How To Give Your Old Appliances A Sharp, New Look Using Stainless Steel Paint

I posted an article about Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel paint a couple of months ago.

I mentioned that we would paint our old refrigerator and give our honest opinion on the product and the application process.

Now that it has been painted, I wanted to give you a first-hand review here along with a few handy tips on applying Thomas’ Stainless Steel Paint. I’ve included plenty of photos of the entire process, too.

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First Impressions

Our old, almond-colored GE refrigerator (shown above, before/after) has been fantastic. It has never broken down (knock on wood) and it is still keeping everything just as cold as when we bought it 22 years ago. A few kitchen trends have come and gone in the time we’ve had our fridge so we thought it was overdue for an exterior update. We had already replaced our dishwasher with a Maytag stainless steel model and I installed a Kenmore gas range with a stainless steel front, as well.

We used this product to paint our old refrigerator but keep in mind that Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel paint can be used to paint all of your appliances (except range top) and just about anything you can think of.

When we read about stainless steel paint, we thought we’d give it a shot so that all 3 major kitchen appliances would look similar without busting our budget.

We had nothing to lose, given the age of the refrigerator, and a fresh new look to gain.

I contacted Thomas’ Kitchen Art and they were kind enough to send a liquid stainless steel paint refrigerator kit for my review.


How Much Does Thomas’ Stainless Steel Paint Cost?

At first glance, it’s expensive when compared to regular interior house paint. Thomas’ stainless steel paint is anything but ordinary. It’s an automotive grade coating with real stainless steel particles mixed into the paint. That drives the cost up so it is a very expensive paint, but it’s not meant to be a wall covering. It’s a special use paint.

Thomas’ Kitchen Art has several different kits available, but you can also buy just the paint and/or top coat à la carte. The fridge kit that was sent to us included practically everything we needed to get the job done:

  • stainless steel base coat – 32 oz (qt.)
  • clear top coat – 16 oz. (pt.)
  • 2 different sizes of microfoam brushes – 11″ & 3″
  • roller with 2 microfoam roller covers
  • roller pan
  • stir stick
  • demo dvd
  • instructions

I said “practically everything” because our kit did not come with a roller pan (as mentioned above) and the small microfoam brush was a 2″ brush rather than a 3″ brush. The 3″ foam brush was a needed improvement to the kit because the edges of the refrigerator doors exceed 2″ in width, and it would have been advantageous to be able to smooth the paint in one stroke for a better look.

They obviously tweaked the kits, for the better, based on customer feedback. The refrigerator kit currently costs around $50. It’s enough product to apply 3 coats of stainless steel paint and 2 top coats on 3 sides of a full-sized refrigerator, plus the top. If you purchase the stainless steel paint separately (sold in quart sizes), it will set you back $56.

Did you happen to notice that the fridge kit (qt. of stainless steel paint included) with all the goodies costs $6 less than a quart of just the paint purchased separately? Thomas’ Kitchen Art should lower the price of the à la carte items accordingly.


How To Apply Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel Paint

clean-refrigerator-exterior-with-Windex.JPGI would encourage you to watch the included demo DVD and read the instructions carefully before beginning. They are extremely helpful and affect the outcome of the final appearance. I’ll be sure and point out a few things we learned along the way to help you out when you are ready to do it yourself.

First things first. Remove all of the magnets and fun stuff from the exterior of your refrigerator. Clean all exterior surfaces of your refrigerator with window cleaner, including the strips where the door magnets contact the inside of the fridge.

Next, remove the door handles, if possible. I was able to remove the upper handle, but not the bottom handle. The lower door handle, on our particular model, extends the length of the door and was attached under the bottom of the door, so I taped it off with blue painter’s tape.

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Tape off everything else on the exterior of the refrigerator that you don’t want to cover in paint (e.g., door hinges, door magnets). I didn’t tape the surface of the door magnets that contact the “interior” of the fridge because it affected the magnetic ability.

In hindsight, I would probably go ahead and tape the entire magnet so I wouldn’t have to worry about wet paint touching the magnet. It would keep the door from being “pulled in”, as well, when in close proximity to the interior while it was drying. There’s a helpful hint (near the bottom of this article) for keeping the door from touching the refrigerator while it’s drying.

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Shaken AND Stirred

Shake the can of liquid stainless steel base coat until you can’t stand it any longer (about 2 minutes). Remove the lid and stir thoroughly with the included stir stick. You can use the roller tray that comes with the kit or you can use your own (wider) paint tray and line it with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.



Easy On The Paint, Dude!

One of the first things the instruction sheet mentions is as follows:

It is key to do just as it reads. If applied too thick, it will not smooth properly when using the microfoam brush. When properly applied, the coverage is going to look terrible after the first coat, but don’t worry about it. The coverage improves dramatically with each additional coat.

