From all the feed back I’ve received on the topic of painting the inside of drawers, it seems to be a 50/50 split on whether furniture painters and/or re-finishers do or don’t.
Here’s my humble take on the topic and the 5 questions I ask myself when deciding whether or not to paint the inside of a drawer.
1. Is the drawer in bad shape? If the inside of a drawer has scratches, stains or looks very worn and dirty, I’ll paint it.
2. Does the drawer have an odor? If the drawer smells of smoke, dirty socks, or has that old musty stench, I’ll paint it. A good odor killing primer such as KILZ along with a few coats of paint will block and eliminate odors.
3. Does the inside of the unfinished drawer detract from the finished piece? After painting a piece of furniture, if I open the drawer and the interior of the drawer takes away from my finished piece; I’ll paint it.
4. Will a pop of color inside the drawer enhance this piece? Adding a POP of color can add pizzazz and an element of surprise to an entire piece!
5. Will the inside of the drawer require sealing; if so, with what? If the inside of the drawer is being painted, I also decide on a sealer/protector. Wax, poly, shellac? For example , I wouldn’t use a wax finish for a desk drawer where ink, crayons or markers may stain. The wax would be difficult to clean and over time would not sufficiently protect.
This custom painted China Cabinet is a perfect example of how an unfinished interior drawer would have taken away from the overall appeal. Take a look at how clean and polished it looks once the inside of the drawer has been painted.
When it comes to painting drawers, there really is no right or wrong answer but this is my question for you today… to paint or not to paint? Do YOU paint the inside of your drawers? Do you like the look of painted interior drawers? Like most everything in life, it all boils down to personal preference. Chime in and leave me a comment because I’d love to know what you think!
Here are some before and after pics of this custom painted china cabinet. Do you love these pieces as much as I do?… here’s another similar China Cabinet I curb-shopped and refinished with a Homemade ChalkPaint Recipe.
Have a fabulous day!
Just bought a house with unfinished bare wood inside the kitchen drawers. Looks like a good sanding and then the question…paint or poly? Considering both at the moment, but leaning a bit more towards poly because of less fumes and more durability. Just not sure if people poly the insides of their kitchen drawers since it seems kind of strange to do where you’re going to be put your utensils! Any thoughts on the paint or poly decision would be super helpful! Thanks!
Lauren P says
Great post! I am taking on my very first restoration project – my great grandma’s hutch or armoire or chest of drawers. It’s unclear to me what the original purpose was. However, this was helpful to see that I’m not alone in the struggle of how/if to finish the drawers. I am painting the dresser in a bold jade color and stumped on what to paint the inside. Lots of options!
Hi there, im hoping you could help me out. I’m currently redoing my old furniture for my little girls nursery, im expecting her end of May and with the whole pandemic i hjavent been able to buy any furniture so this has become my last prayer to get her room done. I’ve done loads of research im a total novice in this matter. im using Satinwood paint and Acrylic paint for interiors also only concern is will it be topxic to her clothes or give her any reactions? is it safe if i seal it with a satin clear varnish?
Thank so much in advance, love your blog.
Hi Francine and CONGRATULATIONS…how exciting! If you were to seal it with a waterbased stain clear coat and make sure it’s 100% cured, it should be just fine. 🙂
Jackie C Cooley says
I always paint the insides of the drawers and the sides, too; sometimes with complementary colors.. I always paint the back of my furniture, too. It seems if you are going to paint something beautiful you should make the entire piece look finished. I hate to go into an antique booth and see a pretty painted piece and look in the drawers and they are so ugly!
I’m not fond of pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside either. 😉 That said, if the drawers are pristine, I usually leave them.
The inside of cabinets (base and drawers) in my sons rental is very dirty. They are not wood (laminate I guess. What should I paint them with?
Gary Dunn says
I am repairing and old dresser and have painted the drawers inside and out. My question is how about the inside of the dresser, whats not seen when drawers are in place…… under the top, both sides from the inside. Even the wooden drawer slide rails. In other words paint the dresser inside and out…????? What do you think?
Hi Gary! Unless there is a good reason for it, say a really bad odor or stain that a stain blocking primer could fix, I don’t bother. There is no need to waste product or time on the insides that are never seen anyway. Even manufacturers don’t finish the insides. Just my two cents… hope it helps. 🙂
If you are going to keep your fine, silky underwear in the drawers, definitely paint them….. and sand with fine sandpaper to make sure there are no rough bits to snag on your clothes.
