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Explained: Soft Close vs. Self Close Drawer Slides

Updated: August 3, 2023
Drawer slides are one of the hardest to purchase pieces of hardware. Even professional woodworkers have to pause and make sure they are buying the right mounts. Fortunately, determining soft close from self close is easy to understand. Learn more in this article.
Self Close vs. Soft Close Drawer Slide
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Explained: Soft Close vs. Self Close Drawer Slides

LONTAN SOFT CLOSE

Top Choice In Soft Close Drawer Slides

TOP PICK: LONTAN

Buy

IN THIS GUIDE:

  › BEST DRAWER SLIDE: BLUM 563H 

  › BUDGET PICK: LONTAN 4502S3 

  › BOTTOM MOUNT: PRIME LINE 7212 

  › INSTALLATION JIG: KREG DRAWER SLIDE JIG 

If you still need to install or replace drawer slides, a common question is understanding the difference between soft close vs. self-close drawer slides.

Fortunately, for almost all uses, the differences are easy to tell:

  • Self-closing means the drawer slide is designed to stay shut.
  • Soft closing is a more advanced feature that pulls your drawer shut and prevents slamming

But there are other differences in drawer slides to consider. Because there are many different types of drawer slides, mounts, weight ratings, extensions, and other features, it’s best to understand more than just self vs. soft closing when choosing a drawer slide.

Soft Close vs. SElf CLose Differences

Drawer slide terminology is confusing – even for woodworkers. So trying to understand the difference between these very similar slides is essential:

  • Self-closing means the drawer will stay shut when closed, and some slides use rubber stoppers to keep the door shut.
  • Some self-closing slides (typically, bottom mounts) will use gravity to pull the drawer shut the final few inches
  • Soft closing, however, uses springs and dampers to pull the drawer shut and will keep the door shut
  • Regulatory warning: note specific industry and regulatory requirements on defining a self-closing drawer. If in doubt, use manufacturers like Accuride that can help you meet your needs.

Deciding on Drawer Slide Type

When choosing a drawer slide, use the following to guide your decision-making:

  • Weight rating determines how many pounds the drawer slide will carry
  • Extension will either be partial or full extension and dictates if the slide will open all of the way 
  • Mount comprises five main categories: side mount (most popular), undermount (best performing), center mount, bottom mount, and top mount.
  • Length is essential to make sure the slide reaches the back of the opening

When to Choose Self Closing

Choosing Upgrade Drawer Slides

With soft closing drawers generally costing a few dollars more, not all applications need the enhanced feature. This makes choosing self-closing drawers for the following applications a money-saving consideration:

  • Rarely used furniture
  • Desks
  • Garage work benches
  • RV’s

Types of Self Closing Drawer Slides

While there are five main types of drawer slides, only three of them have a self-closing feature:

  • Side mounts are the most common self-closing slide, and use a rubber block on the slide to catch and hold the slide.
  • And, Bottom mounts are inherently self-closing as the back few inches of the slide is sloped.
  • Lastly, most center mounts have a friction catch at the back of the drawer to catch and hold the drawer shut.

When to Choose Soft Closing

The best drawer slide for any kitchen is an undermount soft close with full extension. Why? Because they are quiet, easy to open, extend fully, easiest to install, and have the best soft closing mechanisms.

But they are expensive. 

However, in a kitchen, the one thing used most often is the drawers, making soft closing a must for:

  • All kitchen drawers
  • Dressers
  • Furniture with high use
  • Vanities 
  • And, just about anywhere you want to avoid slamming drawer disruption

Drawer Installation Tips

Best Drawer Slide Jig for Drawers

If choosing a drawer slide isn’t hard enough, installing them can be challenging if you don’t follow the directions.

And have a few tips and tools and hand:

  • Always have a quality drawer slide jig for the installation. It will help you immensely with alignment.
  • Woodworkers know that screws supplied with drawer slides are inferior. Look for a high quality screw like the Rok #8  (Amazon)  in 1/2-inch (sides) and 3/4-inch (rear brackets)
  • One trick of professionals use thin metal washers between the drawer slide and the cabinet if the opening is a bit wider than the required clearance. This is especially useful on side mounts.
  • Patience. Drawer slides are difficult to install perfectly, but with time spent on alignment, you will install them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth getting soft close drawers?

Purchasing a soft close drawer slide is well worth the money. Self-closing drawers only hold the drawer shut, whereas a soft close slide will prevent a drawer from slamming shut.

Are soft close more expensive than self closing drawer slides?

While soft-closing drawer slides are usually a few dollars more than their self-closing counterparts, the value gained in not having drawers slam shut is well worth it to most.

How does a soft close drawer slide work?

Soft close drawer slides work using a damper activated when the drawer is about 1-1/2″ from closing. When the damper is triggered, a hydraulic piston slowly engages and slows the drawer’s momentum. Heavy-duty springs are then used to pull the drawer shut.

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Last update on 2024-01-21 at 13:36 / Images from Amazon

  • About the Author
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( Woodworker )

Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.

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