How to Paint a Refrigerator With Rust: Step-by-Step

While having a rusty refrigerator is not dangerous for your health, it can be a huge source of embarrassment. The cost of a new fridge can be incredibly high, but the good news is that there is a very inexpensive way to get rid of the rust on your fridge and have it look brand new.

To paint a refrigerator that has rust on it, you need to remove the doors, clean the refrigerator with soap and water, sand it, tape off the insides of the fridge, apply a rust reformer product to the rusted areas, and paint the refrigerator your desired color in two light coats of paint.

In the paragraphs below, I’ll explain each step of this process in more detail and elaborate on a few more things you can do to make your refrigerator’s new paint job last longer and look better.

Painting rusty refrigerator.

1. Empty the Refrigerator

The first step in this process is to empty your refrigerator and its freezer of any contents. While painting the refrigerator, you will be unplugging it, and you don’t want any food inside to spoil, so you should move this food somewhere else.

You can put the contents into a large cooler and cover it with ice. Alternatively, if you have a spare refrigerator or a deep freezer, you can store the food items there. The spray paint used to paint appliances doesn’t take too long to dry, so a cooler and ice will be a good solution to keep any food from going bad.

This step is not optional. The refrigerator will be disassembled when it is being painted. If you don’t want your food to get painted and spoiled from the heat, you need to empty the fridge and store its contents somewhere cold.

2. Unplug the Refrigerator

This step may seem incredibly simple or even unnecessary to some, but it’s a safety precaution that could save your life in more ways than one. Unplugging the refrigerator kills the electrical current and allows you to move the fridge to an area with better ventilation so that you aren’t breathing in paint fumes when you begin to paint.

Moving the refrigerator to an open area with plenty of airflow is essential. Breathing in paint fumes is extremely dangerous, especially if you’ll be alone when you do this. Painting near an outlet where a high voltage appliance is plugged in is also extremely hazardous and should be avoided. It can cause fires and electrocutions.

Moving the refrigerator outside will allow you to coat each part of the refrigerator with paint evenly. You will be able to reach and cover each and every part of the refrigerator for a great-looking finish. Painting outside will also prevent your house from smelling like paint, which your family members will be thankful for.

3. Remove the Doors

Painting the refrigerator with the doors on would leave you with an uneven finish on the inside of the requirement. It will also make the refrigerator’s gaskets on the doors stick to the body of the fridge. The refrigerator’s gaskets are the suction-type components that run around the edges of the refrigerator doors that keep the cold air inside.

This is problematic because the gaskets may detach from the door instead of the body of the refrigerator when you pull them apart. If this happens, you will have to separate the gaskets from the body of the refrigerator and place them back into the correct position, and re-adhere them to the door. Doing this will inevitably damage the paint finish.

Removing the door is not difficult. It varies by manufacturer and refrigerator type but is not a complicated process. It generally involves removing four bolts and then pulling the door away from the body. This is true across many models of refrigerators.

4. Clean the Refrigerator Thoroughly

Once the refrigerator is disassembled, you need to remove all stickers and clean it with a mildly abrasive sponge and dish soap. This will ensure that you work with a smooth, clean surface and help the paint stick to the surface.

You don’t want the paint to run at all. Especially if you’re using epoxy appliance paint. If the paint is sprayed onto a dirty surface, it will adhere to the dirt, not the surface itself, and the finish will be severely flawed. The spots where there is running paint will be evident to the eye.

Thoroughly clean the surface you plan to paint to ensure you get a nice even coat. A cleaned surface will give your finish a more professional look that is free of blemishes.

5. Sanding the Surface of the Refrigerator

Sanding before you paint is essential to get a long-lasting finish that won’t crack, bubble, or peel off after it is dry. Sanding is a mandatory part of the process if you paint over a surface that already has paint.

The goal of sanding the surfaces is not to remove all of the previous paint finish from the area. The idea is to create a rougher surface that allows the paint to settle and fill in the grooves created by sanding. This creates a flatter finish that looks more natural on the surface. It won’t look like you just painted over an old layer.

You can start with sandpaper around 120 grit and work your way up. You can go as high as 320 to 350 grit if you want. You’re almost ready to paint when you get a nice rough fish on the surface of the refrigerator doors and body. Use a tack cloth to wipe away any excess sanding residue.

6. Tape Off and Cover the Inside of the Fridge and Gaskets

Before you start, you need to cover up and tape off any areas you don’t want to paint. You must be thorough when you do this, or you will end up with paint in places you didn’t intend it to be.

Take your time when doing this and work diligently to completely cover up the refrigerator’s inside. This is the area most likely to get unintentionally sprayed. Ensure that it is covered with thick plastic, layered newspapers, etc. Thick plastic works the best to keep paint out.

You should also use only high-quality painter’s tape to cover up the gaskets. This will help you get a cleaner finish with no leakage through the tape.

7. Apply a Rust Converter Product

A rust converter is not the same as a rust remover. Rust removers require a much more intensive process that is very time-consuming. Rust converters come in spray form and are easy to use if you follow the manufacturer’s directions.

A rust converter works by using either phosphoric acid or tannic acid to change the chemical composition of the rust. This prevents the rust from getting worse and causing further deterioration of the metals on your refrigerator.

You only need to apply the rust converter to the rusty parts of the fridge, not the entire thing. The rusty parts will turn black once the solution has been chemically altered. When you see that all of the rusted spots you’ve applied the rust converter to have turned black and no longer have that classic rusty color, you are ready to paint your refrigerator.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the rust converter to see precisely how long you need to let the rust converter dry on the rusty surface.

8. Painting Your Refrigerator

This is the final step in painting your refrigerator, but it is the most important. You should be careful, take your time, and do not be reckless when painting. If you mess up at this point, you must repeat several of the steps above before you can paint again. Being cautious when painting is the best way to ensure you only have to do it once.

You should apply very light coats of paint that will dry quickly. This will force most paint to solidify, minimizing dripping and running. Continuously apply very light coats of your chosen paint and wait ten to fifteen minutes between each round.

Allow each coat of paint to dry thoroughly before you paint over it with the next coat. Painting over paint that is still wet can cause oversaturation and splatters from the compressed air of the spray can. Avoid painting over damp paint.

Make sure you’re painting the surfaces evenly. Do not over-paint certain areas. This will cause paint to cake up, and it will either run or just sit and take a long time to dry. Either way, applying too much paint to one area will ruin the aesthetics of your finish, so make sure not to hover in one spot for too long.

Two to three light coats of paint should be plenty to coat the refrigerator’s surfaces evenly and thoroughly. Any more than this will start to make the finish cakey. This is especially true if you’re using epoxy-based paint.

Final Thoughts

If your refrigerator is rusty, you may feel stuck with it forever, but that is far from the truth. Painting over a rusty fridge is actually much easier than it seems. It’s very inexpensive as well.

If you follow the steps above and any manufacturer instructions for the products you choose to use, you can successfully restore the paint job on your refrigerator. Remember to follow all safety instructions mentioned above if you attempt to paint your refrigerator.

Leave a Comment