how to remove drawers from dresser

How to Remove Drawers From Dresser Like a Pro

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Before we get into the nitty-gritty, ask yourself these thought-provoking questions about dressers:

  • Why do dresser drawers fall out at the most important time, and yet when you need them to open, they cause a scuffle?
  • Why do dresser drawers have secret compartments you’ve never seen until you decide to either sell or clean them?
  • Why do dresser drawers get stuck just after you’ve closed them shut, and now you remember you need something, and they just can’t open?

These are vital life questions (at least for me) revolving around dresser drawers, one of the most important pieces of furniture in any bedroom. If you’ve gone through either of the above instances, you will want to stay tuned to find out how to remove drawers from dressers.

But first, it would only make sense to understand what types of dressers there are.

Types of Dressers

a modern bedroom dresser with 5 closed drawers

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You’ve heard of chest of drawers. They are different from credenzas, sideboards, and buffets. However, these are not the only type of drawers in use; other dressers are designed differently in functionality and design. They include:

  1. Traditional Dresser: This is rectangular, and drawers are arranged in rows. Typically made of decorated wooden styles.
  2. Highboy: A row of dressers placed on top of a set of cabinets. It is tall and narrow.
  3. Lowboy: Like its counterpart above, this dresser is shorter and wider and can have a mirror placed on it.

Now that we have a grasp of some of the dressers, we must know how to remove drawers from dressers.

Steps on How to Remove Drawers From Dressers

There are many reasons why you’d need to remove drawers from your dressers. For instance, if you are moving, renovating, and painting your dressers or just need to clean them, you will need to understand how to remove drawers from dressers without destroying them. The steps are as below:

1. Empty Your Drawers

Cleaning a dresser with full dressers is tiresome and, honestly, unnecessary.  A much better option would be to empty your drawers of any items inside. Furthermore, you’ll cover more ground in cleaning the dressers within a much shorter time. You’ll get to the nooks and crannies within the shortest possible time and with the maximum effect.

open, empty dresser drawers

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2. Open the Drawer Completely

Stand in front of your dresser to have the drawer straight ahead of you. Hold the front handle and pull the drawer out as far as it goes, but not entirely that it comes out. After this, lift the front side of the drawer so that it is disengaged from the mechanisms holding it in place, such as runners. You may need to wiggle the drawer out to work it free and fully remove it. Ensure you are not vigorously pulling the drawer out, as it could break.

3. Look Out for Your Drawer’s Locking Mechanism

Identifying which locking mechanism your drawer uses will save you much time and energy that could have been wasted trying to wriggle the drawers out. You can try to feel on the drawer’s sides or move it slightly till you hear a click. That’s your locking mechanism.

dresser drawer with metal glide with pull-out guards (plastic flaps visible; these are plastic stops at the edge of the drawer)

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Locking mechanisms help to stop the drawers from being completely pulled out and causing accidents. They ensure that the drawers remain firmly in place despite the force used to open them. This is why it is prudent to figure out which locking mechanism your drawer uses and how to disengage it so that you can remove the drawers.

Check if your drawer has a pull-out guard or a plastic flap connected to the back of the drawer. It prevents the drawer from falling forwards and causing injury.

4. Lift the Drawer and Out

If your dresser has multiple drawers, always remove the top drawer first for the dresser to maintain stability and prevent tipping over. Once the locking mechanism is disengaged, pull the drawer up and out of the drawer track.

open drawer with bottom slides on the outer walls

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Anti-tip cables are made of strong, durable materials and help prevent dressers from tipping over. You can put these safety hazards in place, especially when removing drawers from your dresser, to avoid accidents.

How to Remove Drawers From Different Drawer Slides

Different drawers have different slide types and locking mechanisms to ensure smooth access and removal. For instance, push-to-open drawers are pretty easy to operate, as you just need to push specific parts of the drawer to release levers that help you remove dresser drawers easily.

