How to Paint Metal Cabinets

You don't have to replace metal cabinets to get a new look for your home. Paint the cabinets to make them look new and fresh. Although most homes have newer wood cabinets, some homes still have the metal cabinets that date back to the middle 1950s. These cabinets usually have been painted over at least once and must be prepped before adding any more paint to the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Lacquer thinner

  • Rags

  • Drop cloths

  • Paint scrapper

  • Caulk

  • Caulking gun

  • Pigmented shellac stain sealer

  • Fine-grade sandpaper

  • Paint (semi-gloss or sheen finish)

  • Paintbrush

  • Paint roller

  • Putty knife

Step 1

Remove the door handles, any hooks and other hardware that is not being painted. The doors should remain hanging on the hinges to be painted.

Step 2

Place drop cloths under the cabinets that will be primed and painted. This will be your work area, and anything that is in the way should be removed.

Step 3

Use a paint scrapper to remove any loose paint. Poor some lacquer thinner on a rag and clean the entire door of the cabinet to remove any buildup of grease or dirt. Use the paint scrapper again to remove any paint that loosens after the lacquer thinner is applied. Clean up any loose paint chips.

Step 4

Use caulk to repair any cracks or flaws between the cabinet and the walls. You should use a caulking gun for big jobs or a putty knife for small touchups.

Step 5

Apply the pigmented shellac stain sealer to the cabinet surface. Allow to dry for a half hour and apply a second coat. After the second coat dries, use a fine sandpaper to do some light sanding on the sealed surface. You are just smoothing the surface, not sanding down completely. Any imperfections from the sealer will be smoothed away.

Step 6

Use semi-gloss or sheen paint with a paint roller and paint the prepared cabinet surface. Use a paintbrush for places where a roller will not fit, such as around the hinges. Use a dry roller after 15 minutes to smooth out any paint that has stippled. Note: Always allow the paint 15 minutes to set before using the dry roller.

Step 7

Allow doors to remain open and untouched for 24 hours to completely dry.


Use rubber gloves to protect sensitive hands.


Throw all rags away in a sealed plastic bag when you're done with them.

References & Resources