The Best Drawer Slides For Soft Closing Furniture and Cabinets (2021)

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Home » Hardware » Cabinet » Drawer Slides » Soft Close Drawer Slides » The Best Drawer Slides For Soft Closing Furniture and Cabinets (2021)

Lontan Side Mount Soft Close

Best Value Soft Close Slides (Bulk)

Best Value: Lontan (Bulk)

The best drawer slides for cabinets and furniture have to include soft closing capability. While there are millions of drawers using old-style cheap epoxy self closing slides, the quiet, easy to open and no-slam drawer slide action of a soft close is now the standard.

And after building and installing over a thousand drawers in my cabinetmaking career I only use soft close as it is simply what everyone expects.

In this article learn how to select the best drawer slides that:

  • Open easily versus knock-off slides that take a hard pull to open
  • Disappear with undermount slides that can’t be seen
  • Quietly glide open versus brands that click-and-clack open
  • Install easily with the right screws, rear mount brackets and drawer jigs
  • Are Made in USA factory-built
Before we begin, and after buying and testing over $150 of slides currently on the market, the choices for the best drawer slides come down to one of three options:
  • BUDGET SLIDES: LONTAN SIDE MOUNT are the clear winner with bulk pricing, smooth action and standard 1/2″ clearance. Great for new or retrofit.
  • BEST PERFORMING: Always go to BLUM 563H – MADE IN USA undermount slides that are invisible, premium action and are the professionals choice for new drawers (sorry, these won’t work for most retrofits). These are the only slides I’ll use in new drawers. Period.
  • JET BLACK SIDE MOUNTS: The up-and-coming VADANIA VK1245   brand are a sleek, black, quiet and well-built slide that come in single and bulk packs. 

SlideProduct Desc.Shop
Best soft close drawer slides - Blum 563HEditor’s Pick: Blum 563H UndermountCHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Lontan VK1245 BlackBest side mount: Vadania VK1245CHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Lontan 4502S3Budget pick (bulk): Lontan 4502S3CHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Probico BlackDrawer slide jig (required for proper install)CHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Accuride C-3832Rear mount brackets (required for face frame)CHECK PRICE

Best Drawer Slides Soft Close Infographic

In This Article

Why Do the Best Drawer Slides Have Soft Closing?

Note: Around minute 4 in the video you’ll see the Blum undermount slides. This is a great reference by the Crafted Workshop on soft close slides and making drawers for them.

First up is understanding what a soft close drawer slide is – and isn’t.

So, as you’d expect, a soft close drawer slide does two things. First, it prevents drawers from slamming through use of a damper that catches the drawer and slows the closing force. Then second, using (preferably) two large springs the soft close mechanism gently pulls the drawer closed.

Is it the same as self closing? No. 

But will a quality soft close drawer slide keep most drawers closed? Yes. 

Features of the Best Drawer Slides

While drawer slides might seem simple, there are features of all drawer slides you’ll want to consider:

  • Undermount slides can’t be seen, and generally have the softest and smoothest operation. But, they only work for new drawers.
  • Side mount slides are visible and attach to the sides of the drawer, and offer the best option for retrofit and new slides with a simple 1/2″ side clearance.
  • Dampers in the best drawer slides are well constructed with steel pins
  • Dual springs are the standard in the best performing slides (maximum pull-shut force)
  • Engineering wins with which slides open the easiest – and why Vadania, Lontan and BLUM are the top performing.

Best Drawer Slides for Cabinets and Furniture

In this review we purchased over $150 worth of slides and tested them, and found that:

  1. BLUM 563H are the best drawer slides (undermount) for new drawers 
  2. VADANIA were the best side mount slides and feature a stylish black finish
  3. LONTAN were a surprising (import) with top performance and budget pricing
  4. PROBICO performed well, but only had one spring
  5. ACCURIDE drawer slides performed well, but fell behind in soft closing performance 
  6. GOBRICO soft close feature a HEAVY initial pull force and were rated lower
  7. KNAPE & VOGT had a unique soft close design that just didn’t stack up
  8. PROMARK slides were last in quality of build, noisy and had only one spring for pulling the slide closed

PRO TIP: Always use a  drawer slide jig, rear mount brackets on face frame cabinets and consider  upgraded screws for lasting holding power.

BEST DRAWER SLIDE FOR UNDERMOUNT: Blum 563H Soft Close Drawer Slide

Best soft close drawer slides - BLUM 563H soft close kit

Overview

NOTE: With COVID-19 the BLUM supplies are up and down. As of September 2021 these slides are HARD TO FIND. Be wary of imitation slides and consider side mounts as a second option.

There’s a reason most cabinets offer undermounts as upgrades: they simply perform better.

Because an undermount drawer slide places the weight of the drawer on horizontal rollers (versus steel ball bearings) the drawer action is SMOOTHER. 

For example, the Blum 563H won’t require the hard pull to open like you’d find in a low quality side mount soft close slide. And, since they aren’t metal-on-metal, you’ll find they are quieter as well.

So what’s the catch? You’ll need to make a few custom measurements as these slides don’t use a standard 1/2″ side clearance. Instead, you’ll have a slightly wider drawer and require an extra 1/4″ or so clearance under the drawer to fit the slide.

HOWEVER, Blum sets itself apart from other slides with:

  • The durability you need for a long-term drawer slide 
  • Reliability for decades of use
  • BHMA certification provides for high initial and long term closing quality
  • Easy to open and smooth opening and closing with roller bearing design

And, Blum slides are manufactured in the USA.

