We Tried Updating An Old Appliance With Liquid Stainless Steel — Apartment Therapy Test Lab

Can this outdated, off-white relic of a stove be transformed into a sleek stainless steel beauty? When I learned about a product designed to replicate the look of stainless steel appliances, I was itching to see if it worked — it just seemed a little too good to be true. Could this paint make appliances blend in a little bit more, or maybe look a little less decrepit? Less almond at least?

For this test, I bought Rust-Oleum’s Stainless Steel from Amazon which retails for about $30. The box promises that it’s made with real stainless steel, and it’s a one-step transformation. First thing you should know: even though it comes in a box, this product isn’t actually a “kit” — it’s just a can of paint, and you buy everything else a la carte. It comes with a supply list, and you can get everything you need at an average hardware store.

After reading the instructions, I ran into my first problem: The Rust-Oleum kit does cover most appliances, but isn’t recommended for stovetops or ovens (in addition to other surfaces such as wood or plastic). Oops. But! There are others on the market: Giani makes two different kits: one for ranges and dishwashers, and one for refrigerators. So read up before you buy, and make sure you are using the right product for the job. I pushed on.

Appliance Prep

Before you start painting, take off any removable parts you don’t want to cover. It helps to take before photos so you know where each piece goes, and you can easily replace everything when you’re finished.

The supply list calls for sandpaper, but the instructions don’t mention it in the steps. They only say to: 1) wash the appliance with soap and water and let it dry completely; and 2) roll the paint on the surface. I’ve done my fair share of painting metal appliances, and find it’s always best to roughen up the surface with a sanding stone just a bit so the paint sticks better. So, even though the directions on the box didn’t explicitly say to, I decided to sand just one side of the stove anyway, as a test, and then compare it to the un-sanded surface.

After sanding the one side, I wiped down the entire surface of the stove with a degreasing agent, then followed with dish soap and water.

After it dried completely, I taped off any areas I didn’t want to paint. (I think stainless steel looks really nice contrasted with black, so I decided to leave every black section unpainted.)

Painting

To begin, I used a small foam craft brush to paint along any small or tight areas that couldn’t be covered with a roller. The directions say you’ll need to first apply a few thin coats, so I tried not to make the first layer too thick. Still, those initial moments were a bit of a nail-biter: everything was thin, streaky and looked awful. at the start.

Note, that this is a pretty messy and incredibly smelly process, so make sure you wear a mask or respirator while painting, and paint in a well-ventilated area.

Tip: If you’re purchasing your paint from the hardware store, ask them to shake it for you first.

When that was done, I covered the the sides of the stove with a mini roller made for super smooth finishes. (If you’re going to spend the money on the kit, don’t skimp out and buy a cheap roller! Buy the best you can afford.) At this point, the rolled surface looked a little better, but you could still see streaks.

The stove just after completing the last coat, when the paint was still wet.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

I waited an hour before the next coat, and that made all the difference. As the layers build, the streaks fill in, and the surface becomes very smooth and dull. Rust-Oleum suggests applying an optional coat of acrylic sealer at the end for a shiny finish — a great idea because, not only would it add a luster, but also another layer of protection to the surface.

After the last coat was completely dry, I removed the tape, re-assembled the stove, and took a step back. My first thought was that it looked like a DeLorean. But “hey, that’s not too shabby!” followed shortly after. Overall, I was pretty impressed with how it looked.

Cleaning & Scratch Tests

I let the stove dry for a full 24 hours, then went back and attacked it with cleaning agents, paper towels, and sponges. It all took them surprisingly well. Then, I got really nasty and went at it with my thumbnail. First, I scratched the surface that had not been sanded prior to painting: the paint came right up. Next, I scratched the sanded side: same thing, paint came right up off the surface. It was a bit of a disappointment, and I can’t imagine what it would look like after months of use. But, again, with an additional clear coat, it might last a little longer.

Conclusion

This product isn’t a miracle cure for old, dated or mismatched appliances, capable of saving you thousands on shiny new stainless steel models. Although the end results look impressive, it is perhaps best used as a band-aid or short-term solution…until you can upgrade to something better. The Rust-Oleum product is easy to apply, but it’s also a messy job. And after repeated use with kitchen utensils, there will undoubtedly be scratches and blemishes. If you do decide to pull the trigger, take the extra step of applying a clear coat to better protect it.

Have you tried this? If so, what was your experience?

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