11 Best Cabinet Primers for Kitchens

Best Primers for kitchen cabinets

Primers are a huge part of all painting projects as they prevent water, tannin, and grease from seeping through the paint. Their primary job is to prepare a surface for painting. Apart from preparing a surface, primers also deal with a wide range of issues, including odors, porosity, texture, uneven sheen surfaces, and adhesion.

Since most kitchens are naturally exposed to moisture and high humidity, they make priming even more important. All stained cabinets require priming before painting, preferably with two coats. The consequence of painting directly without priming is a hideous result with tannin and stain bleeding through the paint. Even painted cabinets need priming unless you used a primer previously and/or the paint is in good condition.

The right primer should have the ability to seal the cabinet’s surface and bond well with paint and wood to avoid rub-off when cleaning. Therefore when it comes to searching for the best primer for kitchen cabinets, you must choose a formula that offers great coverage, adhesion, and resistance to mildew and mold.

The product that fulfills all these requirements is none other than the Rust-Oleum Painters Touch Quart Latex. However, different projects can have different needs. To find out which product suits your needs best, here are our top picks for cabinet primers.

KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer

Due to its exceptional bonding efficiency, this product is categorized as one of the best primers for cabinets. Besides, it primes hard surfaces well and only takes 30 minutes to dry. However, experts recommend that you give it an hour before applying the next layer. Make sure to clean off any dirt, grease, molds, and dust before priming your cabinets.

The feature that makes this primer stand out is that you can use it on latex or oil-based paint and epoxies. It also works well on lacquers and any coating products with solvents like Xylene.


  • You can use it on cabinets as well as any exterior surfaces
  • You only need a gallon of this product to cover an area of up to 300 square feet
  • It takes only 30 minutes to dry and an hour to be ready for the second coat
  • It can seal porous surfaces and block stains
  • It is resistant to mildew and mold

The Con

  • It does not go well with spray paints

KILZ Restoration Interior Latex Primer/Sealer

Another amazing pick among the best primers for cabinets in the market is KILZ Restoration Maximum. If your home has stained vintage cabinets,, this formula with a strong stain-blocking property is the right choice. Even though it is a water-based primer, it can prepare your cabinets for latex and oil-based paints.

It also spares you the cost of sanding your wood and protects it from grease, smoke, tannin, nicotine, and water damage. To get the desired results, clean your cabinet surface before applying the product.


  • It has sealing as well as stain blocking properties
  • It can cover an area of 300-400 square feet with a single gallon
  • It dries fast and produces a high sheen
  • It can adhere to different types of surfaces


  • For best results, you may have to apply fast
  • It is only suitable for interior cabinets

Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer

This product almost qualifies for being the best primer for kitchen cabinets as you can use it on most exterior and interior surfaces. Moreover, it is suitable for both latex and oil-based paints. It also gives you a choice between gray and white based on what paint color you would like to apply to your cabinets. Gray is a suitable choice if you want dark colors on your cabinet. However, before applying the paints, allow your primer to dry properly.


  • It is ideal for fresh metal surfaces due to its rust-inhibiting property
  • It is great for both exterior and interior application
  • It doesn’t require sanding
  • It can stick to most surfaces
  • It can resist blistering, peeling, and mildew
  • It’s a perfect choice for areas with pH
  • It has high adhesion levels

The Con

  • To prime well, it may require at least two layers

Rust-Oleum Painters Touch Quart Latex

Available in gray and white latex formulas, Rust-Oleum Painters Touch is undoubtedly one of the best primers for cabinets. Additionally, there are also satin and glossy versions in other colors among them. You can find them in various colors such as Kona brown, espresso, nutmeg, black, and almond, etc. Since there is a huge variety of colors available to choose from, you can easily match the primer to the paint you will use. For example, the gray latex primer works well with satin as well as glossy oil-based paints. While the formula takes 30 minutes to dry, wait for two hours before applying the next layer. For best results, clean the surface before applying the product.


  • The formula can cover up to 120 square feet of area with only a gallon
  • It works well with various surfaces both indoors and outdoors, such as metal, plaster, and wood
  • It gives your cabinets long-lasting protection by resisting any chips
  • It has a low odor
  • It only takes 30 minutes to dry
  • It minimizes surface imperfections and cures into a flat finish
  • It is durable and increases the adhesion of your finished coat
  • It gives excellent results for both oil-based and latex paints
  • It provides amazing coverage on porous surfaces


  • The formula does not give ideal results on glossy and smooth surfaces
  • It requires two layers to prime well

Zinsser Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer

Not far behind in competition, the Zinsser Oil Primer Cover Stain can also be considered the best primer for kitchen cabinets as it is backed by many professionals for painting and refinishing. This formula is everything you need if you want to inhibit tannin and stains seeping from wood. Moreover, it also blocks cedar and rosewood bleeds and sticks to surfaces without sanding.

