. Because the piece may appear darker when it’s wet than when it’s fully dried, let it dry between coats so that you can be sure of the color before applying another layer of stain. If you notice any drip marks or want a more blended result, buff the wood with fine-grit sandpaper. Finally, seal the wood with a wax finish for a polished, aged look that’s worthy of a high-end antiques shop.
- Lawn & Garden >
- Do Less Yard Work with 4 Smart Strategies
Do Less Yard Work with 4 Smart Strategies
Gardens can do great things for your outdoor decor, but the general upkeep can be tedious. Try these tricks to make time spent tending your favorite florals easier and more efficient.
Whether it’s the colorful buds that line your front walkway or the blooming beds out back, incorporating a lush garden into your landscape can pay off in spades. While time spent sowing seeds is well worth the effort, it tends to be more enjoyable when you can minimize the hours stuck toiling in the hot sun. Try these four strategies to help eliminate gardening growing pains and make your outdoor experiences that much more rewarding.
1. Choose Plants Wisely
You’ll want to start by researching plant varieties that are in line with your USDA hardiness zone, as well as species that are disease-resistant. If flowers that require little upkeep are more your speed, consider annuals like lobelia, impatiens, or fibrous begonias, that continue to bloom without requiring constant deadheading.
Also, beware of “fertile myrtles,” annuals like calendulas or cleome that reseed if you don’t get rid of the spent blooms come fall. If you’re interested in keeping them in your garden design, let them self-sow; but if not, deadhead to stop them from taking over.
2. Plan Out Your Arrangement
Group the thirstiest plants in one spot. This will improve watering efficiency, as you can tend to these high-maintenance varieties all at once, rather than making multiple trips around the garden. Next, save yourself hours you would have spent staking and prop up floppy, more delicate plants simply by placing stiff, bulky varieties in front of them.
Lawn work is easily one of the most tedious yard tasks. Make things easier on yourself by eschewing grass on sloped areas and swapping in ground covers instead so that you don’t find yourself pushing a mower uphill. It’s also wise to pass on turf grass in areas that don’t have strong drainage solutions.
And don’t overlook the importance of convenient tool storage: Consider purchasing a decorative container that you can tote along with you while tending the garden, so that you don’t have to trek to the shed or garage every time you need something. Buy tools with brightly colored handles, as these will easily catch your eye if left behind.
3. Upgrade Your Water Routine
Investing in a timed system is well worth the cost. Soaker hoses with tiny pores that run the length of the tube are smarter than your standard hose or sprinkler, resulting in no run-off, less evaporation, and the luxury of being able to relax or complete other tasks while they go to work. Schedule the system to start in the early morning for best results.
On days you mow the lawn, leave the clippings out instead of cleaning them up. This trick doesn’t make you lazy! More than saving you extra effort, it also helps shade the grass and conserve water.
4. Eliminate Weeds
To start, plant densely and mulch freely around your flowerbeds to discourage uninvited weeds, but wage war on existing species when the soil is moist. While you can try to pull the weeds out by the roots, another simple solution is to cut them and let them wither. If they’re joining forces to form a thick mat, use a sharp shovel to slice the ground beneath them, then flip the weeds over to bury them. This will ensure your flowers’ safety and also nourish the soil when the weeds decompose.
- Major Systems >
- Bob Vila Radio: Removing the Knockouts in Electrical Boxes
Knockouts are partially stamped, quarter-size openings in the electrical boxes that service such things as outlets and switches. Once removed, a knockout allows electrical wires to be run in and out of the box.
Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING KNOCKOUTS or read the text below:
In the average electrical box, there are several knockouts, each with one or two attachment points resembling small bumps. Remove the knockout that would give the wires the straightest shot—that is, the knockout that would require the least amount of bending on the part of the wires.
To remove a knockout, position the tip of a regular, blade-tip screwdriver just inside the edge, on the side opposite the attachment points. That ought to partially dislodge the knockout, allowing you to remove it the rest of the way by twisting back and forth until the attachment points snap.
When you’re running wire in or out of a knockout, be sure to install a strain-relief clamp, an add-on that not only holds wires in place, but also keeps them from chafing against the edges of the electrical box. Multiple strain-relief options exist; check your local home improvement center.
Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!
- Kitchen >
- Genius! Remix Your Backsplash with Old CDs
Genius! Remix Your Backsplash with Old CDs
Transform your backsplash on a budget—and declutter your entertainment center at the same time! See how a stack of unused CDs upgraded this boring, builder-grade kitchen.
Remember when your biggest problem was keeping your favorite CD from skipping? Times were simpler before iPhones, Netflix, and high-speed Internet conquered the world. Thanks to digital libraries, almost no one is worried about the state of their CD collection anymore. But other quandaries—like what to do with all those old CDs now that we’ve moved on—hang around for years. Instructables author Illona solved the dilemma of an unloved collection by crafting this one-of-a-kind kitchen backsplash using discs, scissors, grout, and very little planning. While relieving the environment of a little extra tech trash, her reflective backsplash brightened up the whole kitchen without the addition of a mirror or task lamps!