Features

  • Undermount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Available in 18″ and 21″ lengths
  • Roller bearing construction for smooth performance
  • Hidden once installed with no part showing
  • Tool-less removal by unlocking the front drawer locks
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Large dampers for smooth performance
blum soft close drawer slides
Blum Drawer Slides Installed in Custom Cabinets (Built 2019)

Pros

Cons

BEST SIDE MOUNT: Vadania VK1245 Soft Close Drawer Slides

Best soft close drawer slides - Vadania side mount drawer slides

Overview

The Vadania side mount soft close drawer slides came in as one of the best drawer slides in my side mount soft close drawer slide review.

And for good reason as they had the best count of ball bearings and one of the only steel soft close catch.

But out of the package the Vadania slides immediately set themselves apart from the Lontan, Accuride and Promark drawer slides:

  • Sleek black finish perfect for modern applications (vs. the standard galvanized of other manufacturers)
  • Well oiled 
  • Damper and steel catch for durability

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension to access the back of the drawer
  • Available in 10″ to 24″ lengths
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Black finish for modern look
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

BEST VALUE SIDE MOUNT: Lontan 4502S3 Soft Close Drawer Slides

Best soft close drawer slides - LONTAN side mount drawer slides

Overview

I was surprised with this drawer slide.

First, they come individually or in packs of 2, 6 and 10 at half the price of most other drawer slides. 

And, while they what I consider a “generic” slide as they aren’t from one of the established manufacturers, their construction was TOP NOTCH when stacked up against the other slides.

And, in a brand test, I’ve put these ahead of the well known Accuride as they simply performed better and were surprisingly quieter when opened and closed. As you know, or don’t, that will matter when you first open and close the door as a “clicking and clacking” sound is one of the hallmarks of poor performing ball bearing slides (soft close or standard). 

Lastly, with their great bundled price, I’ve also installed these in a recent garage workshop makeover. And after loading one drawer (~15″ x 22″) to capacity with heavy screw boxes it has performed fantastic. I’ve even attempted to slam the drawer and it’s damper has worked each time. 

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Available as single slides and bundles of 2, 6 or 10 (with price discounts the more you buy)
  • Lengths of 16, 18, 20, and 22″ 
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

Other Soft Close Drawer Slides Reviewed

So who else makes drawer slides? Well, there’s name brands like Accuride and Knape & Vogt plus dozens of imported slides sold as un-branded.

In this section you’ll find the other slides we reviewed and put through our tests.

Probico HMDSHH32BK Side Mount Soft Close Drawer Slides

Best soft close drawer slides - Probico

Overview

If you are looking for an upgrade from the standard zinc-plated drawer slides then the Probico soft close drawer slides are a great option. After unboxing these slides I found them to be well constructed with tight rails, a quality soft close mechanism and quiet operation.

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension to access the back of the drawer
  • Available in 12″ to 24″ lengths
  • Ball bearings
  • Black finish
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Tool-less removal

Pros

Cons

Accuride C-3832 Series Soft Close Drawer Slides

While Accuride is a TOP manufacturer of drawer slides, the C-3832 didn't quite measure up vs. the other side mount slides. The #1 issue I found was a noisy closing action that was surprising for a top brand name.

Best soft close drawer slides - accuride

Overview

Accuride is a name brand in drawer slides.

And the Accuride C-3832 drawer slide is a strong competitor.

However, due to price and noise it falls to #4 on the list as it’s performance doesn’t stand out from the competitors to justify it’s hefty price tag.

Curiously, this slide had the #1 issue with side mount drawer slides: it opened loud. While most high quality slides have extra “bumpers” to ensure 3 tracks don’t do this my test showed a louder than average click.

However, if you’re an Accuride fan, and want to purchase slides from an industry name, then these slides are something to consider.

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Available in 12-28″ even lengths
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

Gobrico Soft Close Drawer Slides

Best soft close drawer slides - Gobrico

Overview

In a side-by-side comparison with other heavy duty soft close drawer slides there just wasn’t anything offered that set this drawer slide apart other than a leading # of ball bearings on the inner rail (on a 22″ model, 54 bearings vs. 36 on most others). 

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

Knape and Vogt 8400P Soft Close Drawer Slide

Best soft close drawer slides - Knape and Vogt

Overview

For a brand name drawer slide with an industry reputation the Knape & Vogt are an option to the Vadania drawer slides but fall short on closing force. Due to a thinner design (7/16″), single spring design, shorter rail, and among the lowest closing force of all slides I don’t recommend this slide.

 
Unfortunately, this slide attempted a different soft closing mechanism with a single spring and it just didn’t compare head-to-head to the other slides. For that reason, when searching for the best soft close drawer slides I’d pass on the 8400P.
 
I am a fan, however, of the Knape and Vogt TruTrac slides for standard duty ball bearing without soft close.

Features

  • Side mount 
  • Full extension 
  • Ball bearing 
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

Promark Soft Close Drawer Slides

Based on my purchase and hands on use, I would evaluate other slides first before the Promark

Best soft close drawer slides - Promark

Overview

I was expecting great things from these slides but was disappointed. Due to a sloppy rail when opening and the loudest closing noise these slides just didn’t measure up to the others on this list.

The Promark rear mounting brackets, however, were excellent and worked on all the slides I tested. And I particularly liked the extra wide rear width for easy screw hole access.

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Ball bearing drawer slides
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

The Best Soft Close Slides Won't Work If Installed Incorrectly

Drawer Slide Purchase Considerations

I know you want to get to the drawer slides.