To kick start your priming work for the best results, you must start by cleaning. Once the first layer has been applied, let it stay for eight hours before applying the next coat. If there are imperfections after the second coat, remove them by using sandpaper.


  • It is the best formula for repainting, remodeling, and new construction projects
  • It gives a shiny finish to your cabinets
  • It protects your cabinets by sealing nicotine, smoke, and stains of water
  • The product is a great choice for exterior surfaces but also works for interior surfaces
  • It can stick to any topcoat


  • It takes a long time to dry and leaves a bad odor for some days
  • It contains VOCs

INSL-X Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer

This product can compete with both shellac-based and oil-based primers and also adheres to glossy surfaces. Although you can use it on some of the toughest surfaces, try not to use the formula on polyethylene surfaces without a topcoat. The reason why it comes among the best primers for cabinets is that it blocks smell and stains.

As per procedure, clean your target surface before applying the primer and use a foam roller for application. If you have steel or vintage metal cabinets, use a scrubbing pad or brush to remove dust or grease from your surface.


  • It contains low VOC with easy cleanup through soap and water
  • It can cure into a tough film
  • It can be used on the most challenging surfaces due to its adhesion property
  • It resists cracking and blistering to give you smooth leveling
  • It’s ready for topcoat in 3 hours


  • It cannot be used outdoors without a weather-resistant topcoat
  • To prime well, you may need to coat your cabinet surface twice with the formula

Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer

This formula works on exterior as well as interior cabinets. It seems to have a better reputation for covering stains compared to oil-based or latex primers. Additionally, it also rids your cabinets from smoke, pet stains, and musty odors. For best results, use the product on pre-stained kitchen cabinets.

However, since shellac-based primers contain alcohol with strong fumes, it is best to use them in a well-ventilated area. Moreover, do not spray this primer as it can increase gas content in the surrounding air. Moreover, for longer working hours, wear protective respirators


  • It’s a primer as well as a sealer for both interior and exterior use
  • It dries faster
  • It is best for cabinets that are moldy and smelly
  • It covers stains better than other primers
  • It can stick to surfaces without sanding


  • It doesn’t smell great
  • It is made for quicker application

KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Latex

Another highly recommended and, without a doubt, best primer for kitchen cabinets is this water-based undercoat that makes your surface exceptionally smooth for painting. Due to its excellent filling property, you can also use it to seal flaws in porous surfaces. Moreover, it has adhesion properties and resistance against mildews, making it a reliable choice for kitchen cabinets.

Ideally, it works well in highly humid areas such as inside the kitchen. Besides, you can recoat within an hour as it has a fast drying time.


  • It has great adhesion properties making it suitable for most surfaces
  • It minimizes surface imperfections by sealing light to medium stains
  • It also has excellent consistency for a smooth finish
  • Only a gallon of the product can cover almost 400 square feet
  • It is pocket-friendly and dries quicker
  • It has both low and high VOC option


  • It is unsuitable for heavy stains
  • The low VOC option does not give good coverage

KILZ 2 Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer

Along with providing excellent adhesion, this product is versatile and can give proper paint color by sticking to porous surfaces. Moreover, it has resistance properties against mildew, making it a perfect candidate for priming your kitchen cabinets.

One of the reasons it is among the best primers for cabinets is that it can also hide mild to medium stains by water, grease, and ink. You can use it on surfaces such as brick, metal, drywall, plaster, and many more. It roughly takes 30 minutes to dry, but you must wait for an hour before adding another layer.


  • It works well on exterior as well as interior surfaces
  • It only takes 30 minutes to dry, hence saving time
  • It works as both a primer and sealer
  • It blocks the formation of stains from grease, water, and ink
  • A gallon can of the product is enough for covering 300-400 square feet

The Con

  • It doesn’t smell great


INSL-X PS800009A-01 Bonding Prime Lock-Plus Alkyd Primer

This product acts as a bonding primer as well as a stain blocker and sealer. It is particularly suitable for internal projects as it is alkyd-based and high hiding. Moreover, it is suitable for a variety of surfaces such as wood, plaster, and drywall. It may not be on top of the list, but it is still a credible candidate among the best primers for cabinets.

It has excellent adhesion on surfaces such as PVC, tile, bricks, and glossy paint, and it also gives a great enamel holdout. It dries within an hour and fills colors from water damage and smoke effectively.


