How to Fix a Stuck Drawer

Several things can cause drawers to get sticky so that they become difficult to open, but you can fix a drawer. Start by pulling the drawer all the way out of the cabinet or chest so you can determine why it isn’t working properly. Common problems and solutions are listed here:

  • Lubricate the rails: Undamaged rails and cleats slide better if you periodically lubricate them. Rub them with a bar of soap, some candle wax, or bee’s wax if they’re wood, and use WD-40 on the rollers if they’re metal. Push the drawer in and out several times until the drawer slides smoothly. Another quick fix to try is to put thumbtacks on the runner to build it up.

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  • Sand the rails: If more drastic action is needed, use medium-grade sandpaper on wood rails to remove any burrs or minor obstacles. Do it lightly and test the drawer by pushing it in and out after you sand just a little. After the drawer slides easily, put the sandpaper away and seal the edge with a wood sealer, varnish, or paint to keep it from absorbing moisture. (While the drawer’s out, lubricate the rails and guides on the side of the drawer.) After sanding, rub on soap, candle wax, or bee’s wax for lubrication.

    You don’t have to be a detective to spot a cracked, split, missing, or worn wooden rail. But also check the hardware to see whether it’s damaged, whether a screw is missing or loose, or whether the screw has stripped the wood or enlarged the hole. If the rails are metal or plastic, look for obstructions, dents in metal or cracks in plastic, and loose hardware.

  • Realign side rails: If a wood rail is out of alignment, you need a small square, wood glue, wood filler, a screwdriver, and recessed screws. Here’s what to do:

    1. Using the square, check that the rails are perpendicular to the front of the drawer.

    2. Straighten the side rail.

    3. Fasten it with the recessed screws.

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    4. Squirt glue behind the rail to secure it to the sides of the chest or cabinet.

    5. Lubricate the rails with wax or soap.

  • Fix stripped holes in rails: If you can turn the screw around with your fingers, the hole is stripped. To fix it fill, an enlarged hole with toothpicks and glue. Drill a pilot hole for the screw and then insert the screw and tighten, using a screwdriver.

  • Reglue cracked and split pieces: If the wood is cracked or split, you need carpenter’s glue, a screwdriver, and a vise, a C-clamp, or weights to hold it.

  • Replace rails: You don’t have to put up with damaged rails. You can easily put in new wood or metal. You just need a screwdriver and new rails.

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