But, before we do I want to share a few tips on what else to buy. 

Or, no matter how good the slide is won’t operate correctly, it might fail later, or you may possibly break it during installation:

Drawer slide jigs are a must to properly align your drawers during installation. Most cost less than 1-2 pairs of slides and the Kreg KHI-SLIDE is most popular.

Rear mount brackets are a must for face frame applications as they make installation faster and improve drawer performance with infinite adjustment. I’ve used the ProMark and Lontan and prefer the ProMark as it has a larger rear screw plate.

Drawer screws sent by most manufacturers are inadequate. So, I use Rok #8 truss head screws in both drawer slides and soft close cabinet hinges as they have a superior hold. 

So, add these 3 to your shopping list and you’ll experience a MUCH SMOOTHER installation.

Drawer Installation Tools

Last update on 2021-09-19 at 11:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Key Features of Soft Close Drawer Slides

So how do you know a good soft close slide from a mediocre one?

Here are six things to look for:

  1. Open force: a soft close drawer slide shouldn’t require a hard tug to open. This will be your first complaint with a number of slides.
  2. Closing force: the soft close slide must grab and pull a heavy drawer shut. And for this, two springs are a must.
  3. Quality of construction: The # of ball bearings, smoothness and tightness of rails, and fit and finish of slide all matter to long term reliability.
  4. Operating noise: ball bearing slides can “click and clack” when closed. But fortunately some manufacturers have taken the time to install well-designed bumpers to prevent this.
  5. Weight capacity: all rated themselves as 100 heavy duty soft close drawer slides. For 100+ pounds see our heavy duty drawer slide guide.
  6. Extension: soft close drawer slides are almost all full extension drawer slides with the exception of very short lengths (eg. 10″).

Finally, when it comes to length fortunately all slides are available in popular lengths. And most side mounts are found from lengths of 12-24″.

Undermount Soft Close Drawer Slides Overview

Who makes under mount drawer slides?

Blum has owned the market for this style of drawer slide. And for good reason with their intense focus on delivering quality products and continuing innovation. 

And, Blum also specifically targets the consumer segment – more so than other vendors who focus on manufacturing suppliers.

But there’s always competition, so let’s look at who else makes these slides:

  • Grass, like Blum, has a huge selection of drawer slides but (from my experience) is focused on commercial distribution and applications
  • CSH Hardware – who supplies many of the big box stores with a lower cost alternative to Blums
  • King slides – makers of high end push-to-open soft close drawer slides

Pairing push to open with soft close drawer slides

Don’t want hardware on the front of your drawers? 

Well, you’re in luck if you have a frameless design to your cabinets. By adding push to close to an undermount soft close drawer slide you can gently push the drawer front and the drawer will glide partly open.

While these aren’t cheap, you can factor in the savings of not having to purchase additional hardware (and install them).

Who makes these? A few options:

  • King under mount push to open slides that have this feature built-in
  • Blum TIP-ON is an accessory to their TANDEM slides that can be added to any compatible drawer to upgrade to push to open.

Heavy duty undermount soft close drawer slides

While heavy duty drawer slides, for me, start around 150 pounds there are a few options for soft close drawer slides at 125 pounds:

  • Blum heavy duty under mount with 125 pound capacity

Soft Close Drawer Slide Ratings

We’ll go through each drawer slide in detail, but after my testing I ranked the slides as follows. A few aren’t easy to find, so I’ve included links for buying now – and most are most economical in a 6 or 10-pack (just divide by quantity to get per unit).

Lastly, don’t forget rear mounting brackets, screws and a drawer slide jig when installing these soft close drawer slides:

SlideProduct Desc.Shop
Best soft close drawer slides - Blum 563HEditor’s Pick: Blum 563H UndermountCHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Lontan VK1245 BlackBest side mount: Vadania VK1245CHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Lontan 4502S3Budget pick (bulk): Lontan 4502S3CHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Probico BlackDrawer slide jig (required for proper install)CHECK PRICE
Best soft close drawer slides - Accuride C-3832Rear mount brackets (required for face frame)CHECK PRICE

Measuring Soft Close Drawer Glide Opening and Closing Force

Disclaimer: This is my personal testing method and consider as such since it was not performed in a controlled lab! 

The #1 usability issue with soft close close drawer slides is they can be hard to open.

And the #1 performance issue is the springs aren’t strong enough to pull a drawer and it’s contents closed.

Since this information isn’t published with any drawer slides I decided to invest a few dollars in a gauge used to calibrate the trigger pressure of guns. And the results validated what I “felt” were the best soft closing drawer slides without introducing the dynamics of an installed drawer. 

Step #1 - Measuring the Closing Strength

Drawer Slide Review Force Test
Force gauge to measure slide open and closing force

In this step I took each of the six slides in this review (except the Blum – I’ll update the review later) and mounted them exactly the same on a custom jig. 

For the test I used the Wheeler Professional Force Gauge.

Test highlights:

  • All six slides were measured 10 times for both tests
  • Test #1 was to measure ounces of closing force at 1.5″ from closed. And I chose this as it is just past the point where all six slides were “released” and under the power of their springs (maximum pressure).
  • Test #2 was to measure ounces of closing force 0.5″ from closed. Basically, was strength maintained near fully closed as the springs neared resting position.

Step #2 - Measuring Open Force

Look, I’ve installed aftermarket soft close drawer adapters and they close well. But they take a surprising force to open.

So, I tested out the open force of each slide as well. For this test I left the slide mounted in the jig and performed 10 “open” cycles.

