How to Restore a Metal Medicine Cabinet – Before and After

It’s Friday! Woot! (Well technically I’m writing this on a Thursday, but still the excitement is there!)

Today, I figured I would share another little piece of the bathroom before it’s huge debut.  One of the the things I loved about the bathroom was that it had an original steel medicine cabinet.  However, like EVERYTHING else at my house it had been severely neglected and thus was in pretty poor/gross looking shape.  It was rusted out and just looked like you would not want to put your toiletries anywhere near this thing.

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GROSS

So most things can be saved if they are rusted, unless it’s rusted through – then you’re S.O.L. and have to think about replacing.

Step One – Deciding if your rusted metal can be saved:

One good way to see how extensive your rust damage is, is to get a coarse grit sand paper and gently (at first) start to sand out the rust.  If you see the metal starting to shin through, no clumps of rust deteriorating and no holes, then you should be able to turn a rust situation around.

NOW PUT ON YOUR SAFETY VENTILATION MASK AND GLOVES!

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Step Two – Sanding

Depending on the current finish and extent of the rust damage, you will need to determine how the best way to sand your metal will be. For the cabinet, I hand sanded the entire thing (yes, your arms will be exhausted).  Since the cabinet was pretty delicate I did not want to use power sanders and dremel tools on it. I started with a coarse 60 grit sanding block (easier to grip and get in weird spaces) and sanded the entire cabinet – rusted or not.  I did focus heavily on the rusted areas, buffing out any rust that remained.  Then I used a 100 grit paper to smooth out any transitions from the original paint.

 

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Step Three – Prep Cleaning

This is the MOST important step. You will want to ensure the entire surface of your project is 100% clean.  The best way to do this is to use a dry rag or vacuum to get the larger dust/paint particles out. Once you have done that, get a clean rag very very wet with Denatured Alcohol and wipe the cabinet down until it is so clean you could virtually perform some sort of surgery on there – NO PARTICLES, NO DIRT, NO UNEVEN/WEIRD SURFACES.  If you get to this step and find there is a significant uneven lip or not a smooth transition from paint to metal then you need to go back to Step Two.  Believe me, I know you will be tired and I know you will want to just keep moving forward, but if you don’t ensure your base is smooth and clean you will end up with something you HATE and regret not doing it right.

 

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go ahead and buy the gallon you’re gonna love this shit for all your cleaning needs. 

Step Four – Painting

Now the moment of truth!  You’ll want to tape and cover any surface you don’t want paint on.  That takes the most time.  Then you’ll want to make sure you have a spray paint that is meant to protect and will last.  I would HIGHLY recommend Kilz as a primer (if necessary) and then Rust-oleum for the actual color followed by a clear coat. This process will ensure that with proper cleaning and care, your metal will not start rusting again.  Now thankfully the dude has taught me how to spray paint like a professional in the past- this part can be hard.  The only two things to keep in mind are stay at least 12 inches away and keep moving with long smooth sprays.  Also remember, it doesn’t need to be full coverage the first time – in fact the slower you go and more coats you do the better the end result will be. Just remember to let each coat dry fully.

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first coat – notice it’s not fully covered. 
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getting there! still some uneven color but one/two more coats should do it!

Paint process in general:

  1. apply Kilz or other high quality primer
  2. apply desired Rusto color
  3. apply Rusto clear coat

Are you ready for the official before and after?!

Before!

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After!

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Seriously, can you believe that is the same cabinet?! I’m so excited to start using it.  Also keep in mind you NEED to keep your protective mask on the whole time otherwise you will get high on paint fumes – which is not safe or cute. I bought my ventilation mask from Harbor Freight – it cost $17 and I use it for everything paint related at my house since there IS lead paint in my home. Seriously HUGE DISCLAIMER!! If you have a home older that 1980 you should err on the side of caution and assume there will be lead paint in your house.  People saved/loved that nasty scary shit and it WILL HURT YOU. So don’t be dumb – buy some protective gear and wear it. 

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