How to Paint a Refrigerator
Refrigerators are a focal point in most kitchens. They keep your food fresh and act as an art display for vacation magnets, favorite recipes, and holiday cards. I cluttered the doors of my refrigerator with these things to cover the sharpy heart and “I love mom” scribble across the freezer door from past owners. After many attempts at scrubbing it away with determination and elbow grease, I waved the white flag in defeat. There was not a cleaner powerful enough to remove this declaration of love, which made me conclude that if I can’t remove it, I’ll cover it up.
I love a pop of color within my home (have you seen my front entryway makeover or three small home updates post?). When I decided to paint my refrigerator, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to create an eye-catching conversation piece in a rather dull kitchen.
It’s All About the Prep
Take this opportunity to clean your refrigerator and the area under and behind it. This area rarely sees the light of day but tends to provide refuge for loose change and once frozen peas that you thought you cleaned up. I found some fairly large dust bunnies living comfortably behind the fridge that I had to evict.
Painting a refrigerator is more about prepping the surface for paint than actually painting. The first step is the easiest, simply remove the handles. Set these aside for now. The handles will be sanded and painted later. Position the refrigerator where you can easily work around each side. Remove or cover appliances on the countertop from the dust. I started prepping the surface using a sander and 120 grit sandpaper. The goal is to ruff up the surface and remove the glossy finish—no need to bear down and remove the paint. If you don’t have an electric sander, this can still be accomplished by sanding the surface by hand.
Afterward, I took a damp rag, wiped down the entire refrigerator, and let it dry. I also took this drying time to clean my countertops from the dust covering the kitchen. Once the dust was cleaned and the refrigerator was dry, I buffed liquid sander deglosser over the surface. Working in small sections, wiping in circular motions, the liquid deglosser could get into the small crevices traditional sandpaper could not reach. This might seem like overkill with surface prep, but I wanted to ensure there were no patches of leftover gloss remaining.
To neutralize the deglosser and prep the surface for primer, I used TSP Cleaner to wipe down the refrigerator. The surface should look dull and ruff to the touch, allowing the primer to adhere fully. For primer, I used Zinsser 123 all-purpose primer. Conveniently it comes in a quart-size, which is more than enough. Using a foam roller, I applied two coats of primer to the refrigerator, letting each layer fully dry before moving to the next.
Pro Tip: The cold air from the freezer slows the paint from drying. Use a hair dryer around the door seal to speed up drying time and prevent the primer and paint from sticking.
Trust the Process
After I was satisfied with applying the two coats of primer, it was time for paint. I used a sample size of Valspar Camo Green interior in satin. I wasn’t painting every inch of my refrigerator, just the visible portions. There’s no need to waste paint on areas that will never see the light of day. The sample size was the perfect amount to apply three coats of paint. The first layer almost threw me into a panic. The color was uneven and lighter green than I wanted it to be. I remind myself to trust the process; it’s just paint. Thankfully, the color became darker after it dried, and the second coat drastically evened out the splotchiness. For good measure, I continued with one additional coat, ending with three coats.
Painting the Handles
Between rolling on layer after layer of paint, I was simultaneously running outside to spray paint the handles of the refrigerator. I took similar steps to ensure the paint would be as durable as the paint applied to the fridge’s surface. Starting with a light sanding, I wanted to clean and ruff up the surface of the handles. Next, I used priming spray paint to both handles, paying extra attention to the areas that would see the most wear and tear.
I choose copper metallic spray paint for the handle color. I hoped it would give the handles a hammered metal look, but the texture didn’t shine through as I expected. However, the copper color was a perfect choice to pair with the dark green of the refrigerator.
Bonus: Stenciling the Walls
As I pushed the refrigerator back, I realized the rest of the kitchen looked a bit boring. I needed more of a statement—something to compliment the boldness of the refrigerator but not overpower the entire space. Stencil Revolution was the perfect solution to adding design and color to a small space. They have over a hundred wall stencil patterns to choose from. For my kitchen wall, I decided on the Zia Burst pattern. It was the perfect retro pattern that allowed me to use multiple colors.
My walls are very textured, making wallpaper impossible to stick to the bumpy surface. Stenciling a pattern on the walls is the best solution for a space you want to be a focal point but do not like the idea of wallpaper. The best part is if you want to change the pattern on the wall, simply paint over it and stencil it—no need to mess with goopy wallpaper glue.
Stenciling the kitchen wall was a straightforward process. The hardest part was leveling the stencil on the wall before tapping it down. For this project, I used three colors; Valspar Peach Preserves, Graham Cracker Crust, and Camo Green. Use a sponge to tap the color into each cutout. This did take most of the day to accomplish—putting on a fun podcast made time pass by faster as I switched from color to color. After I removed the stencil from the wall, I used a small paint brush to cover any drips and clean up the edges of some of the shapes with paint matching the white of the wall.
Voila! With just a few pots of sample-size paint and a weekend’s worth of time, I took the kitchen from basic to an eye-catching personalized kitchen. For those wondering about wear and tear, I painted my refrigerator over a month ago and have not had a single chip or scratch in the paint. It looks just as good as it did the first day I painted it.
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