Painting Stainless Steel

Article From: Products Finishing,

Posted on: 4/1/2002

Question: I know that this is not an industrial item but I am associated with the painting industry by default and need some help.


I know that this is not an industrial item but I am associated with the painting industry by default and need some help. I have a stainless steel medicine cabinet. I like the cabinet and can’t find another like it or I’d replace it. It’s about 25 years old and looks it. Is there any way to paint this cabinet? Thanks for the help. T.H.


That’s an easy question, T.H. I thought you were going to ask me where to get one like it. Stainless steel can be painted successfully after proper pretreatment. Since this is a domestic rather than an industrial application, you won’t have access to all the available pretreatment methods. That is, unless you can take it to work and handle it as a “government job.” If you must do it at home, adhere to the following directions:

  1. Degrease the stainless steel using a hot dishwashing detergent solution, rinsing well;
  2. Roughen the surface using sandpaper, plastic abrasive pads, wire wheel, wire brush or whatever abrading device you have; then
  3. Apply two-component epoxy enamel, available at paint stores.

The epoxy will have the best adhesion of any commercially available paints. Mix the coating material according to the supplier’s instructions and apply by brush or spray to the pretreated stainless steel and dry. Your story will have a happy ending.

My medicine cabinet story did not have such a happy ending. In my younger days (I wasn’t always a big shot paint consultant) when I had to work for a living, I bought a home with an unfinished second floor. I finished it myself. When I was designing the upstairs bathroom, I wanted it to be like the one on the first floor. So, I roughed-in the opening for the medicine cabinet based on the dimensions of the first floor bathroom. By the time I finished the room, I was unable to buy one because, in the mean time, they changed the dimensions of the “standard size” medicine cabinet. The moral to this story—nothing is forever.

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