If it should slide and doesn't

Soap and candles make great substitutes for lubricating sliding glass door tracks and wooden furniture drawers. Save some dough and use these simple fixes.

Drawing showing where to apply lubrication on drawers and sliding doors.
Drawing showing where to apply lubrication on drawers and sliding doors.

​There are lots of things around the homestead that slide, in particular, doors and drawers. Say, that borders on the poetic! Fortunately for you, no poems today.

This simple fix applies to doors that slide in a floor track like sliding glass doors and their screens. It also applies to drawers that slide on their bottoms instead of a metal track on the sides. This type of drawer is common in furniture while the metal tracks on the sides are common in kitchen cabinets.

Slippery options - commercial

There are lots of store-bought options to make things slide easier:

  • Powdered graphite - for door tracks
  • Lube sticks - for door tracks
  • Lubricant sprays such as WD40, silicone, oil - for door tracks
  • UHMW tape - for drawers​

All these work well and I have used each one over the years. Unfortunately, frequently when I need them, I don't have them. Plus, powdered graphite is messy and sprays can be difficult to apply precisely.

Slippery options - around the house

So, what to do when you need to make something slide easier and don't fancy a trip to the store? My two go-to options are:

  • Candles - white or natural are best to avoid transferring color - votives work well, they are cheap and white is easy to find
  • Bar soap - hotel soaps are perfect

Here's how to use these alternatives. For sliding door floor tracks, open the slider completely, then rub the track with the base of the candle or bar of soap. Test how well it works and repeat as necessary until it glides like a zephyr.

There are two spots to apply the lube to drawers. You can apply it to the bottom of the "runners," created where the sides extend below the bottom of the drawer. The drawback I encounter is the need to empty the drawer of all contents.

The second spot is the ledge that is built into the carcass of the furniture piece to support the drawer. This is an easier application approach. Remove the drawer, rub the ledge with the candle or soap, test the glide and repeat as needed.

Drawing showing where to apply lubrication on drawers and sliding doors.
Where to apply lubrication on drawers and sliding doors.

Some drawers have flat bottoms rather than integral runners as pictured above. How do you treat those situations? Here is the step-by-step:

  1. Remove the drawer.
  2. Look inside the furniture carcass to find scrapes and other signs where the drawer is binding.
  3. Remove dust from those areas.
  4. Apply the wax or soap to those spots.
  5. Repeat until the drawer slides smoothly.

Soapy considerations

Any bar of soap will work but I like to use white or natural colors to avoid transferring the soap color to surrounding areas. There are two exceptions to this statement.

  1. Lava handsoap. It is great for cleanup following working on the car because it has pumice in it. This very useful grit component that rules when cleaning greasy hands is the antithesis of sliding freely.
  2. Decorative guest soaps. You know the ones that are ostensibly for guests. Have you ever seen one that has been used? Nope, me either. Still, these bars are definitely out of bounds as using them typically creates a ruckus. You've been warned.
Guest soap - DO NOT TOUCH - this means guests too!
Guest soap - DO NOT TOUCH - this means guests too!