Piecing it together requires very little as far as specific tools go—only a sharp, strong pair of scissors or one designed to cut plastic. To better preserve the holographic film that creates the mirror effect, first brush a layer white glue over the printed side of the CD and let it dry completely. Cut up your discs, then glue the larger pieces up first and fill in gaps with smaller cuts later. Once you’ve arranged all of the pieces, apply grout to your mosaic. Illona opted for a light grey over white grout to make cleaning easier; the color requires less scrubbing, preventing possible future scratches and preserving the rainbow effect of the holographic film.
Even through Ilona ended up scratching some CDs in the trial-and-error process and dulling the project’s shine ever so slightly, any nicks are quickly lost against full effect of the mosaic. It’s practically impossible to mess up this DIY! With a backsplash this beautiful, it will feel like trading in your old flip phone for a smarter model.
FOR MORE: Instructables
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- 3 Fixes for a Stubborn Jar Lid
3 Fixes for a Stubborn Jar Lid
Never again let a seemingly immoveable lid derail your meal prep. With these easy solutions, you can conquer even the most tightly sealed jar.
It’s an age-old quandary: You reach for a jar of pickles or tomato sauce but, try and try as you might, you cannot get the metal lid to budge. Besides simply seeking help from someone more muscular, are there any other surefire ways to open a stuck jar? Absolutely. You can skip the phone call to your body-building next-door neighbor, because the solution lies close at hand. In fact, in most every kitchen, there are at least three easy and effective methods of opening any stubborn jar lid. Scroll down now to learn the simple secrets.
GET A GRIP
The next time you need to open a stuck jar, make rubber your ally. Indeed, virtually anything made of rubber can offer up the grip you need to overpower a tight seal. The average kitchen hides a number of rubber items in plain sight. Our favorite approach? Don a pair of rubber gloves to get a better, more persuasive hold on the jar. Alternatively, hunt around in the junk drawer for rubber bands and wrap one around the lid a few times. In a pinch, you might even use a rubber shelf liner.
HANDLE WITH CARE
With duct tape, you can open a stuck jar in just a minute or two. Here’s how the strategy works: Tear off about a foot of duct tape, then line up the bottom edge of the tape with the bottom of the lid. Next, wrap the tape three quarters of the way around the lid, and fold the remainder of the strip in half, lengthwise, forming a sort of three quart the tape around the lid, forming a sort of makeshift handle. Finally, hold the jar in one hand and pull the “handle” with the other. Presto!
CLEAR THE WAY
Some jars are easy enough to open the first time but quite difficult to open again—jars of honey, for instance. That’s because their sticky contents lodge between the glass jar and metal lid, effectively gluing the container shut. The trick is to bring the jar over to the kitchen sink and hold it under warm or hot water for up to 60 seconds. The water at least partially washes away whatever substance may be holding the lid in the place. From there, simply wipe off the lid and give it a firm twist.
- Major Systems >
- Save Money and Live Better with Multizone HVAC
Save Money and Live Better with Multizone HVAC
Of all the advantages offered by ductless heating and cooling systems, zoned control may be the most meaningful to both your energy expenses and home comfort.
You are reading one installment in a 10-part series devoted to exploring Mitsubishi Electric ductless heating and cooling. See all.
The typical HVAC system takes a one-size-fits-all approach to heating and cooling. That is, a single, centrally located thermostat controls the temperature of the entire house. So, if you want to enjoy climate control in any room, you must run the system (and pay for the energy consumed) in all rooms, even the ones you’re not occupying. Imagine if the same principle applied to your plumbing system, and turning on the faucet in the kitchen would activate every other faucet in the home. Chances are that you would regard that sort of setup as exceedingly strange and wasteful. And yet for decades, homeowners have put up with all-or-nothing heating and cooling, accepting not only the limitations in comfort, but also the difficulty in saving money on utility bills.
Newer technologies have brought tremendous advancements to HVAC and have given homeowners some appealing alternatives. Today’s options respond much better to what homeowners want: both comfort and savings. Many of the most exciting next-generation alternatives are dramatically different from the familiar forced-air HVAC systems that rely on elaborate networks of ducts. Case in point: Mitsubishi Electric makes a full line of heating and cooling equipment that can operate without any ductwork whatsoever. Of course, ductless systems have enjoyed longstanding popularity in Europe and Asia, and there are many reasons to make the switch. That said, if you’re determined to gain more control over the climate in your home, one particularly compelling feature of ductless systems may cinch the deal for you: With a whole-home Mitsubishi Electric ductless system, you can establish multiple HVAC zones. Whether the zone comprises one room, a set of rooms, or an entire floor, it can be controlled independently from the other zones in the home. That means you can set a different target temperature for each zone, seizing opportunities for greater comfort and energy savings. If daytime household activity centers on the ground floor, you can adjust (or even turn off) the HVAC system for the zone or zones upstairs. At night, you can keep the bedrooms comfortable while cutting back on the temperatures in rooms that will remain empty until morning. Whereas traditional one-size-fits-all HVAC assumes all rooms are either occupied or vacant at the same time, multizone systems are able to adapt to how people actually live.
