Stuck wood drawers rarely are a crisis but they can be annoying. Stuck drawers are difficult to open and close, which is especially frustrating and time-consuming with drawers you access regularly. Not only that, but stuck wood drawers may damage the drawers, the slides, or the cabinet. Making wood drawers side easier is usually a simple fix that's inexpensive and quick to troubleshoot.
Reasons for Stuck Drawers
|Dust, dirt, and debris accumulate on the drawer tracks||Remove the debris with a cloth or vacuum.|
|Excessive friction in drawer slide components||Spray silicone, graphite, or dry lubricant on slide parts.|
|Loose drawer slides due to loose screws that hold the drawer slides in place||Screw loose screws and drawer slides back into place with a screwdriver.|
|Misaligned or bent bottom-mount drawer slides||Bend bottom-mount slides back into shape with pliers.|
|Damaged side-mount soft-close slides||Remove and replace side-mount slides.|
|Rough, uneven spots on the cabinet's wood tracks or on the drawer itself||Sand wood drawer tracks smooth with sandpaper.|
Lubricants That Help Drawers Slide More Easily
It's always good to have lubricant on hand to keep drawers functioning smoothly. Petroleum-based lubricants, such as oil or grease, attract dust and dirt, which will cause the drawer to stick again. Silicone, graphite, and Teflon-based lubricants work best.
- Silicone lubricant: Silicone lubricant is a good choice for drawer slides that are exposed to moisture, as it is resistant to water and does not degrade over time. Silicone lubricant in spray cans costs between $7 and $12.
- Graphite lubricant: Powdered graphite lubricant can be used on drawer slides without attracting dust and dirt. Long-lasting and smooth, graphite lubricant costs from $5 to $10 per tube or can.
- Teflon-based lubricant: Teflon-based lubricants, sometimes called dry lubricants, are extremely slippery and provide durable lubrication for drawer slides. Teflon-based lubricants cost from $8 to $12 per can.
How to Remove a Drawer
A stuck wood drawer must be removed from the cabinet or piece of furniture before you can fix it.
Found on most kitchen cabinets sold today, side-mount metal slides have a hidden release mechanism, like a lever, latch, or button, that you can press to release the drawer.
- Open the drawer fully so that you have access to the entire drawer and its slides.
- Locate the release mechanism, usually on the track toward the back.
- Press the button or flip the lever.
- Pull the drawer out to remove it.
For older-style bottom-mount drawer slides, pull the drawer out and then lift the drawer up as you continue to pull out.
Equipment / Tools
- 1 manual screwdriver, Phillips head
- 1 pliers
- 1 home vacuum with attachments
- 1 bucket or other large container
- 1 soft, clean cloth
- 1 pair side- or bottom-mount replacement drawer slides
- 1 can silicone, graphite, or Teflon-based lubricant
- 1 dish soap or other mild detergent
- 1 sandpaper, 200-grit
How to Make Wood Drawers Slide Easier
Clean the Drawer Tracks
Dust, dirt, and debris can accumulate on the tracks and cause the drawer to stick and slide with difficulty. Using a cloth or vacuum to clean the tracks and remove the debris will fix most drawers.
First, remove the drawer. Use a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool or a small brush attachment to remove large or hard-to-reach debris. Use a dry cloth or a soft brush to remove loose dust, dirt, or debris from the tracks.
For stuck-on dirt or grime on the tracks, you can use a mild detergent like dish soap. Dampen a cloth or sponge in the solution, wring it out well, then use it to scrub the tracks.
Rinse the tracks of soap or cleaner residue with clean water on a cloth. Dry the tracks thoroughly with a clean cloth.
Lubricate the Drawer Tracks
If the drawer is sticking due to dryness or friction, apply a lubricant spray to the tracks. This will help to reduce friction and make the drawer slide more easily.
Remove the drawer and clean the tracks. See the previous step for instructions on how to clean drawer tracks. Spray the lubricant directly on the tracks. Wipe away excess lubricant, especially if there is overspray on other areas.
Replace the drawer in the cabinet or dresser and slide it a few times to distribute the lubricant.
Tighten Loose Screws on the Slides
Over time, screws that hold the drawer slides in place may loosen, causing the drawer to stick. Tighten loose screws with a screwdriver.
Remove the drawer. Inspect the screws by wiggling them with your finger or by gently pushing the slides up and down.
Use a screwdriver to tighten any loose screws on the drawer slides. Make sure to tighten the screws evenly and firmly. With all the screws tightened, reinsert the drawer into the cabinet or dresser and test its movement.
Adjust the Drawer Slides
If bottom-mount drawer slides are misaligned or bent, this can cause the drawer to stick. Check the alignment of the slides and make necessary adjustments with pliers or a screwdriver.
Remove the drawer and check for bent or misaligned slides. If the slides are bent, you may be able to gently bend them back into position with pliers. Reinsert the drawer and test the slides.
Replace the Drawer Slides
If other methods to fix the stuck drawer do not work, replace the slides. While this is a more complex process, it will usually solve the problem entirely.
Remove the drawer from the cabinet. Measure the drawer from the back of the drawer front to the back end of the drawer. Use this measurement to purchase new drawer slides.
Since this is a one-for-one replacement, take note of the slides' current position before removing them. On the new drawer slides, unlatch and separate the two halves of each slide.
Use the screwdriver to remove the screws that hold the old slides in place and remove the slide components. You will need to do this both on the drawer and on the cabinet. Screw the outer, cabinet-side halves of the new slides on the cabinet.
With the drawer still removed, screw the remaining drawer-mount halves of the new slides onto the sides of the drawer. Slide the drawer into place. When the drawer reaches the back, it should click into place.
Sand the Rough Spots
If the wood drawer has wood slides that are sticking due to rough or uneven spots on the tracks or the drawer, sanding these sticking points will smooth them and help the drawer slide more easily. Most drawers do not have this type of wood-against-wood slide, but bedroom furniture or small cabinets may have this.
Remove the drawer and locate the areas of the drawer and the cabinet that rub against each other the most. To identify the spots, look for worn or scratched areas in the wood. Lightly sand the sticking points with sandpaper. Do not over-sand, as you can easily go back and sand some more.
Replace the drawer and test its movement.
When to Call a Professional
It may be best to hire a professional to fix the drawer slides if the slides are damaged beyond repair and you do not feel confident in your ability to replace them. Calling a professional may also be necessary for custom or especially valuable pieces of furniture.
The cabinet company that originally installed the cabinets can make these repairs. Or you can call any cabinet installer or even a fix-it service to see if they are available to do these repairs.