Question: My kitchen cabinets are old and dingy-looking and I would like to give them a “facelift.” I am not very certain exactly what kind of wood they are made of but they are stained a reddish brown color and seem to have a thin layer of clear finish over them.
I would really like not to strip then re-stain them; instead, I would like to improve their existing finish so that it looks richer. Is this even achievable? I would very much appreciate any suggestions.
Answer: Luckily, you can refurbish your cabinets without having to strip them if what you wish for is not to dramatically change their existing color. You should consider using Briwax to clean and rejuvenate dirty, old, and dried-out finishes. Briwax removes watermarks, covers nicks and scratches, and cleans away the dark sticky build-up.
Briwax is a combination of carnuba and beeswax with a toluene solvent. The wax blend dries to form a hard, durable film, which protects against spills, fingerprints, and dust without ever building up while the solvent helps in the cleaning and even re-amalgamating partially old shellac and lacquer finishes.
Apply a thin coating of the correct color using a 4/0 steel wool or a fine white Scotch Brite pad, let it dry for a couple of minutes, and buff to the desired finish using a clean, soft, lint-free cloth. Ensure that you use gloves that are solvent-resistant and have enough aeration when using Briwax, since the toluene does have an odor to it.
Clean your cabinets out first in case they are really dirty using mineral spirit and 4/0 steel wool. This will spare you a bit of hard work when you are using Briwax.
You can also use Briwax on clean, dry, and smooth unsealed wooden surfaces. You can achieve improved shine and durability by first sealing the surface using a sanding sealer. Several coats will provide increased shine and hardness. Before you apply Briwax to protect a newly finished surface, ensure that you allow the finish maximum curing time.
The normal maintenance procedure for a Briwax-ed surface is wiping using a clean, soft, lint-free cloth. You can easily buff back a dulled shine without using furniture sprays. Just apply some Briwax to renew the finish if buffing does not bring back the luster you once had. You can also use a non-abrasive general-purpose spray cleaner to remove surface dirt without destroying the Briwax coating. Briwax may not be compatible with some finishes because of quality or age so it is advisable that you first test a small hidden area.