How to Paint IKEA Cabinets

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Are you ready to set up an IKEA greenhouse but not happy with the standard color?

Most IKEA glass door cabinets used for DIY greenhouses come in just black, white, or dark gray or colors like pale yellow or green that may not go well with your décor. You may have even found a used cabinet perfect for your needs that’s a little worse for the wear or already painted a color you don’t like.

Fortunately, it’s easy to paint IKEA furniture to fit your aesthetic!

How to Spray Paint IKEA Furniture – Steps for Painting Metal Furniture

Spray painting a new IKEA cabinet is super easy. Alternately, you can use a suitable primer and oil-based paint applied with a sponge roller. I chose not to go this route as it’s more time-consuming and harder to get a flawless finish.

What You Need

  • Drop cloth or plastic sheets
  • Masking paper
  • Painter’s tape (or use adhesive masking paper)
  • Spray paint
  • Primer (optional if using a primer + paint formulation on a finished cabinet without chips or rust)
  • Protective clear coat finish
  • Spray can grip (optional)
  • Ventilated area

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Prep Your Cabinet

Make sure your cabinet is clean and free of any dust or other particles. You can rinse it with mild detergent and water and allow it to dry if necessary.

Use adhesive masking paper or masking paper and tape to carefully mask the glass and anything you don’t want painted.

Decide whether you want to paint your cabinet disassembled or spray paint it assembled. I painted my Baggebo greenhouse assembled with the door painted separately to make sure I got good coverage on everything that would be visible with the door open or closed. I painted my Rudsta greenhouse disassembled.

If you’re concerned about scratches to your new paint while assembling the unit, it’s best to spray paint after it’s already assembled. However, I used just a tiny bit of care and didn’t have any issues with scratched paint while assembling my Rudsta.

Spray Paint Your Cabinet

With your pieces or assembled unit arranged on a drop cloth, you’re ready to paint!

You’ll want to start with a primer for good adhesion and to prevent chips later. Alternately, you can use a combination paint + primer formulation.

I used Painter’s Touch 2x Rustoleum paint for metal cabinets and skipped using a separate primer. The finished result seems very durable and there have been no scratches or chips, even during assembly. I only recommend skipping a separate primer application on finished (not bare) metal that’s in very good condition.

Tips for Painting Metal Cabinets with Rustoleum

Follow these best practices for even coverage without drips – an annoying problem to fix!

  • Use spray paint in a ventilated area. The ideal setting is humidity below 65% and a temperature of 50 to 90ºF for proper drying.
  • Use a spray paint grip. It’s absolutely worth the money. You’ll have better control of the spray and save your finger.
  • Shake the can for a full minute before use and often during use.
  • The nozzle should be held 10” to 16” from the surface during application.
  • Start and end your spray past the edge of the item you’re painting to avoid splotches.
  • Spray using a steady, back-and-forth motion ensuring each stroke overlaps a bit.
  • Use 2 to 4 light coats to get the coverage you want. These light coats can be applied a few minutes apart. A heavy coat will lead to drips and running paint.
  • Pay attention to dry and recoat times. For Rustoleum Painter’s Touch 2x spray paint, it will be dry to the touch in about 20 minutes and dry enough to handle in about an hour. You can apply additional coats within an hour. If you miss this window, you must wait 48 hours to recoat.

Apply a Spray Paint Top Coat for Metal

The last step is applying a topcoat that adds a protective finish. Make sure you seal spray paint on metal to protect your greenhouse from scratches, chips, and moisture.

I used Rustoleum Crystal Clear Enamel to finish my cabinets. It has a non-yellowing formula and UV protection (it is a greenhouse, after all) that offers extra protection against chipping and rust. There are a few other options with polyurethane and polycrylic, both available in liquid or spray form.

  • Oil-based polyurethane is very durable but it has a yellowish tint. Your IKEA greenhouse cabinet shouldn’t be subjected to heavy abuse, so you can skip this option.
  • Water-based polyurethane dries clear without yellowing. It doesn’t dry super fast, but it’s thicker than polycrylic so it’s easier to get a smooth finish on a large surface area or upright surface.
  • Polycrylic is less toxic than polyurethane. It dries clear as long as you don’t apply it too heavily, in which case it can give a milky appearance, especially over dark paint. It’s also very thin so you need to watch for drips and runs. Its fast dry time and runny consistency makes it challenging to use for evenly covering large areas or vertical surfaces.

Make sure you apply the topcoat at the right time to avoid clouding and other issues that force you to start over from scratch! Read the directions on the paint and the topcoat product for the proper timing on how to seal paint on metal.

If you’re using both Rustoleum products, you can apply the clear enamel topcoat within an hour of applying the spray paint or after 48 hours. The clear enamel coat will be dry to the touch in about 15 minutes and dry to handle in 30 minutes. It can be recoated at any time.

Once your topcoat is completely dry, wipe it down to remove any loose paint dust then you’re ready to assemble everything and start filling your IKEA cabinet!

Painting IKEA Cabinets That Are Peeling, Flaking, or Rusted

Do you have a second-hand or worn metal cabinet that needs new life – and a fresh coat of paint? You’ll want to put a lot of care into prepping metal with rust or loose, flaking paint.

Use a wire brush and scraper tool to remove all flaking paint and loose surface rust. Follow up by sanding the metal with 60 to 120 grit sandpaper, progressively working up to finer sandpaper.

Rust on metal
Monstera @ Pexels

If the rust is more than very mild surface rust, it’s a good idea to use a penetrative product like Rustoleum Rust Dissolver.

After removing and treating the rust problem, rinse the metal with water and mild detergent and allow it to air-dry. Even after the rust is treated, you may be left with bare metal that shows some rust. Paint will not stick to this rust and it will not adhere well to bare metal, either.

You will absolutely need to use a primer to prevent rust bleed-through and increase adhesion.

If you still have visible rust, a great product is Rustoleum Rust Reformer. After removing surface rust, Rust Reformer can be sprayed to create a paintable surface that prevents future rust. If you use this, you can skip the primer and go straight to spray paint after it dries for 24 hours.

If you are left with bare metal, you can use Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer.

Once the primer has dried, you can follow the steps above for how to spray paint IKEA furniture.

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