Table of Contents
Sticking drawers may be caused by structural problems, content problems, or lubrication problems. In the worst cases, a combination of these is possible. Let’s see what we can do to solve each of these.
If the drawer has structural problems, these must be solved first. A common situation (including my own bedroom dresser drawers) is one where the bottom of a drawer is coming out, or perhaps sagging in the middle, down into the next drawer. To fix this kind of problem, remove the drawer, empty the contents, turn it upside down, and inspect it. Often it just needs a few more small nails/brads to secure the bottom.
A handy trick is to remove the drawer bottom and reinstall it upside down – this technique turns the bent or bowed drawer bottom to your advantage (to do this, you may have to loosen the corner joints slightly). If the mechanism has been damaged (i.e., damage to the small rollers on a workshop drawer, or the sliding surface of a wooden drawer), it is usually from having too much weight in the drawer, so make sure you address that problem after repairing the drawer.
Be sure that drawer runners and cleats have no missing, loose or broken parts – replace or repair if they do. Loose screws can be replaced with larger screws, or the holes filled (use wood putty and allowed to dry before replacing screws).
A sticky drawer might be caused by too much stuff in the drawer in the first place, overloading it, or contents interfering with the drawer above, causing it to get stuck or even damaging the mechanism. Especially in the workshop or kitchen, lots of big heavy items may end up in a drawer, exceeding its capacity. This will cause damage sufficient to keep the drawer from moving without significant effort. Free up some of the contents of these overloaded drawers – if you’re like me, you don’t need it all anyway.
Once any structural or content problems are solved, the drawer may need lubrication.
Lubrication alone should fix many sticky drawer problems. Humidity can seasonally cause a drawer to stick, and all it needs is a little slickening up. If the drawer is made of wood, remove it and look for shiny spots on the wooden runners. This identifies where the drawer is rubbing and should be the focus of your effort. You can lubricate the undersides (especially the rails) with a lubricant. One substance that works well is wax – you may have some paraffin lying around leftover from canning.
The side of a candle also works well, or in a pinch, a bar of soap will work. For a more permanent solution, treat the sliding surfaces with good furniture or floor wax. If lubrication doesn’t work, you can plane or sand the runners. Don’t take off too much surface, and make sure to test fit the drawer as you go.
Finally, remember that if the repair process causes a wooden drawer to split, it can usually be glued, and will end up stronger than ever.