Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best medicine cabinets

Storage space is at a premium in many bathrooms, but leaving your toiletries out on the counter can make the room look cluttered. With a medicine cabinet, you have a place to store all your bathroom necessities.

A medicine cabinet is ideal for a small bathroom that doesn’t have enough space for a freestanding cabinet. A wall-mounted medicine cabinet sits above the sink, giving you easy access to the items inside while standing at the sink. Many cabinets also have a convenient mirror for shaving or putting on makeup. These cabinets are also available in several types and styles, so you can find one that’s suitable for your bathroom.

If you’re having trouble choosing a medicine cabinet for your bathroom, there are some features to consider, such as type, shape, size, and material. A good shopping guide and curated product recommendations can help narrow your options.

medicine cabinet
Before shopping for a medicine cabinet, measure the width of your bathroom vanity. For a balanced look, your cabinet should not be wider than the vanity.

How to buy the best medicine cabinet

What is a medicine cabinet?

A medicine cabinet, sometimes referred to as a bathroom cabinet, is wall-mounted storage designed to hold toiletries, prescription bottles, and other small items. It got its name because it was originally used to store medication in a spot where children couldn’t reach.

Because it’s above the sink, a medicine cabinet is an ideal place to store toothpaste, mouthwash, facial cleansers, and other items you use at the vanity. Many cabinets also include a mirror and lighting, so you can apply makeup, tweeze your brows, or shave.

A medicine cabinet also helps eliminate clutter on the bathroom counter or vanity. However, keep in mind that most of these cabinets are shallow, so you won’t be able to store large items like towels or a hair dryer inside one.

Mount types

Medicine cabinets are available in several types, depending on your preference and bathroom layout. The most common types include the following:

Surface-mounted: As the name indicates, this cabinet mounts to the wall and protrudes a few inches. It attaches directly to the plaster or drywall, so no cutting is required to install it.

Recessed: You install this cabinet in a hole cut into the plaster or drywall. These cabinets are usually deeper than surface-mounted models, and they require professional installation since they might require moving plumbing or electrical lines.

Corner-mounted: This type of cabinet is mounted in the corner of a bathroom, usually above a corner vanity or sink. It works well in a small bathroom because it effectively maximizes storage in a small space.

Framed vs. frameless

In addition to the mounting style, you can also choose from framed and frameless models.

Framed medicine cabinets are the traditional option. The door and mirror of this type are surrounded by a frame, like a picture frame. Frames are available in many finishes so you can match your bathroom décor.

Frameless medicine cabinets offer a clean, modern look. You’ll find many recessed cabinets that are frameless. Some have simple flat edges, while others have beveled edges for subtle style.


Most medicine cabinets are rectangular and mount vertically. They work well with nearly any type of bathroom sink or vanity. You can also find cabinets with straight sides and a decorative arch at the top for a more distinctive look.

Square cabinets are also fairly common and provide plenty of storage space.

You can also find some oval cabinets. On some, only the mirror is oval and the interior compartment is rectangular. Oval cabinets pair well with rounded bathroom fixtures.


Medicine cabinets are made of materials that can withstand the heat and moisture in a bathroom.

Plastic: Molded plastic cabinets are popular because they’re affordable and stand up to heat and moisture extremely well. They’re also easy to clean.

Aluminum: These cabinets are lightweight and more affordable than other metal options. They’re not as corrosion-resistant as stainless steel unless they have an oxidized finish.

Stainless steel: These cabinets are durable, with a sleek, simple design. They don’t rust easily or require much maintenance.

Wood: These cabinets are versatile because they come in various stained and painted colors. Wood can warp and split when exposed to moisture, however, so these cabinets work best in bathrooms with good ventilation. Some wooden cabinets are treated with a moisture-resistant coating for improved durability.


When choosing the size of your cabinet, consider the size of your bathroom sink and vanity. Here are the most common medicine cabinet widths and the appropriate vanity size that fits well with them.

  • 15 inches: 18- to 24-inch vanity
  • 20 inches: 24- to 36-inch vanity
  • 30 to 34 inches: 36- to 48-inch vanity
  • 40 inches: 48-inch and larger vanity, including those with double sinks

In addition to electrical outlets, some medicine cabinets have USB ports for charging wireless devices, such as an electric shaver and smartphone.


Features to look for in medicine cabinets


Mirror: You can find some medicine cabinets that don’t have a mirror, but most have a mirror on the door, either framed or frameless.