High Closing Force Plus Low Opening Force Equals the Best Drawer Slide

Vadania and Lontan easily won this test. And having installed both in drawer projects I wasn’t surprised.

The BEST closing force went to Gobrico but they had the hardest OPEN force. And a drawer that takes a hard tug to open is not usable.

While the EASIEST to open went to Vadania. 

While the findings weren’t surprising, they did show that two springs are a must (ruling out two slides – the K&V and Promark). 

Again, this test was a homemade test to give some measure of closing and opening force. It would be great for the industry to standardize a test to inform consumers in cycle tests of 100,000 opening and closings!

Common Questions on Soft Close Drawer Slides

1. Can I Upgrade to Soft Close Without Replacing the Slides

Have drawers you want to upgrade but don’t want to replace the slides?

If you have one of the millions (billions?) of drawers with bottom mount epoxy slides you’re in luck. 

In a matter of minutes a Rok Hardware Add On Soft Close Adapter can upgrade your existing drawers.

Do they work? If installed according to our add-on soft close adapter guide they can work great. While not as smooth to open as a Blum under mount they do the job.

The only downside? They were a little tight to start with on opening but loosened up.

2. What are undermount soft close drawer slides?

Looking at a cabinet opening there are three possible surfaces to mount the drawer slide to:

  • Top mount for slides like keyboard trays
  • Side mount for ball bearing slides
  • Bottom for, hold on, there are a bunch of mount types here. A bottom mount drawer slide will be screwed to the drawer bottom but be visible on the side (I refer to these as roller or Epoxy slides). And then there are center mount slides where the drawer runs on a single slide in the, you guessed it, center of the drawer slide. But finally, there are under mount that are fully concealed (Blum) and are installed on both sides of the drawer and are fully “under” the drawer.

So now that you understand the types of drawer slides, an undermount slide is different in that:

  • An undermount slide installs on both edges (vs. a center mount where it’s only in the middle)
  • Under mount slide is fully concealed.
  • Finally this type of slide requires a special drawer construction and widths that factor drawer side thickness, drawer bottom depth and side clearance

3. So should I use side mount soft close drawer slides?

Certainly. 

Since not every budget or project can adapt to an undermount soft close glide, the best alternative is to use a side mount soft close. 

As referenced elsewhere in this article proper selection, use of mounting brackets, the right screws and some patience is required. And while true for undermount installation, it’s doubly important for a side mount drawer slide (of any kind).

4. Are full extension drawer slides soft close?

Fortunately, all soft close drawer slides I’ve seen incorporate a full extension opening. So yes, a full extension drawer can be found with soft close.

Not sure what drawer extension is? Well, consider:

  • Extension refers to how much of the drawer is “extended” past the face of the cabinet when fully opened.
  • For example, partial extension drawer slides only open … partially. Most commonly, these slides open 75% or “three fourths”. And you see the issue here as you can’t access the back of the drawer.
  • On the other hand, a full extension drawer slide extends so the rear of the drawer is at least flush with the face of the cabinet.

5. Just how difficult is installing soft close drawer slides?

With so much focus on installation issues, maybe you’re thinking these aren’t the drawers for me.

But let’s consider, first, the alternatives:

  • Bottom mount drawer slides  only offer soft close with an adapter. And bottom mounts, while admittedly the easiest to install, still require adjustment and rear mounting brackets.
  • Standard side mount drawer slides are still ball bearing construction and must be installed with the same precision. While slightly easier as the soft close mechanism isn’t a concern, all the same vertical and horizontal adjustment is required.
  • I just can’t recommend a center mount slide – these exist in my woodworking opinion as ways to cheapen factory furniture.

In another way of saying it: no drawer slide is easy to install. Due to alignment needs a soft close drawer slide is slightly more difficult to install. But on the other end of the installation you’ll have the satisfaction of slam-free drawers.

6. I don't want knobs or handles - are there push to open soft close drawer slides?

Before answering that question let’s first understand cabinet construction:

  • A face frame cabinet cannot use push to open drawer slides as the drawer front is directly in contact with the “frame” of the cabinet.
  • However, a frameless cabinet is designed such that the drawer slide determines the position of the drawer front. As such, the drawer front has room behind it to be “pushed in”.

So with that in mind, there are push to open soft close drawer slides. And one of the best soft close drawer slides with this feature is the King push-to-open soft close drawer slide. While not the cheapest, considering cost savings on knob or handle hardware you might be able to justify them for the look.

7. 22 inch soft close drawer slides or 24 inch? What length do I need?

There’s a short answer to the length question when determining what slide length you need. 

To measure length:

  • Frameless cabinets do not require a rear mounting bracket, so the slide length is the depth of the cabinet minus the thickness of the drawer front.
  • Face frame cabinets require rear mounting brackets, so the slide length is the depth of the cabinet (from the frame front) minus 1/2″ for rear bracket

While most cabinets I’ve installed drawer slides in require a 22 inch slide (I build for face frames), an undermount design is usually 21 inches and bathroom cabinets tend to be 18″.

Just be sure to measure each cabinet as construction might vary. And that’s especially true in center island cabinets.

8. What about replacing drawer slides with soft close?

A retrofit soft close upgrade project is a great DIY project.

Other than choosing a slide, here’s what you’ll want to know before jumping in:

  • Remember this will require hands and knees work with potentially a trip or two into the cabinets.
  • Quality, quality, quality. Sure, you can spend $5-10 less on that drawer slide, but consider the time you’ll be investing for an upgrade and replacement. You don’t want to do this project twice.
  • Invest in a drawer slide jig, #8 Rok screws and a good quality cabinet clamp.

