How-to's Woodworking Ideas

How to Make Wood Drawers Slide Easier

Drawers do an excellent job de-cluttering your space by keeping all kinds of stuff tucked away and neatly out of sight. Unfortunately, wood drawers sometimes just refuse to behave like they used to.

Without notice, they start getting stuck, making it a real hassle to pull them out or push them back into place. When this happens, you might think of buying another set or calling a professional to assess and fix the problem.

However, neither of these is the ideal solution. You can easily fix the problem on your own if you know how to make wood drawers slide easier.

How to Make Wood Drawers Slide Easier

There are different ways of making drawers slide easier; you can use paraffin wax, soap, oil, or WD-40. Rub any of these materials on the drawer’s runners, and then open and close the drawer a few times to work it in. You can also try sanding down the runners slightly for a smoother draw. If your drawers are still sticking, you may need to replace the runners entirely.

Why Do Wooden Drawers Get Stuck?

Making wood drawers slide smoothly begins by understanding what causes this problem. Wood is generally porous and responsive to weather elements.

However, over time, it can absorb moisture from years of exposure to humidity and other moisture sources, causing it to warp.

Other than moisture, temperature changes also cause wood to shrink and expand. The wood expands when it is hot and shrinks when it is cold.

Unfortunately, these changes in the size and shape of wood are not always uniform, which typically results in wood drawers becoming stuck even where they used to move freely and smoothly.

How to Make Wood Drawers Slide Easier: Summary

Since wooden drawers typically get stuck when a section or section of the drawer starts rubbing against the cabinetry’s inner surfaces, you can easily fix the problem by applying a lubricating material to reduce friction between the rubbing parts.

Sanding a layer from the sticking parts should also help reduce contact and eliminate friction, restoring smooth movement.

If the problem is caused by damaged runners or misaligned rails, you can repair, realign, or replace the damaged component to restore smooth movement.

Preliminary Tip: Try Reordering the Drawers

Always start by pulling the drawer out of the chest and inspecting it for any material or object that might be jammed in, preventing it from sliding properly.

If no object is there, you should see whether warped wood or damaged slides are responsible for the jam. If you recently removed the drawers just before the problem started, the chances are that you put the drawers back in different spots.

If that is the case, you can try removing and reordering the drawers by putting them in different spots to see if you find their original positions. You can tell whether this is the problem if it goes away after trying a different order.

Of course, you can always avoid this problem by labeling the drawers each time you pull them out for a refinishing project.

Nonetheless, if trying different spots does not make the wooden drawer slide easier, there are various methods that you can use to fix it.

You will be happy to know that some of the supplies you will need for the methods here are already in your pantry or somewhere in your home. And the procedures for making a drawer slide smoothly are generally straightforward.

Method 1: Use Soap to Make the Drawer Slide Smoothly

You likely don’t know that bar soap can be an excellent lubricant in the right place. Making a drawer slide smoothly is one such area where the soap’s lubricating properties come in handy. It is best to use unscented bar soap for this purpose to avoid.

What you will need

  • Laundry bar soap

How to use this method

  • Pull the drawer completely out of the chest and rub some soap over the edges or sides that are touching against the chest and causing restrictive friction.
  • Ensure you keep the layer thin so that it does not restrict movement but as even as possible over the affected surface.
  • If you use scented bar soap, consider applying a repellent around the drawer of the entire cabinetry to keep insects at bay.
  • Once done applying the soap, replace the drawer to complete the task.

Method 2: Using Baby Powder to Make Wood Drawer Slide Easier

Baby powder is another handy option if you prefer something other than bar soap for fixing the problem with your jammed drawer.

The product is formulated to provide a smooth barrier between surfaces, so don’t let the skin-grade aspect inhibit you.

We recommend using baby powder over regular powder because it is more finely ground, allowing smoother movement. The smooth texture does an excellent job of making the surfaces slide over each other.

An unscented option is better in this case. Some scents attract insects, which may add another task of keeping them away.

What you will need

  • Baby powder

Steps to follow in this method

  • Eject the drawer from its spot in the cabinetry.
  • Locate the areas rubbing against one another and impeding the free movement of the drawer.
  • Apply baby powder evenly on the jamming wood surface. The powder should make the wooden drawer slide smoothly in and out of the cabinet.
  • After applying the powder, replace the drawer box in its spot to finish the task.

