10 Best Primers for Kitchen Cabinets

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In a Hurry? Check Our Top 3 Picks!

  1. KILZ L211101
  2. INSL-X Primer Sealer
  3. Zinsser Rust Oleum
Best Primers for Kitchen Cabinets

Repainting your kitchen cabinets is a fun and easy way to update the look of your kitchen. But before you go rolling the paintbrushes and rollers, you need to prime it first.

But some primers have high levels of VOC and toxic fumes. This can be bad for your health. And it has a negative impact on the environment as well. While other brands may have fewer fumes, they can’t create a smooth canvas for your paint. 

That’s why you don’t have to settle for less. You can still achieve a smooth and clean undercoat without the toxic fumes and smell. Check out our list of the best primers for kitchen cabinets.

Here Is the List of 10 Best Primer for Kitchen Cabinets:

  1. KILZ L211101
  2. INSL-X Primer Sealer
  3. Zinsser Rust Oleum
  4. Zinsser Cover Stain
  5. KILZ Restoration
  6. KILZ Tribute Paint
  7. KILZ High Hide
  9. Painter’s Touch Rust Oleum
  10. INSL-X Stix Acrylic

Our Top 10 Picks for The Best Primers for Kitchen Cabinets (A Product Review)

Ready your rollers and brushes, it’s time to prime up your old kitchen cabinets. And these are the best primers for cabinets that should be in your cart.

1. KILZ L211101 – Best Primer for all Surfaces

KILZ Adhesion high bonding exterior truly lives up to its name. This primer has great adhesion efficiency. It works great on hard surfaces and cabinets. And it’s no wonder a lot of DIYers use this brand for their home renovation. Even the professionals trust the efficiency of this primer.

This latex primer can be used on rough surfaces like vinyl, PVC, tiles, chalky paints, glossy finish, glazed bricks, and even metals. And it holds up nicely too. So you get an even layer of primer whatever the surface you’re working on. And even after 6 months, there won’t be any peeling compared to regular primers. 

It dries fast so you can do a second coating just after 30 minutes. You don’t have to wait for several hours. 


  • Holds up well
  • Can be used on a lot of surfaces, even the tough ones
  • Dries fast
  • Affordable
  • Blocks stains
  • Seals porous surfaces
  • Prevents mildew from growing on the topcoat


  • Does not go well with spray paint

Why you should buy this primer for kitchen cabinets

It can be used on a lot of surfaces including vinyl and metal. And the best thing is, it doesn’t peel that easily too.

2. INSL-X Primer Sealer– Best for Glossy Surfaces

Glossy surfaces may be resistant to primers. So you need a primer that has superior adhesion to it. The INSL-X primer boasts of superior adhesion to glossy surfaces. The paint holds well over glossy surfaces. There’s no peeling or whatsoever.

Moreover, it can give a decent cover for tiles, wood, drywall, PVS, pipes, and even wallpaper. 

It’s also fast-drying, so you can do your second coating after an hour. And you’ll only need two coats of this primer and you’re good to go. 


  • Fast shipping
  • Will not spill during delivery
  • Dries in an hour
  • Works on a variety of surfaces
  • Great adhesion on glossy surfaces


  • May have a strong smell so you might need a ventilator

Why should you buy this primer for kitchen cabinets

If you need a primer that has a strong adhesion on glossy surfaces, this is the best in the market.

3. Zinsser Rust Oleum– Best Primer for Metal

One feature that makes the Zinsser Rust Oleum stand out is that it has a rust inhibitor making it the ideal primer for metal surfaces. It inhibits the formation of rust so that it can last longer. In addition, it also prevents the growth of mildew and blisters on the topcoat.

This water-based primer can also be used both indoors and outdoors. And it’s also perfect for surfaces that have a high pH such as concrete.

In addition, you don’t need to do the sanding. This primer will adhere to surfaces without sanding. You can also use it for sealing children’s drawings, stains, and tanning beds.