Tailored zoning also better responds to the fact that, when it comes to heating and cooling demand, no two homes are identical. Any number of variables come into play. For instance, if you live on a hill, solar gain may substantially influence the temperature of your home—but only on one side of the structure. Likewise, if you converted your attic or finished the basement, the temperature of the renovated space may vary, sometimes wildly, from the temperature elsewhere in the home. In such idiosyncratic cases, a one-zone system would give you no recourse but to be uncomfortable or use temporary stopgap measures, such as space heaters or window air conditioners. Only zoning affords the targeted temperature control necessary to overcome any challenges that are specific to your home.
Finally, zoning accommodates the reality that different people prefer different temperatures. In homes with one-zone HVAC systems, only some people will be truly, completely comfortable at any given time. Over the years, who knows how many disagreements have arisen out of our basic, primal desire to be comfortable? Now, thanks to zoning, every member of the household can enjoy his or her ideal environment. While working away in your home office, you can keep the room at the relatively chilly temperature you like best. At the same time, your spouse can enjoy warmer temperatures in the zone where he or she spends the most time. That’s right: With a zoned ductless system from Mitsubishi Electric, you can put an end to thermostat wars!
Since HVAC contributes more than any other mechanical system to household utility costs, it’s imperative for the budget-conscious homeowner to choose a solution that facilitates savings from one month to the next. That’s what zoning does—makes it easier than ever to eliminate frivolous, excess climate control and unnecessarily inflated energy bills. Still, you wouldn’t enjoy spending less if it meant shivering, sweating, or feeling otherwise uncomfortable in your own home. Here’s what sets apart the line of ductless systems from Mitsubishi Electric: Even while it gives you the ability to lower your expenses, the technology still manages to deliver unparalleled comfort. Heating and cooling always used to entail some sort of trade-off between comfort and savings, but not anymore.
This post has been brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Contests & Give-Aways >
- Bob Vila Thumbs Up: Announcing the DIY Storage Competition!
Bob Vila Thumbs Up: Announcing the DIY Storage Competition!
Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite project competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!
Whether you live in an expansive dwelling or a tiny home, making the most of your storage space is a must. Vertical shelving or double-duty furniture goes a long way to reducing visual clutter and maximizing livability. And if you ask us, the best storage solutions are the kind you build yourself. That’s why we ‘re featuring a handful of amazing DIY storage projects from around the web in this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition.
Bob Vila Thumbs Up highlights some of the best and brightest DIY bloggers, and this month we’re excited to share five stunning (and super-functional) DIY storage ideas. We like all of them but we’re counting on you to help us name one blogger as the champion of this month’s competition and the prize—a $250 gift card.
So cast your vote today and every day in August to help your favorite blogger become this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. The outcome of this competition will be decided by you and your vote.
- Painting >
- How To: Stain Cabinets
How To: Stain Cabinets
If you love everything about your wood cabinets except for their color, forget about spending a small fortune to replace them with a brand-new set. Instead, refinish the boxes, doors, and drawers with a stain that brings out the natural beauty of the material. Here's how.
Of all the reasons to appreciate solid wood cabinets, there may be none more appealing than their virtually endless changeability. That is, if you ever tire of the cabinets’ appearance, you can always refinish the wood, transforming the overall look of your kitchen or bath in the process. Of course, the size of the project depends on a number of factors. But generally speaking, you don’t need to be an expert to stain cabinets successfully. With only a handful of basic tools and materials—and in many cases, the willingness to make a mess and clean it up—almost anyone can achieve pro-quality results, without having to hire a contractor.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Mild detergent
- Clean cloths
- Plastic sheeting or drop cloths
- Protective gloves
- Chemical stripper
- Palm sander
- Fine- and medium-grit sandpaper
- Wood conditioner
- #000 Steel wool
- Wood stain
- Polyurethane sealer
The process always starts out the same way, even if your cabinets are new and unfinished. Remove the cabinet hardware (including the hinges) and set the doors aside. You can leave the cabinet frames in place, but take special care to protect the rest of the room with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. Once you have prepared the work area, give the cabinets a thorough cleaning. First, rub them down with a clean cloth and mild detergent, then follow up with plain water to eliminate soap residue. Note: There’s one situation when it’s not necessary to spend time cleaning at the outset. That’s if the existing cabinets are painted or stained and, rather than use a chemical stripper, you’d prefer to scrape and sand away the existing finish. Here, you can skip the cleaning and proceed directly to the second step.