Method 3: Using Paraffin Wax

You might or might not have paraffin wax at home, but it is easily available at retail stores around you. All you need for this method is a block of paraffin wax. Just one block will be plenty for the job.

How to use this method

  • Start by pulling the drawer out of its spot in the cabinetry. Once the affected parts are adequately exposed, rub then wax on the wood surfaces, covering the edges, sides, and ends that rub against each other, causing friction.
  • For a drawer that is stuck on its way out, you may begin by applying the wax to the parts you can reach. This should smoothen them to allow the drawer to come out to allow you to apply it to the rest of the affected areas.
  • You may have to push the drawer in and out repeatedly to push the wax into the sides and lubricate it before the drawer box can slide out of the chest.
  • After applying an even layer of wax on the sides of the drawer, return it to its spot to complete the process.

Method 4: Sanding the Wood

If your drawer gets stuck due to the warping of the wood, sanding away a layer of wood from the sticking parts can provide a long-term solution.

While any lubricant will eventually wear out, and you must reapply it to keep the drawer sliding smoothly, sanding is more permanent.

Sanding is the best method for wood that is too warped to work with lubricants. It helps chop away the bloated area that prevents movement, allowing the drawer box to fit properly in its spot.

Even though this is the best solution, it is labor intensive, so prepare for some elbow grease – but with great reward.

Tools and supplies to use

  • Coarse-grit sandpaper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Sander
  • Tack cloth
  • Dust mask or respirator
  • Small-sized plastic sheeting or old newspapers
  • Natural bristled paintbrush or vacuum

Steps to follow

  • Begin by ejecting the drawer box from its socket in the cabinet. Once it is out, study it to see which parts are rubbing against each other, causing the problem.
  • Lay down a small piece of plastic sheeting, enough to accommodate the drawer box, and place the drawer on it. This sheeting will collect the wood dust produced while sanding to avoid causing a mess in your space.
  • Once you are done setting up the drawer, use coarse-grit sandpaper to sand away the warped area. You can also start with a medium grit sanding paper, whichever you prefer. However, the coarse grit paper should do the work faster.
  • You can attach the sandpaper to a sanding block or electric sander if the warping is not on a hard-to-reach area.
  • Use a brush or vacuum to remove the wood dust from the sanded wood surface.
  • After sanding with coarse or medium grain sandpaper, switch to fine sandpaper and go over the spot. The final sanding aims to smoothen the surface and remove the roughness left during coarse sanding.
  • After the final sanding, wipe the sanded areas with a tack cloth to remove the wood dust. You can also use a clean rag to remove the wood dust. Since you will not be applying a finish on the sanded surface, you do not have to use a dampened rag in this case.
  • Next, try fitting the drawer back into the cabinet to see if the problem is gone.
  • If the problem still persists, sand some more, wiping the wood surface to remove the dust before returning it to its spot in the chest.
  • If it fits well and glides smoothly, consider applying wax or some other wood coating to prevent the wood from warping again.
  • If you eyeballed it correctly, sanding once or twice should remove enough material and allow the drawer to fit correctly and slide in and out without being inhibited.

Method 5: Using the Plumber’s Grease

You must have seen or used grease to lubricate moving parts such as those in your garage door opener. The product consists of silicone grease and silicone oil.

The plumber’s grease does a great job lubricating surfaces thanks to its thick, jelly-like consistency. Even better, it is waterproof and can transfer that quality to the drawer wood, keeping it sound for longer.

What you will require

  • Plumber’s grease
  • Applicator
  • Paper towel

How to use this method

  • Pull the drawer out of the cabinet if it can come out. If it is stuck and unable to come free of the chest, apply some plumber’s grease as far into the side as your hand can reach, then push it in and out repeatedly.
  • The repeated in and out motion should help spread the grease and lubricate the areas affected by friction, allowing the drawer to come out.
  • Next, use your fingers or preferred applicator to spread an even layer of grease over the affected surfaces. Cover the edges and surfaces with generous amounts of grease to lubricate them.
  • Wipe your hands with a paper towel and replace the drawer. The grease should make it slide in smoothly, resolving the initial problem.