  • Resists mold and mildew
  • Protects the surface from rusting
  • Ideal for concrete and metal
  • High adhesion


  • You need a minimum of 2 layers

Why you should buy this primer

If you need to protect the surface from rusting, molds, and mildew, this is the primer for the job.

4. Zinsser Cover Stain– Best Oil Based Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

Zinsser Cover Stain is a multipurpose primer that can be used to block stain and act as an undercoat paint.

It dries fast and can create an enamel-like cover that is resistant to peeling. But the paint has to be completely cured to render it more durable. This oil-based primer can add an extra sheen to your cabinets.

It’s primarily intended to block stains. And it does a good job at it. Furthermore, it can also seal nicotine, stains, and water. It’s perfect for remodeling, painting, and DIY jobs. It coats wooden cabinets nicely. And it’s easy to sand too. 

Furthermore, it can also be used under latex or oil paint. It might even be better than other latex paints.

Also, it can be used in both indoor and outdoor applications. You just have to make sure that you have enough ventilation. Or you may use gloves and a ventilator in case the smell becomes too strong for you.


  • Made in the USA
  • Multipurpose
  • Strong adhesion
  • Dries fast
  • Blocks stains effectively


  • May have a strong smell 

Why you should buy this primer

It’s a multipurpose primer that you can use as undercoat paint and stain blocker.

5. KILZ Restoration– Best Water Based Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

Oil-based primers can have strong fumes and smell. But they tend to adhere more to surfaces and are more resistant. And water-based primers have fewer VOCs but they might not give good coverage. You can get the best of both worlds with KILZ Restoration.

It’s a water-based primer but acts like an oil-based one. It can effectively cover stains from old homes with vintage cabinets. And it can conceal an array of stains no matter how stubborn they are.

Moreover, it can block offensive smell from pets and smoke. This is an ideal primer for your home renovation. It would do wonders on old heirloom and vintage cabinets.


  • Non-flammable
  • Can adhere to a lot of surfaces
  • Does not have a strong odor
  • Great for covering stains
  • Blocks offensive smell
  • Has adhesions efficiency of an oil-based primer


  • For interior applications only

Why you should buy this primer

If you want the prowess of an oil-based primer minus the smell, this water-based primer is the best option.

6. KILZ Tribute Paint– Best Multipurpose Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

 The KILZ Tribute Paint is a paint and primer in one. Since you only need to do one application, this can cut your time in more than half. It can cut the cost too. 

It’s also low in VOC, so there are no toxic fumes compared to other paints and primers. But of course, it’s still advisable to wear a ventilator, especially for indoor applications. Also,it has a satiny finish that will make your home look more luxurious and classy.  

The paint is thick and applies well. And it resulted in a rich luminous color that even a single coat would suffice.

It’s a perfect primer and paints when you’re transitioning from a light to a dark color scheme. It can also cover medium wood stains. So you don’t need to buy a separate product.


  • Mold and Mildew resistant
  • Paint and primer in one
  • Low in VOC
  • Available in a lot of luminous colors
  • Can cover medium wood stains
  • Can cut your cost


  • Some complained they got a different color from what is advertised

Why you should buy this primer

It’s a primer and paints in one. It cuts the time and lowers your cost too. 

7. KILZ High Hide– Best for High Humidity Areas

KILZ High Hide is the perfect primer you can use for high humidity areas such as your bathrooms and laundry area. But it is pretty versatile and can be used for a lot of applications. It has great adhesion on most surfaces. And it can be used both indoors and outdoors. Also, it resists mold and mildew so fungi would be the least of your worries. 

If you need to seal in flaws on porous surfaces, this primer fits the bill. It can create a clean and smooth canvas for your paint. It can be used on a lot of surfaces. And it also dries fast. You can do a second coating in an hour.

It can also remove light-medium stains on your old vintage wood cabinet. So it’s an ideal primer for home renovations. Or whenever you want to upgrade your furniture with new paint.


