Fixing Water Damage to Cabinets: Drying Cabinets and Making Repairs After Kitchen Water Damage

If you have some type of water event in your kitchen, it’s extremely likely that your cabinets will get wet. Particle board cabinets are especially prone to water damage, but solid wood cabinets can also be damaged by water. Fixing water damage to cabinets begins with removing as much water as possible and drying out wet cabinets quickly. Depending on the extent of the damage, it may be necessary to refinish or replace water damaged kitchen cabinets.

Our water damage pros have the equipment to dry cabinets fast. 1-888-443-3110 for a free water damage estimate now.

Steps to Drying Kitchen Cabinets After Water Damage

  1. Empty Your Cabinets – Remove items from your cabinets and evaluate what can be saved.
  2. Remove Excess Water – Use towels or sponges to soak up as much standing water as possible.
  3. Remove Cabinet Doors – Remove doors to limit the stress on the wet wood.
  4. Dry Wet Cabinets – Use air movers and dehumidifiers to completely dry your cabinets.
  5. Repair Water Damaged Kitchen Cabinets – Make repairs to damaged portions of your cabinets.
  6. Replace Kitchen Cabinets That Are Unsalvagable – Replace cabinets or materials that cannot be repaired.
  7. Clean Water Stains – Use oxalic acid to remove water stains from your cabinets.
  8. Treat for Odors and Mold – Use a mixture of bleach and water to remove mold and prevent odors.
  9. Refinish Your Cabinets – Strip and refinish wood or apply a veneer to restore your cabinets.

What Causes Kitchen Cabinet Water Damage

Due to all the water lines and drain pipes, your kitchen is one of the most common rooms for water damage. When it comes to water damaged kitchen cabinets, a leak from any one of those water lines can cause significant damage. Some of the most common causes of kitchen cabinet water damage include:

  • Leaky pipes under the sink
  • Dishwasher floods
  • Water supply line issues
  • Faucet leaks or malfunctions
  • Broken or leaking refrigerator water lines
  • Clogged and overflowing sinks
  • Excessive condensation from cooking
  • Frozen and burst water pipes

In order to prevent water damage in your kitchen, you should check for signs of water damage regularly. Inspect under sink cabinets for signs of leaks and make repairs if necessary. Check dishwasher and refrigerator supply lines at least once per year. Avoid using plastic water lines when installing a supply line to your refrigerator or ice maker.

Is it Possible to Completely Dry a Kitchen Cabinet?

Yes, it’s possible to dry a kitchen cabinet. Professional-grade air movers and dehumidifiers, available for rent at your local equipment supply company, are effective at drying wet kitchen cabinets. Consumer-grade fans and dehumidifiers will work too, but the drying process will take much longer.

However, just because they are dry doesn’t always mean you can always salvage water damaged cabinets. Water is likely to cause hardwood cabinets to swell and warp. Particleboard cabinets may even begin to fall apart. Plus, stains are likely after water damage regardless of the type of cabinets you have.

Address the Cause Before Restoring Water Damage to Cabinets

While it’s important to begin drying water damaged cabinets as quickly as possible, you will waste your effort if you don’t fix the cause of the water first. Start by turning off your main water supply valve.

Now that you’ve shut off the water to your entire home, look for the cause of the water damage. While you don’t need to repair the issue before you start drying wet cabinets, identifying the cause will ensure you don’t have another water issue once you’re finished.

Common Types of Kitchen Cabinets

Particle Board

Particleboard cabinets are the most common type of kitchen cabinets. The vast majority of kitchens built or remodeled after the mid-1960s are likely to have particle board cabinets.

Particle board is a composite material made of wood, resin, and glue. These compressed wood-like boards are then coated in some type of veneer to make them look more like real wood.

Water will weaken the glue used to hold the particleboard together. This can cause the boards to swell, which warps the veneer. With enough water and time, particleboard cabinets will crumble and fall apart.

Solid Wood

Although less common, some kitchen cabinets are made of solid wood. Hardwood cabinets are more resistant to water damage than those made of particleboard, but enough water or time will allow water to penetrate the wood. While they will eventually dry, wet hardwood cabinets are likely to swell and warp.


Applying a veneer over an existing cabinet is often a cost-effective way of updating a kitchen. Whether the cabinet base is made out of particleboard or some other material, a veneer is applied on top of the existing kitchen cabinets using glue.

As with particle board cabinets, water will weaken and eventually dissolve the glue if it gets wet. The base cabinet is also prone to water damage, with particleboard swelling and crumbling and solid woods warping.

How to Dry Water Damaged Kitchen Cabinets

The process of drying water damaged kitchen cabinets is basically the same, regardless of the materials involved.

1. Remove Items from Inside Cabinets

Empty your cabinets and review items to determine if they can be salvaged. Wash and dry towels and other fabrics and throw away paper items. Food items stored in glass or plastic containers can be kept, but items in cardboard boxes or bags should be discarded.