Sue Pascoe says
Can you just use rustoleum spray paint inside the drawers. Thank you 😊
It’s heavy duty but sure you can. Rustoleum also has an all-purpose and chalky paint too. 🙂
Laurie H. says
I purchased two dressers , and unfortunately they were from a home with a smoker, I have stripped them, and been trying to air them out but there is still an odor. I am in the process of priming them with odor killing oil based primer, all surfaces including the drawers and dressers, but I could really use tips for completing the painting and how to help avoid drips, do use use a roller or a brush? what areas of the drawer etc do you tend to painr first etc.. this is turning out to be quite a bigger project than I thought and I am getting a bit overwhelmed, but want to have a beautiful result. Any information, tips would be great!
Hi Laurie! Odor killing primer is brilliant and will do the trick. Priming with a roller for the large areas and a brush to get into the corners is helpful, and it’s always better to paint a few light coats than one or two heavy coats. This will reduce drips. For a real professional finish, lightly sand after the last coat of primer has dried, and then paint. Good luck and I hope this helps. 🙂
Recently I painted a jewelry box with acrylic paint and sealer. I painted the the complete inside of the drawers and the box itself and left everything to dry for several days, but when I put it back together it all stuck together to the point of being useless. Is there a way to prevent this in the future?
Laura Lowery says
Hello, I recently bought some drawers which where lovely painted on the outside however when I opened the drawer the would looked stained and dirty. I sanded the wood then used a tester pot of Matt wall paint to paint the inside. I then used a clear acrylic spray to seal the paint. Will it be ok to keep clothes in? Thank you
P.s if I have to wait to cure then whatbis the time for this. I only waited a few days.
Yes, that’s just fine Laura. Heavy or sharp objects may cause damage before a piece is cured but clothes should be just fine. 🙂
Laura Lowery says
Susan Gouvion says
Is there a paint that most furniture DIYers use for inside all the dresser drawers and is it safe to have clothes in all these places afterwards. It seems to me that it would be a toxic mess. My 50 year old dresser needs something to un-stink it but I don’t want it to be unsafe for breathing issues.
Hi Susan! So long as you wait for the painted interior drawers to completely cure, there should be no issues. Also for bad smelling drawers this primer is amazing.
Robin S says
I have found that shellac is the most amazing odor destroyer. We bought a 60 year old home that had odor in bathroom and kitchen (all wood) cabinets and drawers – due to decades of unresolved moisture issues in the crawl space (of which we remediated first of all). I had the shellac tinted beige and painted all insides with 2-3 coats of shellac. It was difficult to contort myself inside to get the upper portions but well worth it. A couple months later just a few drawers had remaining subtle “old house” smell, so I added very affordable coconut shell charcoal-activated odor absorbent boxes (found on amazon . com or Walmart) and in 1-2 days there was no odor at all. Very refreshing to open any of those cabinets or drawers now and not get a whiff of that hideous stench. Hope this helps someone else. 🙂
Donna Gregory says
I was going to shellac my bathroom vanity, but the painting expert at Sherwin Williams advised me that shellac will yellow in time. She advised Spar Polyurethane instead.
I am a complete amateur but I picked up a heavy Kimball desk at my local Restore for $8 so I figured it was worth a try to refurbish it. The desk is in great shape structurally but needs TLC. I am going to paint it a bright blue (think Tardis blue from Dr Who). As I’m taking the drawers out right now I realized I don’t know what to do about the inside of the drawers! I thought bout leaving them the way they are (they are clean, no stains) but the thought of opening the bright blue drawer and seeing brown inside makes me cringe. I LOVE what you did with the thrift store coffee table make-over (red inside) so I’m leaning towards doing an accent color inside and on the sides of the drawer. Do you think a bright yellow would be too much or should I stick with cream or gray. The room it is in is cream and grey but I have pops of yellow throughout.
Like I said, complete amateur.
BTW, great information on your site! So helpful!! Many thanks!