Unless your cabinets are raw wood, the existing finish must be removed before you can apply the new stain coat. There are two ways to go about it. If you’re only dealing with a few cabinets, it may be simplest to handle the job the old-fashioned way, without resorting to a chemical stripper. But if you’ve got a number of cabinets to refinish, a chemical stripper can save you a great deal of time and energy. Stripping products have improved over the years, but it remains important to pay close attention to any warnings included with your chosen product, be it a liquid or gel. Ventilation is a must, and manufacturers typically also recommended that do-it-yourselfers wear the appropriate protective gear (gloves, at minimum). Also, remember to cover any surfaces you don’t want to strip (painter’s tape is handy for the purpose). Once you’ve properly prepared, apply the stripper according to the included instructions. Normally, stripper takes about a half hour to set in. After that, the finish ought to come off easily with a scraper. But bear in mind that with a stubborn finish, it may be necessary to use multiple applications of stripper.
Once you’ve taken off the old finish, move on to sanding the cabinets with 80- to 120-grit sandpaper. If you have access to a palm sander, capitalize on its ability to make quicker, easier work of what would otherwise be a taxing, time-consuming step. As you would in any other project, sand in the direction of the wood grain until you have the cabinets surfaces are smooth and even. Along the way, you may wish to repair any imperfections (cracks or scratches) that you notice in the wood. Finally, finish up by sanding the cabinets again, this time with 150- to 220-grit paper. Vacuum the sanding dust, and before you continue, wipe down the wood with a moistened cloth to pick up any lingering debris. Let the wood dry.
The staining portion of the project begins, not with stain, but with wood conditioner. Conditioning helps ensure that the stain adheres evenly and looks its best. Much like stain itself, wood conditioner goes on with a paintbrush. If the cabinet and doors feature inset paneling and other details, opt for a small brush capable of reaching all the little nooks and crannies. By the same token, if all the cabinet surfaces are flat, you can safely stick with a wider brush. No matter the style of the cabinets, completely coat their surfaces with a thin layer of the conditioner. Once the cabinets are dry, lightly scuff them with #000 steel wool.
Now it’s time to apply the stain. Unlike paint, the appearance of any given stain partly depends on the type of wood to which it’s being applied. For that reason, it may be wise to test your chosen stain somewhere inconspicuous before you apply the product all over. Reserve your judgment until the test stain has dried. Assuming you like what you see, go ahead and apply the stain using either a paintbrush or a clean, soft rag. Work in the direction of the grain and aim, not only for complete coverage, but for a light, even coating. As you go along, you may notice one or another section looking darker than the rest. Don’t worry: You can lighten things up by rubbing off the excess stain with a fresh rag. Once you’ve coated every cabinet surface, wait for the stain to dry. That may take a day or two, depending on the humidity. During that time, be careful not to let dust or dirt land on the cabinets. Once the stain has fully cured, assess whether or not you need a second coat. If you were envisioning a lighter color, you may be able to get away with one coat. Otherwise, expect to apply at least two coats. Between coats, don’t forget to lightly scuff the cabinet surfaces with steel wool. Repeat the process a third time if the stain color still hasn’t darkened enough to match your taste and expectations.
Today, some products combine stain and polyurethane for one-step finishing. If you happen to have used such a stain-sealer hybrid, well, congratulations—you’re finished. If you opted for a traditional stain, you don’t strictly need to seal the cabinets, but considering the inevitable wear and tear, it’s probably a good idea. Polyurethane sealer goes on with a paintbrush, and as is the case for stain, two thin coats are much better than a single thick coat. Before applying the initial coat of sealer, consider that polyurethane tends to accentuate any surface imperfections. If your cabinets aren’t perfectly smooth, you may wish to sand them down again. After sanding, use a moistened cloth to remove all the dust. Once the cabinets are clean and dry, stir the polyurethane and apply it in long, overlapping strokes. So long as you concentrate on keeping the application thin, the sealer isn’t likely to pool or drip. Next, wait for the sealer to cure—and while you’re waiting, take pains not to let any dust or debris settle on the drying cabinets. After the recommended dry time has elapsed, return to the cabinets and, for the smoothest-possible finish, sand the cabinets one more time (or lightly scuff them with steel wool). Remove the sanding dust, and once the cabinets are dry, apply the final sealer coat.
Re-hang the cabinet doors and put the knobs or pulls back in place (or seize the moment and install replacement hardware). Then stand back and relish the upgrade you’ve given to your old cabinets, and how, in turn, their new look has imbued the rest of the room with a new and exciting character.