If you usually apply makeup in the bathroom, you might want to look for a cabinet that includes a magnifying mirror. It provides an up-close view that lets you see fine details well, so you can apply eyeliner, tweeze your brows, or shave with precision.

Some cabinets include a built-in mirror defogger to prevent condensation from building up while you bathe, so you don’t have to clean the mirror before you can use it.

Door: Many cabinets have a single door, but some styles have two or three. Having multiple narrow doors makes it less likely that you’ll hit your head when the cabinet is open. This design also provides access to smaller areas of the shelves inside the cabinet, so it’s easier to find the items you’re looking for.

Hinges: Depending on the direction you want the door to swing, a medicine cabinet door can have hinges installed on the right or left. Most hinges swing from 107° to 110° so they can open to a position where they’re perpendicular to the cabinet. Other cabinets have hinges that open 170° to a position where they’re nearly parallel with the front of the cabinet.

However far the door opens, it’s a good idea to choose a cabinet with hinges that close slowly. They prevent the door from slamming shut and damaging the mirror or the items inside.

Lock: If you keep medication in your cabinet and have small children at home, you might want to invest in a medicine cabinet with a lock. It can prevent little hands from accessing potentially harmful substances.

Lights: Some medicine cabinets have built-in lights along the top or around the frame to help you more easily see to shave or apply makeup.

Outlets: Since you’re likely to use tools like an electric razor, hair dryer, or curling iron in front of a mirrored cabinet, some cabinets have built-in outlets. This is great if your bathroom’s outlet is far from the vanity. It also makes it easier to maneuver your tool without worrying if the cord is long enough.


Adjustable shelves: Many cabinets offer adjustable shelving. They allow you to create space for larger items like a shampoo bottle or add extra shelves for smaller items.

Lights: You can find some cabinets that have interior lights so you can more easily find the items you need.

medicine cabinets
Heat and moisture affect some medications, so you shouldn’t keep them in a medicine cabinet. Check the storage instructions in your prescription information or the packaging to determine if it’s a safe spot for your medicine.

How much do medicine cabinets cost?


The most affordable medicine cabinets are small plastic, recessed styles with just a couple of shelves or larger plastic, stainless steel, and aluminum wall-mounted models. These don’t have many special features like lights or outlets. You’ll usually pay $15 to $100 for these cabinets.


These cabinets are higher-quality plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, or wood models. They often have special features, such as adjustable shelves, locks, frameless designs, and/or lights. You’ll typically pay $100 to $500 for these cabinets.


The most expensive medicine cabinets are large models made of premium stainless steel or wood. They offer plenty of special features, including lighting, outlets, anti-fogging, lock, adjustable shelves, and more. You’ll generally pay $500 to $1,200 for these cabinets, but you can find some that cost more than $2,000.

Some mirrored cabinets have a push-button door, so you won’t have to constantly clean fingerprints off the mirror.



  • Keep the items you use most often in your medicine cabinet. You want to be able to find what you need quickly, so don’t crowd the shelves with items you only use occasionally. For example, if you only use your aloe vera gel for the occasional burn, keep it in a drawer in the vanity rather than in the medicine cabinet.
  • Purge your medicine cabinet regularly. The last thing you want is expired medicine when you come down with a nasty cold. Go through your cabinet at least once a year, and toss out any prescription or over-the-counter medication that’s past its expiration date. That includes ointments and creams.
  • Organize items in cups and canisters inside the cabinet. Instead of crowding the shelves with a full-size box of cotton swabs or bag of cotton balls, place a handful in a cup or jar on a shelf. You’ll have these supplies at your fingertips, but your cabinet will still be neat and organized.
bathroom cabinets
Some cabinets have reversible doors and can be installed to open left or right, depending on the layout of your bathroom and your preference.


Q. How long does a medicine cabinet usually last?

A. It depends on the material that the cabinet’s made of, the quality of its construction, and how well you care for it. However, in most cases, you can expect it to last more than 20 years.

Q. What should I keep in my medicine cabinet?

A. You can use it to store both prescription and OTC medications, such as pain relievers, cold and flu medicine, allergy tablets, and antacids. You should also keep first aid supplies like adhesive bandages, cotton swabs, cotton balls, tweezers, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic cream in your cabinet. Many people also like to keep toiletries like toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, face wash, and eye cream in their cabinet.

Q. Can I update my medicine cabinet without replacing it?

A. If you don’t have the budget for a new cabinet at the moment, small changes like repainting a wooden exterior or replacing the knob can help give it new life. If yours is mirrorless, consider adding a mirror to the front of the medicine cabinet to update its appearance.


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