  • Resists molds and mildew
  • Ideal for bathroom and laundry area
  • High adhesion
  • Can be used on a lot of surfaces
  • Indoor and outdoor application
  • Can cover light to medium stains


  • Cannot cover heavy stains

Why you should buy this primer

It can create a smooth surface for non-porous surfaces.

8. ZINSSEERB-I-N– Best Professional Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

ZINSSER B-I-N is perhaps the ultimate primer for a professional DIY. It’s often used by most professionals. And it’s not hard to see why. 

It has superior adhesion and can cover even the heaviest stain. It can conceal streaks in wood and make it look all brand new. Also, it’s great at blocking a covering smell too, such as the smell from cigars and pets. 

And you don’t even need to sand because it will readily adhere to all surfaces. And it only takes 45 minutes for the primer to dry so a second coat is just less than an hour away.  


  • For interior and exterior use
  • Strong adhesion
  • No sanding
  • Great for all surfaces
  • Can cover heavy stains
  • Blocks offensive smell
  • Made in the USA


  • Consistency is quite watery

Why you should buy this primer

It’s a professional primer that can be used on almost all surfaces. You can transform a rugged old cabinet into a modern one since it can cover heavy stains. 

9. Painter’s Touch Rust Oleum– Best Primer for a Smooth Finish

This water-based acrylic formula is suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications. It also works on surfaces like wood, metals, unglazed ceramics, and metal. Though it does not work that well on glossy surfaces.

It goes on flat and creates a great base for your paint. It can remove imperfections for a smooth finish. This water-based primer creates a thin, flat yet smooth canvas for the topcoat. 


  • Inhibits rust
  • Interior and exterior applications
  • Works on many surfaces
  • Works on both latex and oil-based paint
  • Dries in 30 minutes
  • Can resist mildew and molds
  • May not require sanding


  • Not  great on glossy surfaces

Why you should buy this primer

If you’re looking for a primer that can create a flat yet smooth undercoat for smoother topcoat, this is a great choice.

10. INSL-X Stix Acrylic– Best Versatile Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

INSL-X Stix Acrylic is the perfect primer for glossy surfaces. It works well on PVC, tiles, glass, glazed blocks, or anything glossy. It also works great on granite. It also improves the adhesion of the topcoat.

And since it’s water-based, clean-up is easy. If you accidentally dripped it into your arms, all you need is just soap and water. It’s also low in fume and VOCs.  

This primer is like butter on hot toast. So it’s easy to apply. It fills in the imperfections and can create a smooth undercoat. 


  • Works on difficult surface especially glossy surfaces
  • Dries in 30 minutes
  • Easy to apply
  • Low VOC


  •  Might be susceptible to peeling overtime

Why you should buy this primer

It’s a water-based primer great for glossy surfaces. 

Types of Primers

Choosing the right primer for your kitchen cabinets is the first step. And there are three types of primers.

1. Latex primers

Latex is also called water-based primers. These are perfect for repairing drywall for painting. Water-based primers are easy to clean, less brittle, more flexible, and have lesser fumes. They also dry faster too. 

The downside, this type of primer is not that effective in covering heavy stains.

2. Oil-based primers

Oil primers are commonly used and it goes well with both latex and oil-based paints. They are more versatile and can be used on a lot of surfaces. And when it comes to covering stains, oil-based primers are king. They can cover even the heaviest and most stubborn stains on your wooden cabinets. 

The downside, they take longer to dry and they may have higher concentrations of VOCs. Hence, they also have a strong off-putting smell. 

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3. Shellac primers

Shellac is used in wood and wood painting jobs. They also cover wood stains pretty well. And they can also be used on other surfaces such as metal, plaster, or plastic. And another advantage of shellac primers is that they can block off smell and prevent wood tannins from bleeding through the paint.

The downside is that they aren’t as versatile as latex or oil-based primers. And among the three types of primers, they have the strongest fumes and the highest VOC content.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

1. Remove the cabinets and shelves from the wall as much as possible. It’s best to paint in an open area where there is more ventilation.

