The 5 Best Primer for Kitchen Cabinets: Get the Ultimate Protection and Aesthetic

Kitchen cabinets are a piece of multi-purpose wooden furniture in the kitchen to serve as a storage for food, cooking utensils, and dishes, and at the same time, give beauty to one of the most important parts of the house. It must be clean and well-painted to avoid pathogens inhabiting inside that leads to food and utensils contamination, which then results in bigger problems like diarrhea.


To achieve a durable, well-painted cabinet, priming is a must. Choosing a primer is a significant task in painting. So, before jumping in and start turning your kitchen cabinet into a beauty, take a look at our in-depth review of the best primers of kitchen cabinets for all surfaces.

Basically, priming is used to coat permeable materials, such as concrete and wood, before painting. For water-resistant surfaces, it is a must. Gypsum board or dry walls require priming, too, for sealing and preventing molds. Lastly, it is done to dirty walls or surfaces that were painted dark and needed to be repainted with light colors.

Depending on the primer, paint should be applied over as quickly as 24 hours after priming. However, there are some types that need as long as two weeks for sitting before the next application, to boost adhesion and durability.

Here are our top 5 primers that are perfect for almost all surfaces:

Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer, 1-Gallon, White

It is a shellac-based primer with a milk-thin consistency that makes it splatter easily when brushing and rolling and works perfectly when sprayed. It spreads nicely over cabinets, especially for the ones that are freshly cleaned and sanded. For cabinet doors, spray the primer horizontally to allow even coating, especially the parts with cracks.

This product from Zinsser is a high-quality stain sealer that works well with woods. It dries fast, 1 hour being the longest, which allows light sanding and second coating on the same day. Before spraying, clean the sprayer with either denatured alcohol or ammonia, avoiding paint thinner. Of course, brushing and rolling are allowed but need quick working on the next coating as it becomes dry easily.

It is truly a versatile primer since it also seals odor from smoke and pets while sealing any kinds of stain. Ultimately, it sticks to all surfaces without sanding.


  • Seals unpleasant odors
  • Quick-drying
  • Works well with any surfaces
  • Smooth and hard finish
  • It can turn a dark surface to a lighter shade
  • Doesn’t need sanding.


  • Much expensive than the others
  • It has a smell that may be unpleasant to others.
KILZ 2 Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-gallon

It is a versatile primer that gives adhesion to paint to stick better to porous surfaces and gives real paint color. It also has a mildew resistant film that is exactly what kitchen cabinets need. Furthermore, this stain blocker primer hides mild to medium stains from grease, ink, water, and pen and felt markers and previous colors.

Its materials make it ideal for interior and exterior surfaces including painted metal, drywall, plaster, brick, and more. It only takes 30 minutes to dry and start recoating in an hour.


  • Fast-drying can recoat after that saves time
  • One gallon covers a wide area at approximately 300-400 square feet
  • It masks stains and old color
  • Great finish result
  • Can prevent mildew
  • Works well as a sealer and primer.


  • It has a strong odor.
Rust-Oleum 1980502 Painters Touch Quart Latex, Flat Gray Primer

This primer provides two color choice, which is flat grey or flat white. It has an excellent quality that boasts a good consistency that can stand alone for your kitchen and other wooden types of furniture. This is due to its rich color and quick-drying feature. For trim, it is recommended to add an additional coat for the best result.

It stands out among other primers since it has a very low unpleasant odor that can be harmful to humans. It gives you two choices on how to use it: spraying or rolling. Its thickness can be a disadvantage or a benefit since when you prefer to spray it, the finish may not satisfy you. However, when rolling, one application is enough to provide good coverage. This means that you work with a lesser effort so if you are in a rush, this might suit you.

Ultimately, it dries out quickly in about 30 minutes, and it must be safe to add a top coat after 2 hours or less.


  • Good color that can be used a standalone paint
  • Great for porous surface
  • Can be applied indoor/outdoor.


  • Doesn’t work well in a glossy surface
  • Excessive can cause a slash.
Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White

An all-purpose primer that can go with any surface, interior or exterior. It dries out fast on the interior and boosts enamel undercoating performance, whereas, for the exterior, it penetrates the surface completely. It is an oil-based that has an extra bond coat that allows easy adherence to any surface. It is the same reason why it is a great solution for stubborn surfaces like particle board, laminate, or melamine. Moreover, it adds an extra finish shine.

Like many others, it doesn't want to be ousted in the hiding stains competition, because it also does the job with high grades in concealing mild to moderate stains and does seal bad smells, too. This high-performing primer adds shine to the surface so it could be an excellent stand-alone color for your cabinets or other pieces of furniture.


  • A perfect partner for enamel paint because it boosts the latter’s performance
  • A mild shine effect after it has dried out
  • Great for laminate surfaces
  • Seals unpleasant odors like smoke
  • Works with latex paint.


