Painting Metal Shelves

Some may think that since metal materials are smooth and non-porous that painting them may be complicated but, with proper preparation, painting metal is very similar to painting anything else. To paint metal shelves, the first thing to consider is whether the shelves are inside or outside, as this will affect the type of paint that you will buy. No need to discard those old metal shelves if they no longer fit with your decor; just give them a coat of paint and they’ll be like new.


  1. Place warm water with a little detergent in a bucket and clean the shelves. Clean the them to make sure that no dust, grease, oil or other material are on them, which can prevent the base paint from adhering well.
  2. Clean the shelves with a soft dry cloth and let dry. Rub steel wool on the shelves to give them a somewhat rougher surface. You can use a steel bristle brush as a substitute. Clean thoroughly with a soft dry cloth.
  3. Paint the shelves full with a primer for metals, applying in short strokes. Follow the drying instructions recommended by the manufacturer.
  4. Paint the shelves with paint you choose. Make sure the paint you buy is compatible with the base by reading the instructions of both. This is very important to make sure all your effort is not lost by using paints that don’t go together. If you’re not sure, ask an associate at the paint or hardware store. Reapply a top coat if desired, and let dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Tips & Warnings

If you are going to expose the shelves to climatic conditions, it is useful to apply a layer of oxide deactivator before the primer to extend the life of your metal shelves.

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