Fix Sticking Drawers in Wooden Furniture

Lead Image
  • 1-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Plain soap
Wood glue

Drawers that stick and bind when you're opening them are a pain. Luckily, newer drawer sets have features like plastic and metal sliders that rarely stick. Another perk of these materials is that when the drawers get stuck, a quick spray with a Teflon lubricant for plastic, or a water displacement lubricant for metal will unstick a jammed drawer in a snap.

Unfortunately, wooden drawers aren't always that cooperative. Because lots of things can cause a wooden drawer to bind, the fix is rarely straightforward. You’ll first need to narrow down what's causing your wooden drawers jamming before you can determine a solution.

Obstructions Blocking the Drawer

Start by taking out the sticking drawer and look to see if there is some kind of an obstruction or if the drawer structure is loose or coming apart. Your problem could be as simple as a protruding nail or staple, a loose drawer guide, a broken plastic corner guide, or even a piece of clothing stuck in the drawer track.

Any of these causes are easily addressed as once located; you just remove the drawer and fix the issue, whichever it may be.

Replacing Drawer Guides

white wooden drawer ajar

Drawer guides that are loose can be easily fixed. Remove any screws, and take the loose guide right off the drawer. Then spread some carpenters or wood glue on the drawer and the guide. Reattach the guide with the screws you just removed, and let the glue dry overnight.

Wooden Drawer Doesn’t Fit Right


If you can't find any obvious obstruction and your drawer still sticks, your next step is to sand the drawer. Take the sticky drawer out and turn it upside down. Use medium-grit sandpaper and a sanding block to remove some wood from the bottoms of the drawer edges. Work slowly, taking off a little at a time.

Test fit your work often to avoid sanding too much. The gradual pace and testing are very important. If you sand away too much, your drawer still won’t fit right, so avoid power sanders for this task.

Nylon Tape

Stores also sell nylon tape you just peel and stick onto the bottom edges of your drawers and drawer guide tracks. Once the slippery nylon is installed, you won't need to lubricate your drawers with soap or wax ever again.

Be aware that depending on how tight the tolerances are in your furniture, you may need to sand the drawer edges to make enough room to install the nylon tape.


Seal Moisture Out of Drawers

You can also prevent the wood in your drawers from swelling and binding by sealing both the drawers and the inside of your cabinets with polyurethane or paint. These will prevent moisture from getting into the open wood grain of your furniture and causing the wood to swell.

If you're dealing with a drawer that has already ballooned shut from moisture and won't budge, move it to an area where the heat and humidity conditions can gradually wick away the moisture so that the wood will shrink. Depending on how dramatically the wood drawer has warped, you may need to wait for the weather to turn for the necessary heat and dryness or consult a professional.

Lubricate Edges

No matter what caused the original problem, while you have the drawer out it's a good idea to apply a lubricant to the drawer bottom and guides. Plain soap without added skin moisturizers, beeswax, or petroleum jelly rubbed on the drawer bottom will lubricate the surfaces and make the drawer slide easily. Lubricate everywhere the drawer touches the framework of the furniture, such as bottom edges and side guides.