For choosing a drawer slide you’ll want to consider:

  • Clearance on each side of the drawer must be 1/2″ or you’ll be looking at a rebuild of the drawer.
  • Cabinet construction
  • Slide length
  • Weight of the drawer contents. 

For extra wide or deep drawers a soft close slide might not be the best option. 

9. Will a 10" soft close drawer slide work?

While I haven’t tried this length of slide, I have read the reviews on shorter soft close slides. 

And they generally aren’t good. 

So, be cautious with this length of slide and consider that they might not open fully. In fact, Vadania’s website markets them as a partial extension slide. But all things considered, for a drawer with 8″ of travel before it connects to the soft closing device is soft closing really a need? 

10. What's the scoop on heavy duty soft close drawer slides?

Before we get started with heavy duty, a drawer slide with a 100 pound rating is “medium duty” in my book. A heavy duty slide really starts around 150 pounds, and these beefy slides go up to 1000 pounds or more.

So, while there are heavy duty drawer slides with a soft close feature up to 125 pounds it’s questionable if they will “slam shut” in the first place. 

Personally, and in my experience, the drawers that slam shut are the lightweight drawers. So ask yourself: is a 100 pound drawer likely something you’ll open frequently? Is it slamming really a concern? 

11. How about low profile soft close drawer slides for shallow drawers?

For furniture and desks one common drawer slide need is for a low profile drawer slide. And by design, these slides are almost always side mount slides as the bottom of the opening is open.

So are there low profile soft close drawer slides? Not that I have found, due to the soft close mechanism space requirements. However a few options could be:

  • Use a bottom mount slide with an adapter.
  • However, an undermount soft close could work, but you will lose another 3/8″ of interior drawer depth.

12. Springs and hydraulics - just how does a soft close drawer slide work?

After examining a variety of side mount drawer slides one thing is clear: the industry is trying to find the best way to make these work.

But there are a few things in common:

  • When the drawer is opened a spring-loaded mechansim (there’s always one spring!) is pulled forward.
  • Then, at about 1-1/2″ a latch on the inner drawer slide is opened and the drawer continues to open.
  • When the drawer is closed, this latch is re-engaged with the soft close mechanism.
  • And this is where the mechanism driving this latch “kicks in” and pulls the door shut.

Basically, a soft close drawer slide has a moving ‘sled’ with a spring assist that pulls the drawer shut.

Why would you need a hydraulics then? Well consider what happens when you slam a drawer shut. With excessive force your action would push this sled back too quickly and the drawer would slam.

Now, most interestingly, consider that a soft close slides function is dictated by this spring. Or, pair of springs on the higher rated slides. Thinking back to the alignment discussions in this article it should be evident you’ll need to have a solid alignment for this spring-loaded sled to have the best closing force.

13. Self closing drawer slides are the same as soft closing drawer slides - right?

These are two different concepts when it comes to drawer slides. 

First, even the best soft closing drawer slide does have a “hold in” force generated by the spring. But it isn’t considered a self closing drawer slide.

Instead, a self closing drawer slide is best described as a “stay closed” drawer slide. 

The difference?

On a side mount ball bearing slide there is a rubber catch at the very rear of the outer drawer rail. When the drawer is closed the inner rail fits over this catch and is held in place.

14. Why are drawer slide brackets required on face frame cabinets?

The answer to this question is a bit of basic geometry. 

And the simple fact that soft close slides require a perfectly parallel installation for optimal performance.

Let’s start with what happens when you don’t use a drawer slide bracket on a soft close slide:

  • You’ll need to cut backing blocks on each side of the drawer slide that are precisely the right thickness to keep the slides parallel.  Now that doesn’t mean the same thickness as the gap behind the face frame, it means to obtain a parallel slide install.
  • Shims. And a lot of them. Because neither is the cabinet guaranteed to be square nor is the drawer, you’ll need to use shims to achieve a perfect fit.

Now, with a drawer bracket you’ll have complete freedom to position the slide anywhere you want.

No shims.

No side mounting blocks (that need to be carefully installed to the cabinet side, no less).

Less time installing.

And a better result. Still wondering if they are worth the extra few dollars? 

15. Can I use a soft close drawer slide on a trash can cabinet?

Yes, but I’d temper expectations of the slides performance. Due to the higher weight loads with a trash can you’ll be pushing both the effective width and weight of most slides.

But, if you’re building a trash can pullout one slide that might be worth the extra investment is the Blum Heavy Duty Soft Close Slide that offers up to 125 pounds of support. And still includes full extension capability and the Blum brand reliability.

16. What's the best way to install a Blum undermount slide for a slide-out shelf?

Want to add a custom slide-out to a base cabinet? This is a great way to access pots and pans with a soft close sliding drawer. Here’s a few considerations:

  • You’ll want to plan for hinge clearance so your slide and drawer clear the cabinet door. On a face frame cabinet I like to use a strip of wood just behind the face frame to allow for hinge clearance (picture below).
  • Watch drawer width maximums – over 20″ and the soft close mechanisms might not have enough strength to pull the drawer shut. 
  • Last, if you need still need hinge clearance you can try a face mount hinge that fits a Blum face mounting plate (start with the 33-series hinges)

17. How to fix soft close drawer slides

If installing drawer slides wasn’t frustrating enough, when they fail it’s even more frustrating. When this happens, though, there are two things to check:

  1. Why did the drawer slide fail?
  2. Is the slide damaged beyond repair?

While these two are related, the truth is finding out why a drawer slide failed is tricky.

