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Explained: Soft Close vs. Self Close Drawer Slides

If you haven’t installed or replaced 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 merely means the drawer is designed to stay shut.
  • Soft closing is a more advanced feature that pulls your drawer shut and prevents slamming

But these aren’t the only differences in drawer slides to consider. Because there are many different types of drawer slides, mounts, weight ratings, extension and other features it’s best to understand more than just self vs. soft closing when choosing a slide.

Soft Close vs. SElf CLose Differences

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

  • Self closing simply 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 there are certain industry and regulatory requirements on the definition of a self closing drawer. If in doubt, use manufacturers like Accuride that can help you meet requirements.

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 partial or full extension and dictates if the slide will open all of the way 
  • Mount is one of five main categories: side mount (most popular), undermount (best performing), center mount, bottom mount and top mount.
  • Length is important 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. Which 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 most of use 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 a challenge 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 is to 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 by using a damper that is activated when the drawer is about 1-1/2″ from closing. When the damper is triggered, a hydraulic piston slowly engages and slows the drawers momentum. Heavy duty springs are then used to pull the drawer shut.

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Last update on 2022-11-24 at 23:35 / 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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