  • It can renovate different old oak vanities
  • It offers coverage of up to 350 square feet for each gallon
  • It is multipurpose
  • It offers excellent adhesion


  • It cannot be applied under 45 degrees Fahrenheit
  • A spray gun is not recommended

XIM 11052 Advanced Technology UMA Bonder and Primer/Sealer

Manufactured in the United States, this product is a bonder, sealer, and primer. It works best on both interior and exterior surfaces and provides excellent adhesion. If you have tough to paint surfaces, this primer may be your ideal choice to set the base before painting. Additionally, it can work on various surfaces such as metal, plastic, glass, tile, wood, etc.


  • It dries to touch with zero brush marks
  • It sets a good base to make your paint stick on the surface
  • It has low fumes and good consistency


  • At times, you may need to apply three coats to cover darker surfaces

How to Choose the Right Primer

Choosing the best primer for kitchen cabinets or let alone the right primer, is challenging, especially if you are not a professional. Not all primers are equal in performance. While the general perception is that oil-based primers work best for all projects, some people may find it better to use other types. For instance, a primer made for indoor use may not show the best results when used outdoors.

Both primers also differ in certain properties. For example, indoor primers do not specialize in protecting surfaces from mildew, erosion, and cracking. You can also opt for a primer that works for both indoor and outdoor cabinets.  Overall, the biggest factor that comes into play while choosing a primer is the surface you are painting on.  Here is what different surfaces have to offer.

Painted Wood

Painted wood is an exception where you can directly apply paint without primer, given that the previous paint job is still in great condition. However, it is better to stick to an oil-based primer if your paint is chipping or chalking. Regardless of the type of wood, make it a habit to wash and degrease your surface before throwing the primer on.

New Wood

It is good to stick to an oil-based primer for wood that is unpainted, unstained, and brand new. However, if you want to experiment, you can also try a high-quality latex-based primer.

Weathered Wood

Weathered wood also requires the same treatment as newer wood. Both oil-based and high-quality latex primers will get the job done. However, sand the wood and get rid of paint before priming. You can get started once you notice the new wood fibers.

Stained Wood

Stained wood, as the name suggests, requires a primer that has stain-blocking properties. This isn’t usually an issue since most primers have that property by default. There are three main types of primers available in the market nowadays: Oil-based, Latex, Shellac. Each has uniquefunctionalities and benefits.

Types of Primers

Understanding different types of primers are also key to selecting the best primer for kitchen cabinets. Here are the types of primers you will usually find in the market.


This exceptional performer seals both metallic and wooden sides while forming a layer to shield any stains from penetration. Since it can resist smells and dry faster, too, it is also a perfect choice for paw prints and crayon marks. On the other hand, it can be challenging when it comes to applying it. You must use alcohol to dilute the paint and then wash the equipment after project completion.


Experts mostly use Oil-based primers as they give a glossy or satin finish. They are superior in bonding and fit well on different cabinet surfaces such as metal, wood, or even previously painted ones. They may take a bit longer to cure, especially after applying two coats. On the downside, they have a higher VOC content and fumes, which can be hazardous to health.


This water-based primer type is usually recommended for amateur painters since it is affordable and easy to apply. It also dries quickly, allowing you to get done with both priming and painting on the same day instead of waiting 3-4 days. In addition, it provides long-lasting protection and bonding; however, it might not be as durable as oil-based primers. It can easily be applied with sprays, rollers, and brushes.

Paint cum primer

While it may seem that a product with both qualities will save your time, it might not be as effective in actuality. All-in-one products in this category do not have primer in them, and the paint is usually thicker. According to some users, it may also build up while curing, making it easier to peel. However, since it is new in the market, it still needs to go through certain modifications to be competitive enough.


Cost is another important factor when selecting the best primer for kitchen cabinets. It should not be assumed that a product is best only because it’s costly. Some may do a good job despite being lighter on the pocket. However, to reduce any additional costs, coverage expense must be taken into account, especially if you’re working on a big project.

Health impact and environment are additional factors to consider since most of them are chemical products with VOCs and can negatively impact. Therefore, choose products that aren’t threatening to pets, humans, and the environment.

In conclusion, there are several products to choose from and many factors to consider when purchasing a primer for your kitchen cabinets. To protect your project from a disaster, you must consider the costs and benefits of purchasing your chosen product and have all the base work done to avoid hassle during work. Furthermore, you should take your kitchen’s overall appearance into account, so it does not result in a mismatch. To get the desired results, it is a good idea to do your research well and understand your product’s consistency, drying time, odor, the amount of area it can cover, the amount of VOCs, suitability for interior projects, and experiences others had with the same product.

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