How to Remove File Cabinet Drawers

File cabinets provide convenient storage solutions for large numbers of files. When moving or cleaning out the cabinet, however, it may be necessary to unmount and/or dismantle its drawers in order to move or clean efficiently.

Dependent upon the type of filing cabinet you own, different tools might be required for opening it. Some cabinets require you to unlock and press a release button before drawers can be extracted from them.

Identifying Your Cabinet

Filing cabinets come equipped with various models and options that you should familiarize yourself with before selecting the ideal cabinet model for yourself. Your selection will depend on your specific needs; generally speaking, however, a file cabinet should provide an efficient method to store documents safely.

Most filing cabinets are constructed from metal; some models also exist that use wood as material. Most come equipped with locking mechanisms to ensure no one gains access to files inside; additionally, certain models feature drawer slides that make opening and closing drawers smoother and safer.

Counterweights on drawer slides can help prevent them from tipping over, which could become an issue if your cabinet contains heavy items that could shift. With children around, it’s especially essential that counterweights be included on their drawers for safety.

Material selection also can have an effect on its durability. If you need an inexpensive file cabinet that will only be used occasionally, plastic may be appropriate; but for frequent use metal may provide greater resilience and long-term performance.

Consideration should also be given to the size and type of files you will store in your cabinet. Most file cabinets can fit 8.5″ x 11″ paper documents; if you require legal-size materials or archives, a larger cabinet might be needed.

Finally, it is important to consider the appearance of your cabinet. If your office is open to the public, opting for more eye-catching and stylish designs might make a better statement; there are file cabinets with various colors and finishes available that could match up perfectly with your decor.

Labels on the bottom of cabinets often inform you about which manufacturer made it, which helps ensure you purchase the appropriate model and construction details. Some manufacturers even include serial numbers to further identify their product if desired; it is always wise to snap a picture or make notes of these labels for future reference purposes.

Stabilizer Screws

Stabilizer screws are a common feature in file cabinet drawers, as they prevent top heavy drawers from tipping over. Unfortunately, however, their presence can make removal more complicated than necessary.

Once your drawers have stabilizer screws installed, first take steps to identify and remove them from their holes and store them separately.

Check for any catch tabs on either side of your drawer – these should typically be located on both the left and right sides. Once found, release these by pulling up both ends of each catch mechanism to release them.

An alternative way of dismantling stabilizer screws is pressing the disconnect tabs on either side of your drawer near its metal tracks, where these tabs feature a lip with which you can grab onto them using thumb and forefinger.

These tabs should be located approximately 1″ from the front of your drawer’s runners. When you find them, use a screwdriver to take action on both sides by unbolting one of their screws using Elite Hardwares advice.

If your drawers feature metal glides that move up and down along their sides, these may be easier to unmount than stabilizer screws. Otherwise, lever disconnect systems offer another approach – with spring-loaded levers disengaging from inner members of slides so you can pull out drawers without damaging filing cabinets or workstations.

Rocking the drawer (only applicable on drawers with wheels) and lubing the stabilizer screws prior to removal is another method for unplugging it from your file cabinet. Doing this helps avoid damages or stripping.

Some file cabinets feature anti-tip cables to prevent drawers from ejecting when their tops are opened, making removal safer for you and other individuals who must handle them on their own. You can access and unhook these cables using a screwdriver; but only do so when they aren’t fully loaded as this could pose risks to yourself when handling by yourself.

Catch Tabs

Most file cabinet drawers are secured in place using catch tabs located on both sides of the drawer, which must be released for you to pull it out.

For ease of removal, first locate and undo any stabilizer screws installed inside of the cabinet body – typically #8 screws which require using a screwdriver to unscrew them. Next, locate catch tabs located either side of the drawer and pull in an upward direction to release them.

If your drawer features metal glides, press down on both track levers at either end. These track levers may be straight or curved in shape and should produce an audible click sound upon release of the drawer.

These drawers may also come equipped with a release latch that enables it to be pulled free with minimal force, making it useful when trying to move heavy loads around or transport the drawer itself.

Lateral file cabinet drawers also come equipped with an anti-tip mechanism to keep them from falling over, often featuring a block and rope assembly that can easily be disassembled with a screwdriver.

When operating a side-mount drawer, it’s essential that you find and locate the small horizontal lever at which two runners connect on both sides. Ideally, this lever should feature two oval-shaped tabs.

Apply pressure with your left hand on the opposite side of the drawer while popping it up to disengage its runner from its clip, recommends Elite Hardwares.

Once your drawer has been uninstalled, simply reassemble it by pushing back on its tab and placing it back into its cabinet with catch tabs to secure it in.

If your drawer won’t release from its runner, it could be jammed or stuck and needing assistance to open. Since your drawer may not yet be completely loaded, enlist the assistance of someone to assist with its unloading process.


No matter whether you are moving furniture or trying to lighten it, sometimes drawers need to be taken out in order for you to move or make it lighter. Removing file cabinet drawers usually is straightforward depending on which kind of slides your file cabinet uses – they should come off easily enough!

A drawer slide is a metal track that connects your drawer to its cabinet, usually using full extension, three quarter extension or curved tracks. Most drawers use straight tabs; curved track levers tend to be found more commonly on six inch (15 cm) box drawers.

To use a cabinet with full-extension slides to remove drawers, first locate and press down on both black plastic tabs on either side. While lifting upwards with your fingernail while pulling away from the slide.

This method is relatively straightforward and should work with most drawers that weigh 50 pounds or less. However, ball retainers at the end of your slide may provide resistance and could prevent accidental drawer releases.

If the drawer won’t come loose from its metal slide, you could be experiencing issues with your filing cabinet’s anti-tip mechanism. Many Steelcase file cabinets offer this safety feature; if it is preventing you from taking out more than one drawer at a time, disable this safety feature and continue moving the release lever tabs until all drawers have been extracted from their slots.

Before beginning to remove the cabinet from its place of storage, make sure that you stack all empty drawers inside it and close its door securely – this will prevent it from collapsing during removal.

After you have removed a drawer, wipe any excess lubricant off its slides and sides to avoid leaving any behind on important documents. Push back into its cabinet for installation.

When pulling out a drawer from a file cabinet with curved track levers, it may help to have someone support its bottom while you work. A flat-head screwdriver may also come in handy before beginning to push and lift on its bottom; this can prevent resistance from the slides and allow you to pull it without much difficulty.

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