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by Cindy Bart, Global Product Manager, Southco, Inc.

Engineers are required to make multiple design decisions when it comes to determining how to access a cabinet. Some cabinet latch design considerations are critical to application functionality, while others may impact aesthetics. Choosing the appropriate cabinet latch can determine whether the design will succeed or fail.

Not every cabinet door is the same, so one cabinet latch type may not work for all applications. There are several methods of actuation, as well as holding styles which can be slightly confusing for an engineer who is unfamiliar with all the options available to them.

Before exploring different design considerations, a baseline understanding of how a cabinet latch works can help engineers begin to determine which cabinet latch is best suited to their application.

Simply put, a cabinet latch is designed to keep a cabinet door closed and allows the end user to easily access its interior. A cabinet latch is a fastening device that holds the cabinet door securely fastened to the frame. Though this may sound simple, cabinet latches offer various methods of operation.

The method of actuation depends on how the cabinet will be accessed and whether it complements surface aesthetics. Generally, a user can open a cabinet latch by pulling, pushing, turning, sliding or lifting it with their hands. Some cabinet latches utilize magnets, while others utilize springs. Choosing a cabinet latch will depend on the environment, user needs and more.

Engineers must determine whether the cabinet latch will be visible from the outside of the cabinet. A visible latch will alert end users how to actuate the cabinet door in order to open it. A concealed cabinet latch that is located behind the door can improve the appearance of the cabinet and complement industrial design. Concealing the cabinet latch can also provide some additional security, as an unwanted user may be unaware that the outer surface leads to a cabinet.

Cabinet latches can be designed with magnetic or mechanical forces in order to join the door to the frame. Some users may like the feel of opening a magnetic cabinet latch versus a mechanical latch. Both of these latch types will offer the same functionality.

Many cabinet latches allow the user to lock the cabinet after accessing the enclosure. Some cabinets may contain valuable information or items, which the user wants to protect. Locking latches can be opened with a key or unique tool when the user needs to access the interior of the cabinet.

These cabinet latches all provide the same functionality – to access the cabinet. The only real difference is the method of actuation. There are multiple ways that a user may want to open their cabinet, depending on a few factors.

A touch latch allows cabinets to create a handle-free cabinet appearance, while still allowing easy access to the cabinet interior. A touch latch consists of a latch mechanism alone or a latch mechanism and striker. Touch latches can be concealed behind a variety of cabinet door sizes and thicknesses, and use magnetic or mechanical forces to hold the panel closed.

A spring-loaded door ejection feature allows users to simply press on the cabinet door in order to release the latch and open it. A mechanical touch latch utilizes a ratchet and spring. When force is applied to the ratchet, the ratchet will release and the spring mechanism will apply force to the cabinet door to open it. In order to close the cabinet door, the user simply pushes the door closed, securing the ratchet back in place.

Magnetic touch latches incorporate a magnet at the end of a spring-loaded plunger to hold the door closed. To open the cabinet, the user presses the door and the spring-loaded plunger pops open, ejecting the door. The user then presses again to compress the spring-loaded plunger and join the magnet to the metal door or mounted striker plate.

Installing a touch latch to a cabinet door is relatively easy. The touch latch is typically installed out of view, on the back of the cabinet door or on the frame or shelf of the cabinet near the edge, and opposite the cabinet hinges. Users can typically install touch latches themselves.

Unlike touch latches, push button latches are visible from the exterior of the cabinet surface. Users actuate the latch by pushing a button or knob in order to open the cabinet door. Push button latches use a spring to hold the button or knob in the locked state. When depressed, the button compresses the spring forcing the pawl to recess. Releasing the button allows the pawl to return to its locked state.

Another type of push button latch has a knob that sits flush with the cabinet surface when in the locked state. When the knob is pressed it pops out and provides a grip handle that can be pulled or turned to release the latch. Another alternative features a button that is clearly visible on the cabinet surface, with optional pull tabs that provide additional leverage to assist users in opening the cabinet door.


In order to select the appropriate cabinet latch for their application, engineers should use the following application criteria to narrow down their decision.

Engineers can choose from a variety of latch materials, including plastic, steel and stainless steel. The environment where the cabinet latch will be used will largely determine the material type that is needed. A latch may be operating in a manufacturing environment, which would call for different material requirements than a cabinet located within a kitchen.

The amount of force required to open a door can also dictate the type of cabinet latch used. Cabinet latches require different levels of force in order to access the interior of the cabinet. The material chosen can play a factor in the force required to open the cabinet door as well.

An obvious requirement for a cabinet latch is the thickness of the cabinet panel. If the cabinet is too thick or thin to hold a certain latch, the latch would not be an ideal choice for the application. Examining the panel thickness before selecting a latching solution can help engineers to avoid making changes to a design later in the process.

One of the defining characteristics of a cabinet latch is the method of actuation. Engineers should carefully consider the unique needs of the end user and what method is best for their environment. For example, a user who wears gloves all day may not be able to open certain types of cabinet latches. Engineers can choose from cabinet latch options that allow users to push, pull, lift, turn or slide in order to access the cabinet interior.

Keeping the contents of the cabinet secure may also be a design concern for engineers. Cabinets that house high value items and sensitive documents may call for a cabinet latch with a locking system. Lock and key systems can be integrated into cabinets to secure their contents.

Certain cabinet latches can only be accessed using a special key or tool designed to work with a specific head style. Incorporating a locking cabinet latch can help ensure that the cabinet will only be accessed by users who are authorized to do so. Hidden cabinet latches can also be used for applications where lower levels of security are acceptable.

Looking to learn more about cabinet latches design and considerations? Contact Southco to learn more about how to incorporate the appropriate cabinet latch for your application. Our engineers can help you choose the right solution, or help you design a custom cabinet latch to suit your needs.

Southco Manufacturing Limited
Touch Point
Wainwright Road
Warndon, Worcester WR49FA
Phone : +44 (0)1905 346567
Fax : +44 (0)1905 346501

Southco Manufacturing Limited
Touch Point
Wainwright Road
Warndon, Worcester WR49FA
Tingle Florrie
Phone : +44 (0)1905 346567
Fax : +44 (0)1905 346501

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