Can You Paint Stainless Steel? A Step-by-Step Guide on How To

Bob Thomas


Stainless steel is a popular material found in a variety of household items, from appliances to countertops.

Many homeowners wonder if it's possible to paint stainless steel to give it a new look or match it to their decor.

The answer is yes, you can paint stainless steel with the right preparation and materials.

In this article, we'll walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to paint stainless steel, so you can give your appliances or surfaces a fresh, updated appearance.

Quick Summary

To paint stainless steel, follow these steps: 1) Clean the surface, 2) Sand the surface, 3) Apply a primer specifically designed for stainless steel, 4) Paint with an acrylic or enamel paint, 5) Apply a clear protective topcoat if desired. By using the correct tools, materials, and techniques, you'll achieve a professional-looking finish that lasts.

Clean the Surface

Start by thoroughly cleaning the stainless steel surface to remove any dirt, grease, or grime.

You can use a mild dish soap and water solution or a household cleaner specifically designed for stainless steel.

Be sure to rinse the surface well and dry it with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Pro Tip: For stubborn grease or oil stains, use a degreaser or rubbing alcohol to remove them before cleaning with soap and water.

Sand the Surface

Next, lightly sand the stainless steel surface with 220-grit sandpaper to create a rough texture that will help the primer and paint adhere better.

Be sure to sand in the direction of the grain to avoid scratching the surface.

After sanding, wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris.

Apply a Stainless Steel Primer

Choose a primer specifically designed for stainless steel surfaces, such as a bonding primer or a rust-resistant primer.

Apply the primer with a high-quality synthetic brush or a foam roller, following the manufacturer's instructions for application and drying times.

Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Paint the Stainless Steel

Select an acrylic or enamel paint that is suitable for metal surfaces. You can use either a brush or a foam roller for application.

Apply the paint in thin, even coats, allowing each coat to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions before applying the next.

It may take two or three coats to achieve full coverage and a smooth, even finish.

Apply a Clear Protective Topcoat (Optional)

If you want to add extra protection to your painted stainless steel surface, consider applying a clear protective topcoat.

Choose a product designed for use on metal surfaces, such as a clear acrylic or enamel sealer.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application and drying times.

Additional Tips and Tricks for Painting Stainless Steel

Choose the right paint color:

Consider the overall aesthetic of the space where the stainless steel item is located.

Pick a paint color that complements or contrasts the existing decor, depending on your desired outcome.

Light colors can help make a space feel more open, while darker colors can create a bold statement.

Test the paint on a small area:

Before applying paint to the entire surface, test it on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure the color and finish meet your expectations.

This will help you avoid any surprises or disappointments once the entire surface is painted.

Use painter's tape and drop cloths:

Protect surrounding surfaces by applying painter's tape to the edges of the area you're painting.

Additionally, cover the floor and nearby furniture with drop cloths to prevent paint splatters and spills.

Ventilate the area:

Ensure proper ventilation in the area where you're painting, especially if you're using products with strong fumes.

Open windows and doors or use fans to maintain good airflow, and consider wearing a mask if necessary.

Apply paint in thin coats:

Thin coats of paint will dry more quickly and evenly than thick coats. This also helps to prevent drips, runs, and other imperfections in the final finish.

Use the right tools:

Invest in high-quality brushes or foam rollers for a smooth, even application. Avoid using low-quality brushes, as they may shed bristles or create brush marks on the painted surface.

Allow for adequate drying time:

Be patient and allow each coat of primer and paint to dry completely before applying the next layer.

Rushing the process may result in an uneven finish or issues with adhesion.

Keep a wet edge:

To avoid visible brush or roller marks, try to maintain a wet edge while painting. This means applying paint to an area adjacent to the previously painted section while the paint is still wet.

Maintain a consistent direction:

When painting, always follow the direction of the grain in the stainless steel. This will help to create a more uniform appearance and reduce the visibility of any brush strokes or roller marks.

Touch up as needed:

Even with careful preparation and application, it's possible that some areas may need touch-ups after the paint has dried.

Inspect the surface closely and address any imperfections with a small brush and matching paint.

By following these additional tips and tricks, you can further improve the quality and appearance of your painted stainless steel surfaces.

Personal Experiences

Last summer, I decided to give my old stainless steel refrigerator a makeover.

I followed the steps outlined above, and I was amazed at how easy it was to achieve a brand-new look for my kitchen.

The paint has held up well over time, and I've received numerous compliments on my "new" appliance.

Remember, as a qualified painter and decorator, I've learned that the key to a successful paint job on stainless steel is proper surface preparation and using the right products.

So, don't be afraid to take on this DIY project and give your stainless steel items a fresh, updated look.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. Can I paint over existing paint on stainless steel?

  A: Yes, but you should remove any loose, peeling, or chipping paint before applying a new coat.

Clean and degrease the surface, sand to create a smooth finish, and then proceed with priming and painting.

Q. Can I use spray paint on stainless steel?

  A: Yes, you can use spray paint on stainless steel. Make sure to choose a spray paint specifically formulated for metal surfaces, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for application.

Q. Is it necessary to use a clear coat after painting stainless steel?

  A: While not always necessary, applying a clear coat can provide additional protection and enhance the appearance of the painted surface. A clear coat can help prevent scratches, fading, and corrosion.

Q. How long should I wait between coats of paint on stainless steel?

  A: The recommended waiting time between coats of paint depends on the type of paint you're using.

Check the manufacturer's instructions for specific drying times.

Generally, you should wait at least 2-4 hours between coats to ensure proper adhesion.

Q. How do I maintain a painted stainless steel surface?

  A: To maintain a painted stainless steel surface, clean it regularly with a mild soap solution and a soft cloth or sponge.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the paint.

If the paint becomes damaged or starts to peel, repair it promptly to prevent further damage.


Painting stainless steel is a great way to update the appearance of your appliances or surfaces without the expense of replacing them.

By following these steps and using the right tools and materials, you can achieve a professional-looking finish that will last for years to come.

Suggested Products:

Rust-Oleum Stainless Steel Paint: A high-quality paint specifically designed for stainless steel surfaces, Rust-Oleum Stainless Steel Paint provides a durable and corrosion-resistant finish.

Krylon Dual Superbond Paint + Primer: A 2-in-1 solution for priming and painting stainless steel, Krylon Dual Superbond adheres to metal surfaces and ensures a smooth and long-lasting finish.

3M Scotch-Brite General Purpose Hand Pad: These hand pads are perfect for preparing stainless steel surfaces for painting. They effectively remove dirt and create a smooth, even surface.

Jasco Premium Paint & Epoxy Remover: Jasco Premium Paint & Epoxy Remover is ideal for removing old paint from stainless steel surfaces. It is fast-acting and effective, ensuring a clean surface for repainting.

Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Clear Enamel Spray: This clear enamel spray is ideal for providing a protective layer on painted stainless steel surfaces. It helps prevent scratches, fading, and corrosion while enhancing the appearance of the painted surface.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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