2. Have your gears and materials on hand. You’ll need the following:

  • Glove
  • Respirator
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Foam roller
  • Brush
  • A trim paint

3. What condition is your cabinet? If it’s dilapidated and peeling all over, you have to strip off the old paint. You can use stripping products. Apply it over the surface and wait for the paint to loosen. Once softened, scrape away with a plastic scraper. And then sand the surface. It’s now ready for a repaint!

3. Thoroughly clean the cabinets. Make sure it’s free from grease, dirt, and dust. So you may use a TSP cleaner for degreasing the cabinets. 

4. If there are any damaged areas, you can fill it with a wood filler. Then use a putty knife to scrape it into the holes.

5. If you’re going to use the same hardware, do not run paint over it. But if you’re mounting new ones, you can use wood filler to cover the old hardware holes.

6. If you’re painting inside your kitchen, cover all furniture and appliances with protective material. 

7. Then start sanding the surface of the cabinet. Don’t forget the nooks and crannies of the cabinet. Though some primers do not need sanding. You can skip this step if so.

8. Use the painter’s tape and run it along the edges of the cabinet.

9. It’s time to apply the primer. Remember to paint the inside of the cabinet first then work your way out. Use a suitable brush to access the nooks and crevices of the cabinet.

10. Use a suitable roller to get good coverage on flat larger areas. Though it doesn’t need to be perfect since you’re going to layer it with a topcoat. It’s still nice to have even strokes. 

11. Do a laying off. Without dipping the roller into the primer, go over the area one more time. We do this to remove any buildup and to ensure a smooth undercoat.

12. Paint the front of the cabinet and allow it to dry as per the manufacturer’s directions. 

13. Once the primer is dry, it’s time to paint the cabinets

14. Use a brush for smaller areas, nook, and crevices. While a foam roller is ideal for painting large flat surfaces.

15. Always use even strokes and don’t forget to feather out.

16. After the paint has dried, you may apply a second coat. And wait for it to completely dry before mounting them on the walls.

Tips for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  1. Choose a suitable paint. Not all primers and paintwork on all surfaces. 
  2. Choose the right color that will blend well with the color of your kitchen. 
  3. Remove the hardware first. And store and label them accordingly. This will save you hassle and time when you’re going to mount after painting.
  4. Always paint in even strokes both in priming and painting.
  5. If you can remove the shelves from the wall, it’s advisable to paint outdoors. Paints and primers have VOC that can be an irritant. Although the best primers on our list have a lower level of VOCs, it’s still better to paint with better airflow.
  6. Always wear gloves and a respirator, Even if the paint is low in VOC.
  7. If you are still going to paint inside, cover everything with protective material. And roll your carpet out of the way. 
  8. Have extra brushes and rollers on hand. You’ll never know when you’re going to need a spare.
  9. Always have sandpaper and paper towels on hand.
  10. Seal your used brushes and roller in a plastic bag. This will prevent it from getting stiff so you can readily use it for the next day.
  11. Use separate foam rollers each for the primer and the paint.
  12. A thin coat of primer would suffice. Do not apply a heavy coat as it can drip.
  13.  Make sure to dry everything before mounting the cabinets back into the wall. And dry the primer as per the label of the brand.
  14. In the meantime, clean all hardware. 
  15. Once fully dried, mount the cabinets back. You can always ask for a helping hand.


Are primers toxic?

Most primers are high in VOC and can cause dizziness, allergies, and nausea. The best primers on our list are low in VOC.

Are primers harmful to the environment?

Primers with a high VOC content can be harmful to mother nature. That’s why you should switch and go for those with lower concentrations of toxic fumes.

What makes primers smell bad?

VOCs are highly volatile compounds and are the main cause of the strong offputting smell.


A painting job or a DIY on your home is always an exciting and fulfilling project. And painting the cabinets can make your kitchen look fresher. It’s an upgrade at a more affordable cost.

However, you need a primer first. It can create a clean and smooth canvas for the topcoat. We have listed the best primers for your kitchen cabinets. And the best brands are lower in VOCs too. So that’s less impact on the environment too.

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