Further, for dresser drawers with a central locking system, disengaging one drawer means all other drawers are automatically disengaged. Other locking mechanisms used include magnetic locks, digital locks, and combination locks.

Push to open drawer slides

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The following are some of the different drawer slides:

  • Ball-bearing drawer slides
  • Side-mount drawer slides
  • Undermount drawer slides
  • Center-mount drawer slides
  • Soft close drawer slides
  • Touch-release drawer slides
  • Push-to-open drawer slides
  • Locking drawer slides
  • Self-closing drawer slides
  • Full-extension drawer slides
  • Partial-extension drawer slides

The key is that each drawer type is built with its locking mechanism. The first thing, therefore, before attempting to remove any dresser drawer, is to identify, understand and maneuver your dresser drawer’s locking mechanism.

Once you have studied your drawer’s locking mechanism, removing dresser drawers is pretty much the same for most drawers. It is very important to know the different drawer slides and release mechanisms available and how to work them. The following are some of the most popular types of drawer slides and how to remove drawers from dressers with such:

1. Drawers With Stabilizer Screws

Pull the drawer out first to maximum extension as with other drawer slides and glides. This enables you to view the stabilizer screws. Once you find them inside the drawer, use a screwdriver to remove each screw. Turn each screw anticlockwise until it is fully disengaged.

A closeup of a drawer screw being tightened

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An important tip here: Search for any other locking mechanism holding the drawer in place, such as release levers. Disengage them as well before lifting the drawer out. After that, place the drawer on a flat surface.

2. Drawers With Metal Glides With Levers

Metal glide drawers have a stop mechanism that prevents the drawers from being pulled out completely. Check the drawers’ sides for the metal glides attached. At the ends of these glides, you will find levers or tabs that act as the stopping mechanism.

Disengage the levers on both sides at the same time. Push them inward to the center until you have pushed them completely. You will feel the drawer loosen on the track levers, so it can be pulled out easily. Once you feel it has completely disengaged, lift the drawer slightly, then pull it out freely.

3. Drawers With Wood Glide Slides

The process is typically the same: the stopping mechanism is slightly different. Older furniture models use this slide type. Stand in front of the dresser, pull the drawer out until it is fully extended, then pull it out with a good tug.

This slide type may be subject to more wear and tear than other slide types because of friction. Before placing the drawers back in the dresser, look out for any misalignment or damage on the slides, as it could affect the ease of access of your drawers moving forward.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What Causes Wooden Drawers to Stick?

The primary reason why your drawer dressers may not come out is if there are any obstructions. Check whether there is any object hindering the full and smooth movement of your drawers, such as stuck toys, pens, or dirt debris. Remove these obstructions and retry removing the drawers. Another possible reason is that your dresser’s runners are destroyed or must be fixed. Replace them if they need to be.

2. Can All Drawers Come Out?

Not all dresser drawers can come out. Some drawers are difficult to remove, while others are non-removable; they are meant to remain permanently attached to the dresser at all times. In such a case, you’ll only be able to pull out the drawers to a certain distance, then access all you need while the drawer is still attached.

If you have tried the above removal steps yet the drawers won’t budge, ask someone else to remove them before ruling out your dresser as a permanent assembly dresser. However, most standard dressers come with detachable drawers, so you should not worry much.

3. How Do I Know Which Slide Type My Dresser Has?

There are diverse ways of knowing which slide type you are dealing with. First, you can search the entire dresser by looking for any visible levers or feeling for any push mechanism. You can then tell if your dresser uses an extension or center slide. If completely unsure, you can confirm the same on your dresser drawer guide, if it has one, or inquire from a professional.

4. Should I Remove All Drawers Simultaneously?

When removing multiple drawers, starting with the top drawer is advisable if your dresser has more than one drawer. This is to ensure that the bottom part helps maintain stability. By lowering the dresser’s center of gravity, the more stable the dresser is. If the center of gravity is higher, which would mean that the lower drawers were removed first, the more likely it is for the dresser to topple over.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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