2. Remove Excess Water

After cleaning out your wet cabinets you need to remove as much excess water as possible. This prevents more water from soaking into your cabinets and can mean the difference between salvaging them and needing to refinish or replace them. Use towels, blankets, or sheets to soak up standing water. Then wipe your kitchen cabinets dry with clean, dry towels. The goal is to leave the surface of your cabinets completely dry.

3. Remove Cabinet Doors

If the material around the hinges is wet, the weight of the doors can cause further damage. By removing the doors, you limit the stress on the wet cabinets and improve airflow. You can also move the doors to another area and use another set of air movers or dehumidifiers to dry them out. This speeds up the drying time for your cabinets as well.

4. Dry Wet Cabinets

Use air movers and dehumidifiers to dry out wet kitchen cabinets. Ideally, professional-grade equipment, available at your local equipment rental company, should be used to ensure the quickest drying time. While you can use regular consumer-grade fans and dehumidifiers, they will take longer to dry your cabinets. Allow the equipment to run as long as necessary to ensure the cabinets are completely dry. Don’t forget to dry behind and underneath kitchen cabinets as well, as water can creep through very small crevices or even through the wood itself. Also, check the flooring and subflooring beneath your kitchen cabinets for signs of water damage.

5. Repair Water Damaged Kitchen Cabinets

Depending on the extent of the damage, it may be possible to repair kitchen cabinets after water damage. If the water has delaminated parts of the cabinet, you may be able to repair the water damage using carpenter’s glue, clamps, and screws. Spread the carpenter’s glue between the delaminated layers of the cabinets, then use the clamps to press them back together. A few well-placed screws may also fix some of the water damage. If water weakened the braces hold the cabinets together, you can easily replace them with new wood. Use both carpenter’s glue and screws when installing new braces.

6. Replace Kitchen Cabinets That Are Unsalvagable

While some water damaged cabinets can be repaired, others will need to be completely replaced. Particleboard cabinets are more likely to need to be replaced than solid wood cabinets, as the water will weaken the glue holding them together. If your cabinets are crumbling or falling apart, no amount of screws or glue will fix them. In this case, you will need to remove the damaged cabinets and replace them with new units. If you cannot find identical cabinets, you will need to replace them all, apply a stain to ensure they match, or cover them with a veneer.

7. Clean Water Stains

Even if you were able to salvage water damaged cabinets, there will still likely be water stains. Oxalic acid is effective at removing water stains from wood, however, you will need to sand off the finish first. Mix oxalic acid crystals with water until the solution is completely saturated and no more crystals will dissolve. Then use a brush to apply the oxalic acid solution to your stained cabinets and allow it to dry. This should remove most water damaged cabinet stains, but a second or even a third application may be necessary in some cases. Once the stain is gone, dissolve a half cup of baking soda in one gallon of water and apply it to the wood to neutralize the acid. Wash the area with clean water and allow it to dry completely.

8. Treat for Odors and Mold

Even though your cabinets are dry, odors and mold may still develop over time. Wipe your cabinets down with a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part bleach and allow to air dry. If odors persist, you may need to use an ozone machine to completely remove the smell. Ozone machines are available at your local equipment rental supply stores. However, they can be hazardous to your health, so read their safety instructions before using them. If mold was growing on your cabinets before you were able to dry them, you should use a hospital-grade sanitizer instead of bleach.

9. Refinish Your Cabinets

In some cases, you may need to refinish kitchen cabinets after water damage. Lightly sand the wood to remove the existing finish. Then wipe the wood down with a damp rag to remove debris and allow it to dry completely. Use a sealant to protect the wood and form a base for the stain, then apply an even coat of stain. Finish the process with a finish coat or topcoat to protect the wood. Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions for application.

Water Damage can Lead to Mold in Kitchen Cabinets

Mold needs a source of moisture and some type of cellulose material to thrive. Wet kitchen cabinets are a perfect environment for mold. It’s likely that mold in cabinets will remain as long as there is a source of water.

In addition, mold may grow under wet cabinets or even behind them if the water remains stagnant for a few days. To ensure mold does not grow on or under cabinets, it’s important to begin drying wet cabinets as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, mold under sink cabinets is extremely common. Even after a thorough cleaning, mold may return if there is a small leak or drip in the future. Remember to check for mold under sink cabinets regularly, especially if you’ve had water damage before.

Professional Kitchen Cabinet Restoration After Water Damage

If you need help fixing water damage to cabinets, the water damage contractors in the Restoration Local network are here to help. From independent restoration companies to major franchises including AdvantaCleanDKI Restoration, and PuroClean, we make it easy to locate a water damage restoration company near you.

Call 1-888-443-3110 now to speak to the on-call water damage restoration in your area about drying water damaged kitchen cabinets. Our on-call contractors offer 24-hour emergency services and 30-minute response time to ensure the quickest possible drying time. With our free, no-obligation estimate, there is absolutely no risk.

With contractors across the country, you can also choose from a list of water damage contractors in your area. Read reviews from other customers and choose the right water restoration contractor to fit your needs.

Author: Jeff Rooks

Jeff Rooks writes restoration content that helps homeowners restore their lives after a disaster or accident. Most days, you can find him cycling through Tampa. He also enjoys exploring new and delicious food and beverages around the world.

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