How to Paint Metal Shelves


You may think that painting metal is hard because of its smooth, nonporous surface. But with the right preparation, painting metal is much the same as painting anything else. For metal shelving, the primary consideration is whether the shelves will be inside or outside, as this will affect not only the type of paint you use, but also the other steps needed to protect the metal shelves from the elements.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Detergent
  • Soft cloth
  • Steel wool
  • Metal primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint
  • Clean the shelves thoroughly with a solution of warm water and detergent. This will ensure that there is no dust, grease, oil or other matter on the shelves that can prevent the primer from bonding well to the metal.

  • Wipe the shelves with a dry soft cloth, then let dry. Go over the shelves with steel wool or a steel-wired brush to roughen up the surface a little. Dust the metal thoroughly with another dry soft cloth.

  • Paint the entire surface of the shelves with metal primer, using short, even strokes. Follow the manufacturer's recommended drying time.

  • Paint the entire surface of the shelves with the finish-coat paint, making sure that the paint you use is compatible with the primer. Always read the instructions on both the primer and the paint. Re-coat if desired, and let the paint dry, per the manufacturer's instructions.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your shelves will get a lot of weathering, apply a pre-primer rust deactivator to prolong the life of your shelves.

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