However careful we are, both ordinary wear and tear and accidental damage can result in dings and scratches on kitchen cabinets. These are generally not serious enough to justify stripping and refinishing the cabinets, and in most cases not sufficient to require refacing or replacing the cabinet doors, although this sometimes is the only answer.
Wood kitchen cabinets are often finished with polyurethane a popular wood sealer that is available in oil- and water-based forms, in matt and gloss finishes. While either may be used to seal kitchen cabinets made of solid wood, water-based products are less resistant to heat or extreme cold, which can be a problem in the kitchen. Oil-based polyurethane is considerably more resistant to heat. It does tend to add a yellow tone to wood, which most people like because it highlights the richness of the wood.
If your cabinets have been sealed with polyurethane, it is best to use exactly the same product to touch up any damaged areas, particularly if you are going to be sanding some of the existing surfaces and resealing them. However, unless you had the kitchen installed, or did the installation yourself, you might have to do a bit of guessing. Bear in mind that some types of polyurethane are translucent while others contain color so effectively stain and seal in one go.
Ironically though, there are a few other tricks that you can use to touch up scratches and other blemishes, and some don’t even require the use of polyurethane.
Your first step will be to inspect the cabinets carefully and assess what needs to be repaired. Then you can choose the best touch up method. Also note that you might want to use more than one touch up method, for instance if you have a combination of minor scratches and deeper dings and dents.
Before you get started do a thorough clean with a soft sponge and slightly soapy water because sometimes you will find imperfections lurking behind the dirt!
Touch Up Methods for Polyurethane Finished Cabinets
Touch-up pens are great for surface scratches but it’s important to match the color of your existing stain and/or polyurethane sealer. Then just spray or brush a little polyurethane over the scratch to seal it.
Walnut can also be used to fill and color minor scratches. Although an age-old touch up method it might not work as well as other more conventional contemporary methods. If the walnut “meat” isn’t the same color as your cabinet you will have to stain the scratch as well, which might not be worth the effort.
Sanding is essential for deeper scratches and small dents. Rub gently with a medium grit paper to get rid of any rough or jagged edges. If there are deep scratches it is best to use wood filler in the cracks before resealing with polyurethane. You will need to match the color of the filler or use a product that can be stained to match the wood. Whichever route you take be sure to let the filler harden before sealing. If the hole is deep it is usually advisable to fill in layers allowing each to harden before adding the next.
Polyurethane products are available for brushing on, spraying on, and a wipe-on polyurethane product is available for hand rubbing, a more complicated process but one that produces very good results.