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.


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

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

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

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

Wax Finish

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

Wait 30 minutes for the wax to penetrate the wood.

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

Water-Based Surface Finish

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

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

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

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

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.

About the Author

Michele Norfleet is a freelance writer who writes on travel, home and garden and education topics. She has coauthored a handbook for teachers on school-wide discipline and has contributed tips for special-needs students in the basal curriculum for RCL Benziger. Norfleet holds a master's degree from Southern Illinois University and has experience as a special-needs teacher and speech pathologist.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images