How to fix loose dresser drawers: An illustrated guide

A loose dresser drawer probably won’t ruin your morning. But it certainly doesn’t help. Eliminating sources of frustration makes the morning go better, so here’s how to fix loose dresser drawers.

Loose dresser drawers are almost always caused by damaged or missing parts, often from trying to force open an overfull drawer. Once you repair or replace the guides or glides, the drawer stays in place and operates smoothly. The process only takes a few minutes, costs about $3 per drawer, and requires no tools other than a screwdriver.

Parts of a dresser drawer

Dressers have a metal track that the drawers glide onto. The drawers have a grooved piece that slides into the track, and there’s a plastic guide that goes on the front of the metal track and mounts with a single screw. There is a second plastic guide that goes on the back of the drawer and attaches with two or three screws.

If one or both of the plastic guides is broken or missing, the drawer is loose and sloppy and prone to fall out of the dresser. Replacing them will restore the drawer to tight but smooth operation.

Sourcing replacement parts

Fix loose dresser drawers
The part on top came out of my dresser. The part on the bottom is a nearly identical replacement I found at a home improvement store. You can get what you need to fix loose dresser drawers at your local home center.

After 22 years, some of my dresser drawers had broken or missing parts. But even though I bought my dresser 22 years ago, the Prime-Line drawer track guide and glide pack I found at my local home center is nearly identical to the parts in my dresser.

Look around inside the dresser after you remove the drawer. You may find the guides and screws floating around in there somewhere. If they are in good condition you can reuse them. In my case, I had four loose dresser drawers. Usually one of the two guides was still in good enough condition to reuse.

If your guides don’t look quite like mine, don’t despair. Remove a set of them and take them to a nearby home center or hardware store. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll have something close enough that it fits.

Removing the drawer

To remove the loose and sloppy drawer, pull it straight out. You may have to tilt it slightly at the end, but it should pull out with little resistance, especially since the parts that are supposed to give resistance aren’t there.

Fixing the holes

If the guide on the back of the drawer is missing, don’t just screw a new one on. The holes for the screws are probably damaged. Glue a short length of toothpick into the hole with a good wood glue. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, then cut it flush with the surface. This will give the screws something to grab onto.

Replacing the guide on the drawer

The guide on the drawer is held on by three screws. Remove the broken glide if it’s there, then line the new guide up with the holes and drive in the three screws. If the fit is loose and sloppy, do the toothpick trick I outlined above. The new guide should screw on tightly and hold in place firmly. If it doesn’t, it’s liable to fall back off pretty quickly, and then you’ll have a loose drawer again.

repair dresser drawers
The replacement drawer glide just screws on where the old one came off.

Replacing the guide on the dresser track

The guide on the dresser track slides into the track and you secure it with one screw. If the guide is in good condition, you don’t have to replace it. If it’s missing, broken, or badly worn, replace it. Remove the screw holding the old track in place. You may need a short, “stubby”-style screwdriver to reach into the drawer opening. A full-size screwdriver may not fit.

Fix dresser drawers
On some of my dresser drawers, the guide was broken off completely.

Once you remove the screw, the old guide will pop out with just a little resistance. Pop the new guide in, lining the hole in the guide up with where the screw was. Then replace the screw.

fix dresser drawers
Here I’ve screwed the replacement guide into place. A small stubby-style screwdriver helps.

Replacing the drawer

Replacing the drawer is harder than taking it out was. Line the guide on the back of the drawer up with the rail inside the dresser, then push the drawer in. If it fights you, you don’t have it lined up correctly. Once it catches, the drawer slides in pretty easily, with just enough resistance to keep the drawer tight and keep it from falling out of the dresser if you leave it open.

Preventing problems

There are two things you can do to prevent problems in the future. First, apply a lubricant to the metal track under the drawer. Lithium grease or silicone spray would be best, but those aren’t necessarily items every household keeps on hand. Petroleum jelly would also work. Don’t use WD-40, as it will quickly lose its lubricating properties.

Second, avoid overfilling the drawers. When you force open an overfull drawer, sometimes it’s the clothes that give, but sometimes the drawer parts break instead.

Third, don’t stand on the drawers. Sometimes kids will use a dresser like a ladder, standing on open drawers. Teach your kids not to do this. It’s dangerous, because it can cause the dresser to tip, with catastrophic results. Less catastrophically, it can cause the drawer to break, causing a fall. This can still cause injury, but it’s less dangerous than tipping over the whole dresser.

And that’s it. You don’t have to replace your dresser if the drawers are loose and sloppy. You can fix loose dresser drawers at a cost of less than $3 per drawer, which is a lot less than a new dresser.

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