Hi Libby! So happy you’re finding the SI Blog helpful and kudos to you for picking up that $8 desk. What a great find!!! I love my local ReStore but I haven’t been lucky enough to find ANY piece of furniture for $8 there! 🙂 Anyway, as for the inside of your drawers, I think the contrast of blue and yellow would be fabulous but my 2cents would be to pick a colour that will make YOU happy every time you open them! There is no right or wrong (and if it’s not the look you’re after it can always be changed down the road) so pick your happy color. 🙂 Best x
Drawer insides left unfinished will discolor clothing. I have an old chest of drawers whose drawer interiors are unfinished. All white clothing that was stored on the very bottom of the drawer — in direct contact with the unfinished wood — has discolored. T shirts, lingerie, whatever that was light in color is now ivory or darker. The discoloration does not come out when washed or bleached. I’m moving in a few months, and I’ll be putting a clear coat of lacquer inside all the drawers before putting clothes inside them again.
CARRIE LYONS says
I am painting a double sink bathroom vanity that was brown wood to a grey, Dorian Grey to be exact. I have three drawers in the middle. I am torn about painting the insides and the sides of the drawers since the insides are not really wood. More like partical board. They are in good shape. No stains or blotches. Also what about the inside of the vanity. would the brown color throw off the grey color. Not that any of my guests would be opening my bathroom vanity drawers? right? I have painted my main bathroom vanity, but I used gel stain. I’m using paint for this bathroom. Not staining it. The vanity is 26 years old. 90’s all the way. Do I paint the entire vanity?
Hi Carrie! If the drawers are clean, in good shape and no stains or blotches – I would leave them. And unless you really don’t like the look of the inside of your vanity, personally, I would leave that too. This is of course a personal choice, but it’s not an all or nothing. You could leave them for now, and then decide to add a pop of colour later down the road.
We’re just starting out and about halfway through our first pine chest of draws. It’s dawned on me we’re painting the unit but what do we do to the wood/brown backing Board? Would you lightly sand and paint this, leave it alone, or replace with matching coloured back board.
Sorry for such a beginner question! I love your pieces though so hope you can shed some, light on this.
Hi Martin… great question! Because I sell my pieces, when I see a backing in good shape – I leave it. If it looks a little rough, I prime and/or paint – usually no sanding is required when they’re not top coated. If the back is in really bad shape, it gets replaced with a new backboard. Hope this helps.
Hi, I just finished chalk painting and waxing a dresser but I wasn’t sure about the inside of the drawers. I painted them because it wouldn’t look right without painting them.. do I need to wax them too?
Hi Lizeth! This is a personal preference. For dressers; I don’t because if it’s just clothes being kept in the drawers, there’s no concerns with staining/dirt etc. However, if I’m painting desk drawers, a topcoat is not a bad idea to protect against ink mishaps etc.
If I paint the inside of my drawers I use high gloss and a pop of color. That way they are easy to clean and beautiful.
melanie williamson says
hello, I am about to chalk paint a wardrobe, I want to paint inside but do I have to use chalk paint inside or can I just use a normal silk wood paint? its not waxed or varnished inside..save wasting expensive chalk paint? Thanks
Sure Melanie, you can paint the inside of drawers using any type of paint.
I have just finished painting a dresser for a nursery. I used Benjamin Moore semigloss paint. Do I need to add a sealant all over or is it fine to leave as is. Ty.
Totally up to you Allie, but gor a professional finish and the best protection for all your hard work, it’s nice to topcoat. Protecting your furniture with a poly will also helps with easy clean-up.
[email protected] says
Most of my pieces I have not painted the drawer insides but they were all nice and clean but I do put pretty drawer liners in everything I sell. 🙂
Hello! I have an MCM dresser and I want to paint the whole drawer to get rid of the musty smell. The drawers are all flush and fit very snugly within the dresser. I’m afraid that the paint will either rub/scratch off or make the drawers stick. If this does happen is there something I can do to fix it? Would a coat of polycrylic help get rid of the stickiness of the latex paint? Thanks
If you haven’t painted your MCM drawers yet, you can sand drawers down (slightly) before applying paint. Paint drawers in a few thin coats rather than 1 or 2 heavy coats of paint. This is a preventative measure and will ensure your drawers slide nicely. If drawers are painted and you find its rubbing or scratching, a top coat of poly will help. Also, paraffin wax rubbed on the drawer glide should make it glide more smoothly too. I’ve used both bees wax and a candle with good results. Good luck Alicia.
