Keep your dark wood cabinets shiny with a good cleaning.

How to Make Dark Cabinets & Beams Shine

by Michele Norfleet

If your kitchen cabinets or wood beams have lost their luster, you can restore the shine with patience, time and a little effort. Depending on the type of finish your woodwork has, restoring the shine may be as simple as a good, thorough cleaning. For a quick fix-up to your wood cabinets, an application of wax might do the trick. But to give your woodwork long-term shine plus durability, you can apply a water-based finish -- a tedious prospect but worth the effort in the long run.

1. Cleaning

1 Prepare a mild soap-and-water solution in a bucket.

2. Cleaning

2 Wash the beams and cabinets with the soap solution, using a sponge.

3. Cleaning

3 Rinse the wood with clear water. Wash again if your cabinets or beams are extra dirty or greasy.

4. Cleaning

4 Dry the cabinets and beams with a soft cloth. Allow the wood to dry thoroughly overnight before applying a finish.

5. Wax Finish

1 Apply wax to the cabinets or beams with a clean, dry cloth.

6. Wax Finish

2 Wait 30 minutes for the wax to penetrate the wood.

7. Wax Finish

3 Buff the cabinets and beams with a soft, lint-free cloth.

8. Water-Based Surface Finish

1 Sand the woodwork lightly with fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding evens out the wood and allows the product to bond better.

9. Water-Based Surface Finish

2 Wipe the surface with a dry, lint-free cloth to remove all dust particles.

10. Water-Based Surface Finish

3 Apply a thin coat of water-based finish with a paintbrush, brushing with the grain.

11. Water-Based Surface Finish

4 Allow the product to dry for two or more hours, or overnight before applying a second coat.

12. Water-Based Surface Finish

5 Sand the surface lightly. Wipe away dust with a dry cloth before applying additional coats. Apply three or four coats of finish, in all, for the best shine and wood protection.

Items you will need

  • Mild dish soap
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Soft cloths
  • Paste wax for wood
  • Fine grit sandpaper (320 to 400 grit)
  • Water-based cabinet finish
  • Paintbrush with synthetic bristles


  • Both polyurethane and water-based surface finishes are sold. Polyurethane finishes are more durable. However, water-based finishes have minimal fumes and your brushes can be cleaned with soap and water.


  • Provide adequate ventilation when applying finishes to your wood. Keep your children well away from the area. If you choose a solvent-based product, wear a respirator mask to avoid breathing harmful fumes, and keep these products away from heat or flames.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images