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How to Paint a Rusty Medicine Cabinet

Do you have a metal medicine cabinet that makes you cringe? Give it a new coat of paint to make it sparkle, and keep it from rusting again!

clean, white, organized medicine cabinet with text overlay " how to makeover your rusty medicine cabinet with paint"

Are you afraid of what people will see when they open your medicine cabinet? No, not the anti-itch cream or the hair regrowth tonic. I'm talking about the gross rust that's eating away the enamel like a cavity on a sweet tooth. I'm going to show you how to paint a metal medicine cabinet sparkling white, and the proper paint for keeping it rust-free!

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Every morning I was reminded to do something about this ugly pinkish-tan atrocity. I stared at it daily as I brushed my teeth. I vowed to fix it every night as I got ready for bed. Then the cabinet door closed and I promptly forgot about it. Avert your eyes if you're squeamish, because this before picture is just horrifying!

old, rusty metal medicine cabinet

Sometimes simple improvements like this make the biggest impact, and you don't even realize the difference until it's finished.

Materials Needed to Paint a Metal Medicine Cabinet

How to Paint a Metal Medicine Cabinet

To Remove, or Not to Remove

I debated taking the entire thing out of the wall and spray painting it with my trusty HomeRight paint sprayer. But the screws holding the cabinet between the studs were just as rusty as the rest of it, and would put up too much of a fight.

I applied painter's tape to the tile around the medicine cabinet and to the mirror frame.

old metal medicine cabinet with painters tape around outside

Clean the Metal Medicine Cabinet

First, I gave the entire metal medicine cabinet a good scrubbing with fine steel wool to loosen up all the gunk. Then I applied Krud Kutter to the worst spots. This stuff dissolves rust and makes a smoother surface for painting.

bottle of Krud Kutter inside metal medicine cabinet

Apply Metal Primer

I let the surface dry for an hour before tackling it with a paintbrush. The entire cabinet got two coats of Rust-oleum Clean Metal Primer, which is perfect for covering up the old rust and ugly pinkish color, as well as preventing future corrosion.

painting primer on metal medicine cabinet over rust spots

It's stinky stuff, so open up the windows or run the bathroom fan while you're working and as it dries to vent the fumes.

Be aware that this oil-based primer takes a loooooong time to dry. I gave it about 12 hours between primer coats, and 24 hours before applying the final topcoat. You don't realize just how often you use a medicine cabinet until it's out of commission for a few days!

Apply Enamel Paint

For the final coat, I went with Rust-oleum's protective enamel paint in gloss white. This will be the first line of defense against moisture, and the glossy surface will make cleaning easier.

Behold, the power of paint!

painted metal medicine cabinet

No embarrassing rust here!

bottom of painted metal medicine cabinet

I took this opportunity to clear out some unused makeup and multiple boxes of floss. Now the medicine cabinet is bright, clean, and organized!

painted metal medicine cabinet with toiletries inside

When I see the before next to the after, it really makes me wonder why I didn't do it sooner!

old metal medicine cabinet before and after

With the right paint for the job, you can transform anything! Here are some other projects I updated with this magical stuff. Just click on the photo to go straight to the post!

You CAN update that 80s kitchen without a complete remodel! This handy tutorial will show you how it's done.
Transform a boring black frame into an aged silver one that will highlight any work of art. This handy tutorial will show you how! -
What a Difference Spray Paint Can Make! Door Handle Before and After - The Handyman's Daughter
metal medicine cabinet before and after with diagonal line through middle


Monday 31st of December 2018

I have the exact same cabinet and mine looks truly horrific. Time to stop saying I’ll “do it later” and actually get it done!


Monday 5th of November 2018

I just finished painting my old medicine cabinet (it’s EXACTLY like yours!!) per your instructions and it’s beautiful!! I’m so proud of myself & my husband is amazed!! Thank you!


Monday 5th of November 2018

That's great! I love hearing from readers who have done my projects. I'm so glad I could help! Enjoy your new/old medicine cabinet!


Saturday 27th of October 2018

Amazing transformation. Thank you for sharing at Party In Your PJs!


Thursday 25th of October 2018

Looks great, you weren't exaggerating - it really was horrific!!!


Monday 22nd of October 2018

Ew, Gross! This is exactly what mine looks like. I pack it full so you can't see the rust and continue to be in denial. That is why it has looked like this for 13 years. I'm inspired to clean it out and freshen it up. Thanks for sharing!

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