Checking for drawer slide damage

To start you’ll want to take a look at the drawer slide, cabinet and drawer itself to find out what went wrong:

  • Missing ball bearingscheck for missing ball bearings on the innermost rail attached to the drawer.
  • Broken latch – on the innermost rail, check the latch that engages the soft close sled. If the plastic is broken it’s time to replace.
  • Broken damper or spring – while not as common, check the springs and damper with the drawer not installed. Verify under no load it engages, stays opened, and smoothly closes.
  • Installation issues – if the drawer slides aren’t installed parallel and equidistant to each other the slides will not work. And most commonly, when you try to insert the drawer slide rails you may end up forcing the slides. If this just happened, re-check your measurements.

Repairing or replacing the drawer slide?

Since a soft close drawer glide is a precision piece of hardware any malfunction is best solved by replacing the slide. Sure, you can probably replace a missing bearing or mend a broken latch. But it will likely fail again.

However, it’s vital to correct any installation issues. If you didn’t use rear mounting brackets on a face frame cabinet then buy them. And if your alignment is off then fix it! 

18. What's with the disconnect lever on side mount drawer slides?

If you haven’t removed a side mount drawer slide from a cabinet you’ve likely not encountered the disconnect mechanism. And it can lead to an embarrassing moment where you don’t know how to remove the drawer.

Here’s a few tricks:

  • Almost all side mount slides have a disconnect lever on each side of the slide.
  • And, they work in opposite directions since slides are “flipped” when installed on the left and right of the drawer opening.
  • However a few side mount slides have a push-in detent.

So with the drawer fully extended, look at the side of each drawer for this lever and push it either up or down to release the slide rail.

How to Install Soft Close Drawer Slides

Unfortunately a number of soft close drawer slides are damaged due to improper installation. But this can be avoided with the right preparation, tools, and accessories.

Follow these steps to install soft close drawer slides:

Step #1 - Ensure proper drawer side clearance

This step is so important that if it cannot be done properly you may consider not using soft close drawer slides. Since the soft close mechanisms operate with damper mechanisms they require precise alignment and spacing on each side of the drawer.

If the drawer is too wide, the pressure will prevent the drawer from closing. But if the drawer is too narrow the slides will not operate in parallel and cause binding pressure.

For this reason, ensure your drawers have precisely the proper side clearance.

Step #2 - Use rear mounting brackets for face frame cabinets

This step is simple but very important. Before installing your drawer slides in face frame cabinets you will want to purchase rear mounting brackets.

Why is this important? Well, attempting to build-up shims for the side of the cabinets is time consuming and will create an issue related to Step #1 – the side clearances will be extremely hard to keep perfect.

But the good news? Rear mounting brackets are just a few dollars a drawer.

Step #3 - Drawer jigs are your best friend

Starting into the installation, the first step is placing drawer jigs on either side of the cabinet to support the drawer slides.

A few considerations:

  • Using two jigs allows you to set, measure and verify equal gaps during the cabinet-side of the installation.
  • However, the real value of two jigs comes in for face frame cabinets when attaching the slide piece to the drawers. Once the cabinet slides are installed, reverse the jigs to point out. Then set the drawer itself on the drawer jigs and pull the drawer slide out.
  • Making sure the drawer height is properly set, simply screw the slide to the drawer (on each side).

Without jigs you’ll need to measure and experiment (unfortunately, required for frameless cabinets). I like the Kreg Jig Pack With Clamps as a value pack with the jigs, clamps and a cabinet knob drill guide as well.

Step #4 - Adjust gently and never force a slide

There is no such thing as a ball bearing side mount that needs a hard shove to install. Due to the construction of these slides that’s inviting the slide to break.

And all too often that calls for a negative review of the slide.

Instead, plan for many adjustments, gentle installation, and stop when frustrated. And that will happen.

Step #5 - Use the right screws and install them all

Plan for the screws that came with your slides to be junk. And instead, purchase a higher quality screw like the Rok #8 screws that will provide a better grip. Because the last thing you’ll want is to re-adjust drawers in a year after cheap screws start to come loose.

Buying Guide for Soft Close Drawer Slides

Determine Your Cabinet Construction

Because installation of drawers is a complicated task you’ll need to understand your cabinets construction. Why does this matter? Well consider:

    • On a frameless cabinet the slide will attach directly to the side of the cabinet.
    • While a face frame cabinet will require the slide to attach to the face frame and then the back of the cabinet (with a rear mount bracket).

So what’s a face frame cabinet? Simple. If your cabinet has a “frame” like a picture on the front of the cabinet box you have a face frame cabinet. Inversely, no frame means you own a frameless cabinet.

Get the Slide Length Right

Nothing will start your drawer installation project off worse than having the wrong length slide.

But to help you out, here’s my cheat sheet to choosing the right length of soft close drawer slide:

  1. The drawer slides should be the same length as the drawer.
  2. Slides should never be shorter than the drawer
  3. While slides can be longer than the drawer, for face frame cabinets they must leave room at the back of the cabinet for mounting brackets.
  4. Plan for rear mounting brackets on face frame cabinets. They can take up to 1″ of depth from the drawer and the slide must reach into them sufficiently to hold the drawer weight.

Finally, as a point of reference almost all kitchen cabinets require a 21-22″ slide and most bathrooms use 18″ slides. If you are replacing slides then just measure the existing drawer depth.

Drawer Slide Brackets Are a Must for Face Frame Cabinets

Ball bearing drawer slides with a soft close mechanism require perfection or they won’t work.