  • Doesn’t work well with knots
  • Slow-drying compared to others
  • Pretty thick.
KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-gallon

This primer is a water-based undercoat that gives an outstanding smooth surface to apply your paint. Its base is also the exact reason why it is a great filling for flaws in porous surfaces. Like many others, it has great adhesion properties, too. Its unique feature is mildewcide protection to prevent mold and mildew, which is a prerequisite for kitchen cabinet primers. You don’t want your foods and utensils in contact with pathogens like fungi, do you?

This is a better option for high-humid areas like the kitchen. If you are looking forward to changing your old paint by repainting, this primer gives the best first coating due to its excellent adherence properties. It is a quick-drying primer that allows recoat in just one hour.


  • An excellent odor-sealer
  • Has a VOC option: low and high
  • Has a great coverage
  • Quick-drying
  • Budget-friendly.


  • Low VOC option doesn’t provide good coverage
  • Doesn’t work well with heavy stains.

Factors to Consider when Buying the Best Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

Factors to Consider when Buying the Best Primer for Kitchen Cabinets

When buying something, we consider a few factors. Primer is essential in the world of painting. It provides better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for our kitchen cabinets. With its multitude of tasks for a better finish, we deserve the best. And it doesn’t take forever to look into these determinants to guide you to successfully end up going home with nothing but the best primer.

1. Type of Prime

There are three kinds of primers: oil-based, latex-based and shellac-based. Oil-based primers have been the standard for many years now. It works well with oil and latex paints, which make them applicable to various surfaces including wood, steel, metals and any surfaces that have old paints, interior or exterior. Most are good stain blockers and sealers of porous surfaces. They are slow-drying though and may be harmful to humans because of its significant amount of volatile organic compounds.

On the other hand, latex-based primers are fast-drying and are less brittle than the first. As a result, peeling and cracking are less likely to happen. These types are perfect for softwood, bricks and concrete galvanized metals. They are also good coverage for stains. They are water soluble and a healthier option than the other two types because of their low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOC). Another kind is the shellac-based primer which works well on metal, woods, plaster, etc. It is considered one of the best stain concealers in the world of painting.

2. Surface Condition

While primers are designed for all kinds of surfaces, it is still best to understand their needs to choose the perfect primer that meets these. For damp wood with little moisture in it, latex is useful. In the case of painted ones, oil-based works well, while shellac-based primers are excellent concealers for old and resistant stains.

The paint or the final coating is always to blame when its finish turns out bad. But in reality, the primer used, as well as the condition of the surface play a critical role, too. When it is porous and has a lot of imperfections, like holes, bumps, and streaks, an undercoat with an oil-based works best, though the other two does the job too.

3. Cost

We may think that the most expensive primers are better because most of the time they come with the highest quality, but there are exemptions. You don’t want to spend a stash of cash for something that turns out not what you need. So evaluate your needs and go for the less expensive ones that do the job you are looking for.

If you are planning to paint a wide area, consider the price per square feet, instead of per gallon. Meanwhile, if the cost is not an issue, as long as it gives a high-quality finish, then you can opt for the high-end brands.

4. The paint or top coat

The primer and paint are a perfect combination that creates a beautiful finish. However, if one doesn't match the material contents of the other, then a beautiful project might turn out to be an ugly one. This duo has similarities. Both come with oil or latex varieties and are used with rollers or sprays. They also have the same nature when it comes to drying, and drying time. Primer is less durable than paint, but it contains resins to penetrate porous and imperfect surfaces. On the other hand, paints have pigments that adhere so well in the surface.

So where does paint come in? Paints don't blend well with some primers. Before purchasing a paint, plan ahead on what kind of primer to use based on the condition of your cabinet, interior, and exterior. The white primer provides a lighter color of paint, whereas grey primer makes your paint color look darker and vibrant. Oil-based primers can work well with latex paints, as long as proper guidelines and cautions are followed.

5. The smell: low or high voc (volatile organic compounds)

These substances are solely responsible for the smell of primers and paints and are harmful to humans. When buying a primer, consider the benefits and disadvantages of each. But of course, each benefit comes with a disadvantage.

Lower VOC means a healthier option, but slow-drying and lesser coverage. Whereas, higher VOC means harm to your health but quick-drying and great flawless finish, and a smoke-free kitchen.


And our winner is Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer. Although a little pricey than the others, it is a versatile undercoat that can be used in almost all types of surfaces. As a shellac-based first coating, it is a reliable stain concealer, more than the others with other types of active ingredients. It provides a sticky glue-like surface ready for painting.

If you need added help in keeping your home in top shape, check out our other articles, such as our post on the best vacuums we recommend for your stairs.

Do you know of other primers you think should make this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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