Use the microfoam brush in an even-handed, upward motion to smooth the base coat and create vertical striations to mimic authentic stainless steel. Use slow, deliberate strokes that extend the height of the refrigerator for best results.

roll-on-thin-coat-of-liquid-stainless-steel-paint.JPG brush-smooth-each-coat-of-liquid-stainless-steel-paint.JPG
In our case, we have textured door fronts, so our first coat was kind of a shocker because all it seemed to do in some areas was fill the grooves somewhat plus a light coating of paint. The sides of the refrigerator were a totally different story since it was smooth metal.


Squeeze Out The Excess Paint Between Strokes

You’ll find that you have excess product embedded in the microfoam brush after smoothing the paint, depending on how much paint was applied and how much pressure you apply during the smoothing process. I used the stir stick to press out the excess paint from the brush by holding it over the paint tray and sliding the stir stick down the surface of the brush. Pressing out the excess paint does two things:

  1. Gives a better striated look to the application by having a “clean” brush prior to each time you smooth it out.
  2. “Stretches” your paint and top coat so you have no problem getting enough coats of coverage.

refrigerator-after-first-coat-of-stainless-steel-paint.JPG Sandy-rolling-top-coat-over-dry-stainless-steel-paint.JPG
We used our own 1″ brush (for latex paint) to get in all of the nooks and crannies that the small foam brush would not reach, just to get some paint on them. I didn’t concern myself with making striations in those spots because nobody, I mean nobody, is going to look at your refrigerator that close. If they do, smack ’em with a spatula!


Drying Time

Grab a quick snack in between coats. Stainless steel paint doesn’t take long to dry.

You’ll need to wait a little over an hour between coats when painting the base coat of stainless steel paint. You will need to wait at least 2 hours in-between each clear top coat, if you choose to apply more than one coat.

During those drying times, put all of the brushes and rollers in the paint tray and cover it with cling wrap, or put them in one of those oversized Ziploc storage bags.

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Make “Pin Straight” Strokes

I found that I was able to apply even pressure along the entire length of the 11″ microfoam brush if I held it on the sides rather than on the handle, as in the photo above.

I cannot stress enough that you must take your time to make deliberate, pin straight strokes at an even pace and pressure for that perfect stainless steel look. That is the toughest part of this whole process, in my opinion.


Don’t forget to paint the top of your refrigerator and apply the top coat, as well. You’ll also want to paint the parts where the door magnets contact the refrigerator when it is shut.

By the way, did I mention that we did this entire process with all of the food still in the refrigerator and not one thing spoiled or thawed.

Tip: After painting the areas of the refrigerator where the door magnets make contact, I propped the door open about an inch by strategically placing an aluminum foil box inside of the fridge so that the magnets wouldn’t draw the door shut. Do the same thing for the freezer using a cling wrap carton, or whatever works for you.


Overall Rating of Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel Paint

Our overall assessment is that Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel was very easy to work with and cleanup was a breeze. Any errors we may have made along the way were easy to re-do to make right.

When we were done, we tossed the entire used kit in the trash with the exception of the roller handle and the cans of leftover product. It’s not exactly the green thing to do, but that’s that.

It took about 30 minutes for the 2 of us to apply and smooth each coat to our satisfaction. It took a total of about 9-10 hours to complete the job, drying time included. That’s 3 applications of base coat and 2 applications of the clear top coat on all 3 sides of the refrigerator, plus the top.

Store the leftover product in case you need to make any scratch repairs in the future. You’ll be glad you did.

We give it:

  • 4 out of 5 paint brushes for ease of application.
  • 4 out of 5 paint brushes for the completed look.

No, it doesn’t look exactly like stainless steel. What it does, though, is extend the life of the appliance by updating it to look like it belongs in a modern kitchen. Otherwise, you might sell it on Craigslist or take it to the landfill for no purpose other than vanity.


Is It Worth The Time, Money and Effort?

The product delivered as promised and we are very satisfied with the outcome.

So you have to ask yourself one more question: $50 Liquid Stainless Steel Paint fridge kit vs. $2,000+/- for a new, stainless steel refrigerator… is it worth it?

Personally, I would do it again if the need presented itself. What a cool way to update your old appliance, eh?

One last note… you can use this stainless steel paint for all sorts of applications:

  • toasters
  • dishwashers
  • stools
  • cabinets
  • all of your appliances (except a range top)
  • …the possibilities are endless

Randy Boerstler

Randy Boerstler

Writing a home building blog that chronicles new homes during different phases of construction from a consumers' point-of-view is rather unique and loads of fun. Basically, my tips are a collection of checklists for what I think should (and should not) go into building a quality home. So let's have fun seeing what's new in the housing market these days!

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