I think your five questions are brilliant! I have been painting for friends and family for years and recently, like in the last month decided to start buying (this is so easy), painting and selling my furniture. I have left some of the bottoms and backs as is because if someone wants to refinish the piece later on down the road, they have the original stain/paint color. Is this foolish of me? By the way, I LOVE your blog and your chalk paint recipe is fantastic!! Thank you!
Thank you Lia and NO… not foolish at all. I’ve refinished many pieces and left the drawers ‘as-is’ because they look great!
Love your site and your projects are beautiful. I am painting a dresser for my daughter, I want to paint the inside of the drawers because it looks so much nicer. My question is that for clothes drawers, will wax as a finish be ok? Assuming I put it on thin enough and buff it out. Will it become sticky in time? I’m new to all of this, I just recently discovered chalk paint and am presently using your calcium carbonate recipe, works great! How will it be if I leave the chalk paint unfinished inside the drawers?
Great questions Joan! For the inside of drawers, you can topcoat them with wax for a more “finished” look and if applied properly the wax should NOT become sticky in time. However the wax may need reapplying in the future especially if the inside of the drawers get a lot of use. You can also leave the chalk finish “as-is” and just give it a nice sanding for a smooth touch. Just keep in mind if chalky paint is left “as-is”, it’s a very porous paint which can/will attract dirt, oils etc. If the drawers are being used for clean clothes, not that big of a concern. But if the drawers are being used for crayons, markers, pencils, I would definitely seal and protect it.
Thanks, Denise:-) I think I will wax the drawers, at least the top drawers My daughter is 14 so she may put lotions and such in them. Depending on how I feel after I wax the top drawers, I may wax the others and see how it goes.
Thank you so much for all the great info you provide on your site! I have just finished sanding an antique vanity and about to paint it with homemade CP. I haven’t yet decided to leave the inside of the drawers wood or to paint but either way I will be sealing them with something. My question is if I seal with polycrylic (which I’ve never used before) will the smell of the poly remain inside the drawers? Eventually I will be painting a chest of drawers too, and I don’t want my daughters clothes to have that odd poly smell. Thanks again!
No Emily, once Minwax Polycrylic dries (or other brands), there is no lingering odor.
I love the painted look and I am about to paint my first dresser. I was wondering if painting the insides will affect the ability of thd drawers to glide easily or will they stick?
Great question Stephanie! There is a possibility that a slight build-up of paint may hinder the sliding of a drawer. I always check the “ease” of a drawer before painting. If it doesn’t pull in and out easily, a light sanding BEFORE painting can be helpful. If a drawer is not gliding freely AFTER it’s been painted, a light waxing on the drawer glider will usually resolve any issue.
Debbie @Dewdrop Gables says
Yes, I paint the drawers and always the backs and bottoms when I’m selling a piece. I agree with your post, it gives a finished look.
Serena @ Thrift Diving says
Great post and debate! In my opinion, YES, YES, YES, every drawer should be painted if you 1) can reach it, and 2) if you are selling it, or 3) can be seen by others. I think it looks a bit tacky to NOT paint inside of it, because it looks unfinished. I went to a barn sale and saw hoards of furniture that wasn’t painted on the back OR the inside, and it looked like it wasn’t something I would want to spend $250 on. I used to not paint the inside of things, but now, I must paint the bottom, back, and inside. If I were to sell a piece and a customer turns it over to put it in their truck, I want them to see a finished piece all around, even the bottom. It makes it look high quality. I don’t want to remind them of the ugliness underneath the paint 🙂
p.s. That furniture is great you posted!
Serena @ Thrift Diving
Great points Serena! Thanks so much for chiming in… and oh, I love your blog!
Hi Denise! Your china cabinet looks beautiful and the painted drawers are the icing on the cake. I follow the same principles you do. After seeing these pictures, I think I want to do it more on those special pieces. I think it will make the more expensive pieces look like they’re worth the price. I also want to try painting the drawers with a pop of color. I think that could add value too. Thanks for the tips.
Tess S. says
Hi!!! I think a painted drawer looks more complete and “cleaner”. That’s just my opinion but it’s what I prefer. Thank you for addressing the issue. I think we all wonder what the “pros” do.
Hi Tess! If it’s in great shape and I can “get-away” with not painting it, I won’t. But in many cases I agree with you, a much cleaner look. Thanks for chiming in. 🙂
This is exactly what I needed to read tonight. I’m working on a buffet with GF for my beach house and the inside of the drawers stink and are dirty. LOL. I shall paint them. Thanks!