It is inevitable. Unless you do absolutely no frying in your kitchen, or never work with oils and butter, your kitchen cabinets will eventually take on a patina of fingerprints, frying residue, and smoke from frying. Replacing cabinets that are sticky with frying residue and smudged with fingerprints can be expensive, especially in a large kitchen. So your best alternative is to refinish them. It is not a difficult task, and the beauty of doing so is it allows you to change the color and add detailing that wasn't originally there.
Step 1 - Start the Process
Your first task will be to decide what color to refinish it with. Older cabinetry is often dark woods or laminates, and over a period of years, gains a patina of cooking residue and fingerprints. The best way to refurbish them is to paint. Chose a color that not only matches your décor but will make the kitchen brighter and more inviting.
Step 2 - Remove Everything
Before you start, remove the doors from the cabinets. Use a screwdriver to take them off and be careful not to misplace the screws. Once they are off, also remove the hardware from the cabinets.
Step 3 - Clean and Sand
Clean the doors and box thoroughly to remove all grease and fingerprints, using hot soapy water. Once it is clean, sand the finish to make it easier for the paint to adhere. A better method is to use a deglosser because then you don't have to deal with dust from sanding. After deglossing, allow the cabinet door to dry per the manufacturer's instructions. If you used sandpaper, now is the time to wipe everything down with a damp cloth to ensure all sanding dust is removed.
Step 4 - Prime
Once the cabinet doors are thoroughly dry, it is time to prime the doors. Always use an oil-based primer, because it is more durable and adheres better. Brush the primer on in smooth, even strokes. Lift the brush at the end of each stroke to ensure there are no drips. Start painting in the middle of the panel.
Allow the primer to dry. While the doors are drying, go ahead and prime the box. Use the same brush strokes here, ensuring that no heavy overlaps or runs are present.
Step 5 - Paint
Lay the paint on in the same fashion as you did the primer. Work from the center out with equal pressure and lift the brush at the end of the stroke. When you have finished painting, check for drips or runs and prepare as needed. Allow the door and box to dry, for at least 24 hours or per the manufacturer's instructions.
The box and cabinet doors are now painted, and you have given them ample time to dry. Now, take a good look at your cabinet hardware. Is it old and tarnished, and outdated? If so, consider replacing them with something a bit more updated.
Step 6 - Add Finishing Touches
Many cabinet doors have decorations, or bas relief, carved into the surface. Now would be a good time to find a matching paint, and outline the bas relief for a good finishing touch. Use contrasting colors here for a visual effect.
If your doors still are not what you think they should be, consider applying a stencil to them. This is easily accomplished with stencils that can be purchased or even found free online. Your local hardware where you purchased your supplies should also carry a wide array of stencils to fit any need. When applying, be careful that the stencil is tightly pressed against the cabinet door, and do not thin the paint used to a consistency that will cause runs. Again, use an oil-based paint for this. It would be best to check with a local art store to find the proper paints and brushes for this project.
Colors and stencils are only limited by your imagination. If attempting this project, take your time. It is not something that can be accomplished in an afternoon. Follow these guidelines, and your project is sure to be a success.