Method 6: Using Candle Wax

Most of us have candles at home. If this applies to you, it is all you need to make your drawers slide easier.

If you do not have some candle wax at home, you should make a trip to the retail store near you and get one. One is all you need to make your sticking drawer slide smoothly.

What you will need

  • White candle (white is better because it does not stain the wood).

How to use this method

  • Once have a bar of candle wax, eject the entire drawer from its spot. If it is stuck, you may have to apply the wax on the sides that are stuck to help lubricate them slightly to come out of the chest. Simply rub the candle as far as you can reach and push it in and out repeatedly.
  • Once the drawer is free, rub a bar of a white candle on the sides, edges, and corners that get stuck as you push the drawer in and out of the cabinet. The idea is to apply the wax anywhere the drawer rubs against the chest, causing friction.
  • Once done, return the drawer to its socket. Like the other lubricants discussed here, the wax will provide a slick barrier between the wood surface and the drawer chest, creating smooth movement.

Method 7: Replacing the Runners or Realigning the Rails

Sometimes the problem is not related to the wooden parts of the drawer but to the sliding mechanism. Usually, the slides can get damaged and fail to run smoothly – especially due to physical impact or if they are made of substandard material.

If this happens, you could fix the problem by realigning the rails or replacing the damaged component. The solution will depend on the nature of the problem.

What you may need to fix the problem

  • A small square
  • Wood glue
  • Screwdriver
  • Recessed screws
  • The damaged component (optional)

How to realign the rails

Notice that any new component you buy will come with the use instructions, so this part will only dwell on realigning the rails to make the slides work smoothly again.

If a component is damaged, buy a replacement and follow the user instructions on the product label or user manual to install it successfully.

  • Begin by checking the alignment of the rails using the square. You want to ensure the rails are perpendicular to the front of your drawer’s box.
  • If it is not directly perpendicular, use the recessed screw to straighten the side rail.
  • Next, apply wood glue behind the rail and on the wood to attach it to the board.
  • Apply some wax or soap to the rails to lubricate them.
  • Allow the glue to dry completely before replacing the drawer.

Method 8: Using Wax Paper

Instead of a bar of wax, you can use wax paper to lubricate your drawer. As the name suggests, the wax paper consists of a thin film of paraffin wax on a piece of paper.

You probably don’t have this at home, but your local retail store should have it. So, make the little trip and get one for your drawer.

What you will need for this method

  • Wax paper

Procedure

  • Pull the drawer out.
  • Inspect it to identify the affected areas causing friction.
  • Rub the paper over and across the surfaces causing friction with the chest, covering all the sides and corners that rub against one another. In doing so, the wax paper will leave a coat of paraffin wax on the wood.
  • It may take several coats to get adequate amounts of the wax on the wood surface, so be patient and repeat the rubbing as many times as necessary.
  • Once you are convinced that the wood has got enough wax on it, return the drawer to the cabinet.

How to Make Wood Drawers Slide Easier FAQs

Can you use wd40 on wood drawers?

Absolutely. Spraying the drawer frame with WD-40 at the parts where it glides into the frame is recommended. The lubricant, like paraffin, candle wax, or bar soap, helps ensure wooden drawers slide nicely.

What do you lubricate drawer slides with?

You can lubricate drawer slides with spray-dry lubricant, paste wax, self-adhesive nylon tape, candle wax, or even a sheet of wax paper.

What is the best lubricant for wood drawers?

Paraffin Wax is the best lubricant for old wood drawers. It provides lasting lubrication that keeps your drawer gliding smoothly for longer.

Best Wax for Drawers

Blended Waxes is the best paraffin wax for drawers. The product is American-made and comes in a colorless and odorless formula that keeps your wood drawer from staining.

It is made of a rich blend of high-quality waxes designed to provide lasting lubrication for hinges, drawers, and more.

How to Make Wood Drawers Slide Easier Final Thoughts

Your favorite cabinet or chest will likely stick around for many years. As they age, sticky wooden drawers become pretty common.

Since you will not want to discard your beloved chest or cabinet, knowing how to fix the problem can turn things around.

We hope the methods and tips offered in this guide help you salvage your drawers the next time they are jammed.

Please leave a comment to let us know your experience with sticky drawers.