For this reason you’ll absolutely need to use a rear mounting bracket on face frame cabinets or risk a nightmare installation. And here are three reasons you’ll be glad you purchase your slides with brackets:

  1. Rear brackets allow small left-to-right drawer adjustments with ease.
  2. The alternative to a rear mount bracket is shimming.
  3. Drawer installation time can be cut by as much as 80% (seriously!).

I’ve installed thousands of bottom mount drawer slides in my woodworking career. And I would refuse to start installing drawers in face frame cabinets without a bracket.

Drawer Slide Screw Considerations

While all quality drawer slides will include screws that doesn’t mean they are best for your installation. A few things I like to keep in mind:

  • For rear mounting brackets I like to use larger diameter, aggressive thread screws.
  • On face frame cabinets you’ll need to drill a pilot hold to avoid splitting the wood or breaking a screw off.

Lastly, you’ll need to make sure to install screws generously. Once the drawer is installed and gliding smooth carefully install additional screws and test the drawer operation continually.  Due to drawers holding upwards of 100 pounds I always use two large screws in rear mounting brackets. You can check out our guide to cabinet screws for more on what I like to use.

Check that the slide won't interfere with the drawer construction

This is a trade-off as some of the best slides require room under the drawer.  But, side mount soft close slides are visible.  We’ll get to this in a minute, I prefer to trade off a little under-the-drawer space for a hidden slide.  And you can make the drawer a tad wider. 

Key thing to note here?  Not all slides will work with existing drawers.  And, don’t assume the same if you are making drawers.  I’ve made this mistake (once).

Drawer construction considerations for soft close drawer slides

Looking at undermount  slides?  You’ll want to make your choice before you build the drawers.  Or make sure they are compatible (with modifications) for a retrofit.

Planning height of drawer

Some drawer slides require a change to the interior height of the drawer bottom.  Why?  Well, it allows for an undermount slide to be concealed.  The trade-off is less drawer space. 

However, since under mount drawer slides need minimal clearance I typically make the drawer 1/2″ less than the height of the opening. This maximizes the drawer sidewall and avoids any installation issues with the drawer rubbing the top of the face frame (or cabinet top).

Considerations for attaching slides

A few slides will require a custom dado cut to allow the slide to be attached.  This isn’t a big deal as it’s typically concealed.  Planning heavy duty use of the drawer?  If you are debating use of woods a hardwood side will hold up better over time to the weight and screws.

You can also buy pre-cut drawer slides if you don’t have access to plywood, a truck or a table saw to make them.

Best Drawer Slides: Convert existing drawers to soft close drawer slides

There is an easy way and a hard way to do this.  Want the easy way?  Match the slides you currently have to the soft close slides.  

First check for compatibility

Drawer slides, you will find, come in three different varieties.  Take this into consideration when you switch to a different slide – unless you are making new drawers.  Three styles of slides:

  • Under mount / center mount slides – these slides come in a wide variety of designs and may or may not allow the existing drawer to support a similar under mount soft closing slide.
  •  Bottom mount – you likely have these if you see a slide at the bottom of the face frame or there is a large wheel at the front of the cabinet-attached slide. Consider side mount soft close slides if these are your slides.
  •  Side mount slides – unless you are using heavy duty drawer slides then chances are you’re looking at a standard 1/2″ side clearance with ball bearing slides.

Retrofit considerations

Converting existing drawers to soft close slides starts with a few basic measurements:

  • Width and height of drawer opening
  • Width and height of drawer
  • Depth of cabinet
  • For under mounts, clearance between the drawer bottom and the side of the drawer 

Fortunately, 90% of drawers that aren’t soft close have a 1/2″ gap on each drawer slide.  The easiest solution for these cabinets are side mount, ball-bearing style soft close. 

However, if you have the budget and ability to adapt the drawer, I highly recommend the BLUM line of soft close slides.  My favorite feature with these are they are “bump to close”.  These slides are so smooth you can give the drawer a gentle bump and they glide close.

Frequently Asked Questions for Soft Close Drawer Slides

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I upgrade existing drawers to soft close?

Most existing drawers can be upgraded to soft close if they have a 1/2″ side clearance. Or, a soft close adapter can be used for bottom mount drawer slides to add soft close without need for the drawer slide to be replaced.

How do you measure for soft close drawer slides?

First, identify the rear clearance requirements of your drawer slide. This clearance typically ranges from 1/8″ up to 1-1/2″. Then, measure from the back of the cabinet to the front edge of the face frame or cabinet box. Using this as your maximum length find the next shortest slide. For example, if your clearance is 1/2″ and the cabinet depth is 23″ then the longest slide is 22-1/2″. Then rounding down you will want to use a 22″ slide. Lastly, remember the clearance changes by manufacturer and frameless cabinets typically do not have a rear clearance requirement.

What is the best soft close drawer slide?

After years of installing drawer slides my preferred soft close drawer slide is the Blum Tandem with Blumotion. Due to a large damper, strong closing mechanism and easy to open action these slides are perfect for high quality kitchen and furniture hardware. And, Blum is a trusted industry manufacturer with decades of experience and strong brand reputation.

What are the easiest drawer slides to install?

The easiest drawer slides to install are bottom mount drawer slides. First, since a bottom mount slide can only be installed on the bottom edge of the drawer side the drawer installation is fast and without any real options. Second, the cabinet installation is simple and forgiving as the cabinet side has to simply be mounted flush with the face frame or face of the cabinet. And last, these slides do not require a precise alignment between the left and right slides since they employ a roller and not ball bearings.

