How To Apply Liquid Stainless Steel Paint For DIY Stainless Steel Appliances

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Painting dated looking appliances that still do their job is one frugal way to give them an updated look.

We painted our refrigerator with a stainless steel paint and it turned out really great!

We get compliments on our refrigerator frequently and people have no idea that it’s really a 20+ year-old refrigerator that is not  actually stainless steel.

What follows is a DIY on how to apply liquid stainless steel paint and our first-hand experience using Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel paint kit.


Getting Started

I would encourage you to watch the demo video that’s included in the Thomas Liquid Stainless Steel paint kit, 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.

Tape off everything else on the exterior of the fridge 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.

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:

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: Apply light thin coats!

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.

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 2 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.

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!


In Between Coats, Stainless Steel Paint Doesn’t Take Long To Dry

You’ll need to wait a little over 1 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.


Make “Pin Straight” Strokes For That Unmistakable Stainless Steel Look

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 fridge 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.


Keep The Leftover Paint And Top Coat

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.

Check out these before and after photos and testimonials.

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.

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I started as a home-stalker... visiting brand new homes under construction in the neighborhoods near my house. That inspired me to write about home building and home renovation projects -- chronicling homes during different phases of construction from a consumer's point-of-view. Basically, the tips you'll find in my articles are a collection of checklists for what I think should (and should not) go into building or remodeling a quality home.

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