Removing Old Shelf Liner from Kitchen Cabinets

Woman checking cabinet in kitchen


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Shelf liners are both protective and decorative, but eventually, even the best shelf liners tear, crack or appear dirty. The next time you want to clean out your kitchen cabinets, remove the old liner, clean the cabinets and apply new shelf liner paper. That might be easier said than done if the old shelf liner won't budge or is fragile. 

Whenever you clean out your kitchen cabinets, it's a good idea to replace the shelf liner. Debris and insects can get stuck under the shelf liner without you being aware they are there. However, removing old shelf liner, especially super-adhesive shelf liner, can require patience.

If your liner isn't adhesive, just remove the liner and clean the shelf thoroughly with a mild detergent and water mixture. Allow the shelf to dry completely before replacing the liner.

Supplies for Removing Adhesive Shelf Liners

After you empty everything out of the cabinet that has the adhesive shelf liner you plan to replace, gather a few tools to help with the old liner removal. They are:

  • Hair dryer
  • Putty knife
  • Spray bottle filled with warm water
  • Adhesive remover
  • Cloth or paper towels
  • Damp cloth
  • Mild detergent

Removing the Adhesive Liner

  1. Start at one corner of the liner. Heat it with the hair dryer set to a high setting for about a minute. The heat should weaken the adhesive and make the shelf liner easier to work with.
  2. Use the putty knife to pry up the corner carefully. Pull it back slowly over the rest of the liner until you get to a point where it sticks and won't pull any further.
  3. Spray the adhesive side of the liner with warm water in a spray bottle, focusing on the place where the adhesive no longer lets the liner peel back. 
  4. Wait a bit for the water to seep under the liner and then pull back the liner until it sticks again. 
  5. Repeat the spray water/then pull process as many times as necessary to remove the entire piece of shelf liner. If you get to a spot that doesn't respond to the water, heat it up with the hairdryer.
  6. Use the putty knife to scrape any remaining bits of the liner from the shelf.
  7. Soak a cloth or paper towel with commercial adhesive remover and scrub the shelf anywhere it is sticky. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove the adhesive remover.
  8. If you're going to apply new shelf liner, clean the area clean with a mixture of mild detergent and water so that the new shelf liner will stick properly. Wait for the shelf to dry completely before putting in the new shelf liner.