Are soft close drawers hard to open?

Some soft close drawers are hard to open. In fact, in my experience, low quality side mount soft close drawer slides are commonly the hardest to open. As you’ll see in the force test of this article one slide required over 4 pounds of “pull” per side to open (8 pounds total + drawer weight).

Can you replace drawer slides with soft close?

There are two ways to replace drawer slides and upgrade to soft close. The first is to install an after-market adapter that will work with the existing slide. But the second is to replace the existing slide with a side mount soft close drawer slide that will provide for a smoother close and (usually) less open force than an adapter. However, to upgrade an existing drawer to a soft close undermount slide you’ll need to rebuild the drawer.

Summary: Best Drawer Slides

While higher priced than standard drawer slides, using one of the best soft close drawer slides will improve the usability and enjoyment of any drawer they are installed on. Hopefully this article was able to show you the differences in the variety of manufacturers and which slide is best for your next project.

References

Recommended Reading

Soft Close Drawer Slides on Amazon

Last update on 2021-09-19 at 08:25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

12 thoughts on “The Best Drawer Slides For Soft Closing Furniture and Cabinets (2021)”

  1. Thank you! This information is amazing! I’m about to attempt to install roll-out shallow drawers inside cabinets.I ordered Blum Undermounts for the majority of installs and the Knape & Vogt for the others.

    I am ordering Rok #8 — 1/2″ — is that the correct size? Cabinet interiors are constructed of 1/2″ plywood.

    On the Blum undermount– if mounting to the bottom, is there a need to keep the side support bar or can that be cut off? On the lower shelves — I have to leave 1/2″ – 3/4″ for the hinge arm on each side before installing the drawers, so having a metal edge standing may look odd. (I just ordered compact Blum hinges to see if I can decrease the space required for the hinge.)

    I have an extra wide cabinet — 39″ — I’m considering splitting into two drawers — will be mounted to the bottom. Outside to outside edge would be 18″ minus the thickness of the Blum side support?

  2. Thanks Catherine – I’m glad it was helpful!

    The Blum drawer slides are thick walled and a 1/2″ screw should work fine. If you’re not sure try them out on a scrap piece of the plywood or a cabinet side you won’t see.

    If I understand what you’re trying to do with the slide-out shelves, and the 1/2″ plywood sides, I’m going to assume you have a face frame construction. A simple trick here is installing a 3/4″ thick strip of wood (matching the face frame) that’s 1″ to 1-1/4″ wide just behind the face frame. I like to have it protrude 3/8″ of an inch into the cabinet opening on at least the hinge side (or both for symmetry – my preference). While you lose 3/4″ of an inch in drawer width you are now free to position the hinge anywhere on the face frame. And best of all the face of the slide-out is less likely to bump and scratch the door. I updated the post (see #16) with a picture of this since it’s a great question.

    Regarding the 39″ width, two drawers is best for the soft close to work properly. If your other question is seeing the metal on the inside edge – either install a center rail on the face frame (if you aren’t retrofitting) or screw a piece of finished wood to the slide side to hide the metal.

    Thanks!
    – ET

  3. Hi Daniel – the Promarks will fit on the Vadania slides. Of note, the Promark brackets are a firm fit on both the Promark and Vadania slides. I haven’t found manufacturer made rear brackets for most slides, including Vadania.

  4. Hi Emma –

    Thank you for asking! Depending on your reveal and hinge overlay the Blum 71B3550 is a place to start (#2 on the list of hinges). They should be available through the link and ordered via Amazon (US, CA or UK).

    Best,
    EDT

  5. Do you need to install soft close side mount slides in pairs? Can one slide be soft close and one be regular to minimize the open and closing force? Wondering if this would cause any binding?

  6. Hi Tom,

    That’s a great question and thanks for asking. These slides are best installed in pairs.

    Unfortunately, while the drawer would likely operate, by mixing slides you would place more pressure on the soft closing damper that “slows” the drawer from slamming AND reduce the closing force by cutting the number of springs in half. Also, most “self closing” slides have a rubber catch at the back that holds the drawer shut and may need to be adjusted (or removed). Overall, this might work for a pencil drawer but any drawer of size could, as you noted, have binding or other issues.

    One of the reasons I like the Blum slides is the open force isn’t as noticeable.

    Eric

  7. Found your article very informative. I’m thinking of turning my bottom kitchen cabinets into drawers. Converting two shed storage to one deep drawer. I store all pots and pans there. I’m unsure which mount would be best. I would like to affix the cabinet door to the drawer.

  8. Hi Lizzy,

    Thank you for asking! The best option for converting this might be to try a Rev-a-Shelf pull out wire basket and order the optional door mounts. You can always drop in a flat liner if you don’t want the mesh, and this would make sure the door mounts flat and opens smooth.

    Otherwise, since you are building drawers, the best performing are the Blum (harder to make) or the side mount Vadania with the soft close.

    Let me know how it goes.

    Thanks!

    Eric T

  9. You claim repeatedly that the BLUM undermount drawer slides are Made in the USA. Somewhat incorrect. If you say “some” are made in the USA, I can maybe believe you. But in the case of my BLUM 9″ 563H229 slides you are definitely wrong. They are Made in Austria and it says so right in the slide.

  10. Hi Manfred,

    I am surprised if that happened as BLUM states they are 100% Made in USA on their about us website.

    I would suggest contacting BLUM directly and inquiry as to the inconsistency!

    Thanks,
    Eric

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