Home & Garden

This one product will refresh the look of your kitchen

How to freshen up your white, black, or stainless steel appliances

How appliance epoxy paint can extend the life of your appliances Credit: Getty / nathan4847

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While modern appliances typically don’t last as long as they did 20 years ago, most appliances purchased today will have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, assuming you have no catastrophic cooking, cooling, or laundry fails. When something lives in your house for more than 10 years, though, there’s less than zero chance that the surface or finish of the appliance will get scratched, damaged, or worn down.

If your appliance isn’t looking its best on the outside, but is still operating perfectly, what should you do? As I discovered recently, there’s a fix for this problem that is relatively cheap, both time and effort-wise: appliance paint.

When appliances need a touch-up

My parents have a side-by-side refrigerator that is at least as old as I am. Over the years, this white fridge has preserved many leftover pizzas on the inside, while displaying many childhood drawings, magnets, calendars, and cartoon strips on the outside.

About six months ago, I visited my parents, and the front of the fridge caught my eye. Nearly the entire bottom two-thirds of the originally pure white fridge had turned a putrid yellow/rust color. It looked as though it had been recovered after sitting in the briny deep for a few years. Strangely, the top third of the fridge was still a pristine white color, which made no sense, since of course, that’s the part of the fridge that gets decorated with pictures and magnets most frequently.

In the most eloquent way possible, I asked my parents why the front of the fridge looked so gross.

In the most eloquent way possible, I asked my parents why the front of the fridge looked so gross. Apparently, the rusting process had come on very gradually, to the point where no one had noticed the problem until it was too late. When I asked if they were going to replace the fridge, they said no, that they had a contractor coming in to paint the fridge.

I was skeptical. I’ve had to paint or spray paint a few home improvement projects in my day, and somehow, I didn’t think normal paint was going to cut it. When I came back to visit after it had been painted, though, I was astonished. The fridge, which has a textured surface, was once again a pure white color. There was no hint that the fridge once looked like someone had thrown acid on it.

What is appliance paint?

As it turns out, appliance paint is a specialty product that is actually more like an epoxy than a paint. This is perfect for appliances that still work fine, but have rusted, scratched, chipped, or worn finishes. You might have trouble buying appliance epoxy that matches some of the newer finishes like black stainless steel or champagne, but if you have a working appliance with a more basic finish like white, black, or stainless steel, there’s a good chance you can touch up (or completely re-do) the outside of the appliance without having to shop for a new one.

How do you use appliance paint?

What you’ll need

  • Sandpaper
  • Appliance epoxy paint
  • Painter's tape
  • A good quality paint brush or roller
  • Drop cloths or tarps to protect your cabinets and floor

1. Buy the right paint

Rust-Oleum seems to have the most options when it comes to types and colors of appliance epoxy. Some available options include a 30-ounce can of appliance epoxy paint in white or stainless steel, a can of spray appliance epoxy in black or white, or a little 0.6-ounce bottle in white or black for touch-ups.

For cooking appliances like cooktops, ovens, and ranges, Rust-Oleum offers “high heat” spray paint options (unfortunately, there does not appear to be a non-spray-can option for the high-heat paint) in white and black, among other colors.

Some reviewers also used the white appliance epoxy to paint over older appliances with that vaguely yellow or “biscuit” finish to make them a little more modern-looking. In that same vein, NuVo also offers a two-stage stainless steel appliance paint that is meant to be used to help upgrade the look of your kitchen by painting over existing black or white finishes with a new stainless steel finish.

2. Make sure you have enough paint for the job

Credit: Getty / ognianm

Unless you're doing very minor touch-ups, we recommend painting over the whole appliance for a consistent finish.

While it may seem excessive, user reviews indicate that unless you just need to do very minor touch-ups, you will probably get the best results by using the paint that comes in the 30-ounce can. It also may make the most sense to completely paint over the whole appliance, rather than just one section, to ensure a consistent finish.

3. Prep your workspace

When painting your appliance, first be sure that it is off and unplugged. If possible, remove the handles (you can paint those separately), and cover up any logos or displays with painter’s tape. My parents’ fridge is freestanding and had no cabinetry around it; it made the painting and clean-up process relatively straightforward. If your appliance is installed near cabinetry, you’ll want to cover the cabinets and the flooring with tarps, drop clothes, or some other means of protection.

4. Sand down the existing paint

Credit: Rust-Oleum

Sanding down the surface of the appliance can help the appliance epoxy paint to adhere to the surface.

Per the instructions on the back of the Rust-Oleum 30-ounce can, first use a wire brush to scrub off any loose paint chips or debris, and then use sandpaper to lightly sand any glossy surfaces. While it may seem counter-intuitive to scratch up those nice shiny surfaces, the slightly rough surface actually makes it easier for the new paint to stick to the original finish. After sanding it, wash the surface with soap and water, rinse it clean, and then let the surface dry.

5. Apply the paint

Using a paint roller, apply the paint in smooth strokes to create an even finish. You’ll need to do multiple coats (according to online reviews, as many as two or three); while the directions on the appliance epoxy say that you can start applying additional coats one hour after the first coast as been applied, we recommend waiting until the next day to apply another coat because the paint can says that a single coat usually takes 24 hours to fully dry.

While I don’t have before-and-after photos of my parents’ refrigerator, believe me when I say that the difference was drastic. Before, the fridge looked like it had been sitting outdoors, unprotected, for a few years; after, it looked brand new.

If you do want to see some neat before-and-after photos, though, check out the Home Depot reviews for the 30-ounce can of appliance paint.

Is appliance epoxy worth it?

Long story short: yes.

With appliance paint, you can spend less than $100 on materials and a few hours (over a few days) refreshing your appliance’s finish. Without appliance paint, you have two options: See if cosmetic damage is covered under the appliance’s warranty (beyond shipment and installation), or replace your appliance. If you don’t mind a bit of manual labor, you can easily save yourself the cost of buying a new appliance (hundreds or thousands of dollars) by using appliance epoxy and fixing the problem yourself.

However, if you’d still prefer to replace your scratched or damaged appliances, be sure to check out our lists of the best dishwashers, refrigerators, washers, and dryers.

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