McClean: Laboratory Cabinet Maint

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This page lists useful tips for maintaining the laboratory cabinets in Engineering Centers Building. Specifically the original wooden laboratory furniture.

The wooden cabinets sometimes need a bit of TLC to function.

Stuck Drawers

The drawers in the cabinets get stuck for two major reasons. Either the ball bearings in the drawer sliders are no longer lubricated. Or the safety mechanism that prevents opening more than one drawer at once is broken.


You will need the following to work on the cabinets:

  • WD-40
  • Flat head screw driver
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Patience
  • Another set of hands is useful
  • Beaker and tip box to collect screws as you remove them

Everything is available in our lab's toolbox.



Lubricating Stuck Drawers

  • Begin by removing the drawers from the cabinet. To do this, pull the top drawer out all the way. Look for the black release sliders on either side of the drawer (see picture). Look for arrows and slide one release up and the one on the opposite side of the drawer down. Then pull the drawer all the way out of the cabinet and set aside. Continue removing drawers from the top to the bottom until all drawers are removed.
    • NOTE 1: You should label the drawers so that you know where they were in the cabinet and can put them back in the same slot. This will save you from having to realign them later.
    • NOTE 2: If removing the drawers is extremely difficult, or if some drawers just won't budge, you may be looking at a broken locking mechanism. In which case, skip over trying WD-40 and go straight to breaking out the safety mechanism.
  • At this point, inspect the inside of the cabinet. Look for any obvious damage. Check that the black plastic slides (see image) which function as a safety mechanism (so that only one drawer can open at a time) slide easily. Check that the black plastic pieces on the side of each drawer that move the sliders aren't damaged. If all of this looks good, we can hope that the drawers are just sticky due to a lack of lubrication.

  • Read the SDS for WD-40. Following appropriate safety precautions, spray WD-40 along the metal tracks inside of the cabinet paying attention to the ball bearings (see picture). Try not to get the WD-40 everywhere. Use a paper towel to clean up any excess.

  • Replace the drawers in the cabinet. Open and close them a few times to distribute the WD-40. If the drawers now slide easily, the problem was probably stuck ball bearings and you are good to go. If you are still having issues, it may be the safety mechanism and you'll need to go to the next step.

Removing the safety mechanism

  • If drawers simply won't come out of the cabinet or lubricating the ball bearings doesn't fix the issue, the problem may be a broken safety mechanism. Try and diagnose this be getting the drawers out (potentially with a lot of force), seeing if the safety mechanism will slide up and down, and checking if the plastic pieces on the side of each drawer which engage with the safety mechanism are in good shape (see pictures above). If some of these are irreparable, it may be time to simply remove the safety mechanism. NOTE: This will allow all drawers to be opened at one time, which could tip the cabinet. Proceed with caution.

  • To get at the safety slider, you need to remove the tracks for the drawers. See the picture. You will need a Philips head screwdriver to do this. Make sure to collect all of the screws in a tip box or beaker.
There are six tracks, three per side.
  • Seriously, make sure to collect all of the screws. There should be four per track.
Don't lose the screws!
  • Break out the plastic part of the safety mechanism (which has the raised "trippers"). Use a flat head screw driver to pop the plastic off of the metal slider which is embedded in the cabinet. This requires a bit of force, but not too much. You don't need to get the metal slider out, just the plastic parts which are raised and are tripped by the drawers opening and closing. See pictures.
You need to break off the plastic, but leave the metal slider in the cabinet track
The plastic comes of relatively easily
  • Once you break out the plastic from both sides, you can replace the metal tracks, and lubricate and replace the drawers as described above.

If the drawers do not sit nicely in the cabinet (i.e. drawers overlap or there are large gaps), you may need to adjust the tracks on the drawers. The screws on either end can be loosened and the tracks slightly moved (circled in the picture). Hopefully this is enough to do the trick! Otherwise check that you put the drawers back in the same slots!

These two screws allow you to slightly adjust the track


Please feel free to post comments, questions, or improvements to this protocol. Happy to have your input!

  1. List troubleshooting tips here.
  2. You can also link to FAQs/tips provided by other sources such as the manufacturer or other websites.
  3. Anecdotal observations that might be of use to others can also be posted here.

Please sign your name to your note by adding '''*~~~~''': to the beginning of your tip.

*Megan N McClean (talk) 13:51, 20 August 2023 (PDT): Read the SDS for WD-40 before using. You should wear gloves and use in a well ventilated area.


or instead, discuss this protocol.