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How to Paint Kitchen Appliances

If you’re looking for a quick new look, there’s no bigger bang for the buck than paint. It’s true for walls and cabinets, but also for appliances. 

Kitchen iStock

Painting your appliances can be an easy one-day project, but one that can go wrong if you overlook a few simple things.

Why Paint Appliances?

Because appliances are expensive! Scenario: you’re doing a kitchen remodel. The existing refrigerator is only a few years old, but it’s black.

Your new range, dishwasher, and microwave are white. There is no use in buying a new refrigerator just to have a color change. This is a perfect candidate for paint!

Best Types of Paint and Primer to Buy

Primer’s purpose is to block stains and bond to surfaces. Since you’re not looking to block any stains, select a primer that is specifically made to bond to metal surfaces.

The old-school way of doing this was with oil primer. This can still be used, but it comes with a strong and unpleasant odor.

There is a whole suite of water-based bonding primers that can stick to tile, metal, and even glass. The DIY choice would be to use one of these, which are readily available at home centers and paint stores. (Examples are Insl-X Stix, Sherwin Williams Extreme Bond, and Zinsser Extreme Adhesion Primer).

Want to use what the professionals use? It’s called Direct To Metal (DTM). DTM coatings are usually used by pros for industrial purposes.

You won’t normally find them on retailer’s shelves—these are coatings you’ll have to ask for specifically at professional paint stores. They are tailor-made for coating bare and previously coated metal surfaces. Select the DTM primer of your choice, such as Sherwin Williams DTM Acrylic Primer, and you’re ready for application.

Prepping Appliances for Paint

You’re probably tired of people telling you that “prep is everything.” Well, it is. Time spent on prep will determine whether your newly painted appliances will fail in an embarrassing way or last a lifetime.

Sand, Vac & Tack Method

  • Sand all metal and plastic surfaces with 180-grit paper to give the existing finish some ”tooth.”
  • Vacuum the surfaces to remove any particles with a shop vac and brush attachment.
  • Then, tack rag the surfaces with a microfiber cloth dampened with water. This will leave the surface squeaky clean and ready for the remaining prep and primer.
  • Remove handles, seals, and badges, but if you cannot get them off, simply mask them off with a high-grade tape, such as FrogTape 1.5” Blue Commercial tape. You can even remove the door(s) and lay them flat to paint.

Note: Be sure to cover the fridge and freezer openings with plastic to keep them dust-free.

Steps for Painting Appliances

There are two methods for applying the primer and paint to your appliances: brush/roll or spray.

Priming Your Appliance

Brush/Roll Method:

  • Purchase a soft-bristled nylon brush, such as Purdy Nylox, and a low-nap mini roller (Purdy 4.5” mini roller frame and a Purdy ¼” White Dove cover)—and you’re set to prime.
  • Start applying primer with the brush: edges, nooks, crannies, and areas hard to fit a roller into.
  • Then apply primer to the large flat areas with the mini roller. The low nap of the roller and the soft bristles of the brush will leave you with a smooth prime coat.
  • Apply in long strokes w light pressure to minimize brush strokes. Apply 1 coat, allow to dry for the recommended amount of time - usually 2-4 hours.
  • Then, apply a second coat. Work in small areas to keep a ‘wet edge’. This will lessen the possibility of lap marks.

Spray Method:

If you want to do what the pros do, use an airless paint sprayer, build a temporary spray booth, and spray the primer. Be sure to follow product directions for dry time and apply a second coat.

Which Paint to Use

Before you start painting, there are a couple of options for enamel.

Hybrid vs. Acrylic Enamel Paint:

The DIY choice would be either an acrylic enamel or a hybrid enamel. Acrylic enamel is basically a tough and durable water-based paint. Try using Benjamin Moore Scuff-X.

A hybrid enamel is basically an oil/water mix. Think: best of old-school oil enamel, but with no odor and acrylic-like ease of application (example: Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane). A satin finish is recommended in acrylic and hybrid enamels.

Applying Paint

Either method outlined above for primer application—brush/roll or spray—can be used to apply paint to appliances.

The pro route? Acrylic DTM. The product normally comes in satin or semi-gloss, and again, you’ll have to ask for it at the pro paint counter. DTM and metal are a match made in heaven.

Spray your appliance with the DTM primer, then DTM enamel, for a factory finish in nearly any color. Apply in long strokes w light pressure to minimize brush strokes.

Anything can be painted. For good results, all you have to do is adapt your prep and priming process to the particular substrate—appliances are no exception.