DIY Before & Afters DIY Home Improvement Pantry Pantry DIY Projects

How To Paint A Refrigerator (Or In My Case, An Upright Freezer) — Before And After

I finally tackled a project that I have been excited to tackle for a while now — I painted my upright freezer. Have you ever wondered, “Can you paint a refrigerator?” Well, I’m here to tell you that you can. Whether it’s a refrigerator or an upright freezer like mine, you can give it a customized look with paint, and it’s not even difficult!

If you’ll remember, the original look of the freezer was quite utilitarian — solid white with a thick plastic handle.

Plain white upright freezer with a textured surface - before I painted it

And now, that same freezer has a beautiful dark teal finish on it with a new, beautiful brushed brass handle.

I painted my plain white upright freezer a dark teal color and added a new brass  handle.

So much better, right?! And the best part is that this was so easy! Seriously, it was way easier than I had anticipated.

I did paint the entire thing — sides, top and front. But this room is pretty small, and once I pulled the freezer out into the middle of the room to work on the sides and top, it was impossible to get pictures. So you’ll only see pictures of the progress on the front of the freezer.

But let me show you how I did this…

How to paint a refrigerator (or upright freezer)

1. Remove the handle(s).

Before I could get to any of the painting process, I removed the original handle from the door. These are almost always attached with little screws that are visible on the sides of the handle where they connect to the door. You’ll probably need a little Allen wrench to get those screws out.

Once the handle is off, you’ll see some little posts that the handle was attached to. I wasn’t sure how those little posts were attached to the freezer door, so I just left them and moved on for now, although I knew they’d eventually have to come off since they didn’t work with my new handle.

If you don’t plan on switching out the handle, you’ll need to leave those little posts right where they are.

2. Sand the existing finish on the refrigerator or freezer.

With the handle off, I was ready to get started on the refinishing process. I started by sanding the smooth factory finish using 60-grit sanding discs on my rotary sander. If you’re looking for a new sander, click here to see the one I have and use regularly. It’s a Dewalt variable speed 5-inch rotary sander, and it’s the best one I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned a few over the years 😀 ).

My freezer has a texture to it, so this is what it looked like after I sanded.

How to paint a refrigerator - sanding a freezer with a textured surface before priming and painting it

The sanding went much faster than I thought it would. Those 60-grit sanding discs made very quick work of it.

You can see the little posts for the handle on the picture above. I needed to get those off and get the hardware for the new handle installed before I moved on to the next refinishing steps, and I quickly realized that they just twist out. They’re actually little screws with posts on them. They came out pretty easily using a pair of pliers to get a firm grip on them as I twisted them out.

To switch out a refrigerator handle the original posts need to be removed.

3. Install brackets for new handle (optional).

After seeing the screw ends of those posts, I felt pretty confident in attaching the mounting hardware for the new handle using #8 1/2-inch screws. I wanted to attach the mounting hardware at this stage because I figured if I did it after the freezer was painted, I would risk scratching the new finish. Better to do it now before/during the priming stage so that any scratches could be touched up before the final finish went on.

How to paint a refrigerator - primed with self-etching primer.

5. Use a spray primer to prime the surface of the refrigerator or freezer.

I used a self-etching spray primer that I found at Home Depot. I think I used about three cans in total.

How to paint a refrigerator - after sanding the surface, use a self-etching primer before painting.

After letting the primer dry thoroughly, which I think took a couple of hours, I sanded the entire surface by hand with 400-grit sandpaper. That sounds way more labor-intensive than it actually was. It only took about 30 minutes to sand the entire thing.

6. Paint the refrigerator with a sprayer or roller.

With the freezer primed and lightly sanded, I was ready to apply the final finish. For this, I just used regular Behr latex paint in an eggshell finish.

For the sides and the top, I used my Critter sprayer, which you can find here. I highly recommend this sprayer. It’s inexpensive, and does a beautiful job. It’s what I use to paint cabinets and other small projects as well.

On the front of the door, I actually did a second and final coat using a small 6-inch roller that is labeled for “smooth surfaces.”. Since my freezer has a textured surface, this worked perfectly. If I were painting a refrigerator with a smooth surface, I’d skip that step and just do a second and final coat with the sprayer.

How to paint a refrigerator - my upright freezer after sanding, priming and painting.

7. Attach the handle.

Once that dried completely, I attached the new handle onto the mounting hardware that I had installed.

DIY painted refrigerator (upright freezer) painted a dark teal color with a new brass handle.

And that’s it!

Painting a refrigerator or freezer – additional tips for a quality finish…

  • Before priming and painting the freezer, I didn’t tape anything off, like the plastic seal around the door. Since I was painting my freezer a dark color, I didn’t want that white plastic seal showing, so I just painted right over it. I just made sure to keep the freezer door closed the whole time I was painting so that it acted as it’s own taped off area. The outside areas of the plastic seal (i.e., the parts that show when the doors is closed) are now painted, but the inside parts are still white, and they still seal to the original factory finish.
  • I did remove the grill below the door in order to paint it. It was attached with two screws that I easily removed, and then I sprayed it using the Critter. That way I could get a good finish on it without spraying paint into the area with the motor and other mechanical parts of the freezer.
  • I’m still deciding on whether or not to use a clear topcoat. If I do, I’ll use a General Finishes topcoat, which is my absolute favorite. It’s so superior to Minwax Polycrylic that they’re not even in the same league, and it’s way better than any Rust-Oleum water-based clear coat that I’ve ever use as well. General Finishes Topcoat is what I used on my kitchen cabinets, and I’m amazed at how durable it is and how easy it is to clean. I buy mine here on Amazon. On the other hand, while a plain, unprotected latex paint finish is less durable, it’s much easier to touch up. If I get a chip or a scratch, it’ll take two minutes to touch it up and be on my way. With a protective topcoat, touching up a scratch or chip is quite a bit more work. So for now, I’m just going to live with the plain painted finish and see if I think I might prefer the added protection of a clear topcoat.
  • Regarding the handle, I actually used a towel bar. You can click here to find the exact handle/towel bar I used. To find the right size, I just measured the distance between the original handle posts and used that measurement to find a new handle. Even though I knew I would be removing the original posts, I also knew they would leave holes that would either have to be repaired with Bondo or be covered up with the new handle. I didn’t want to mess with Bondo (especially since my freezer has a textured surface), so I just made sure that I bought a handle that would cover the holes.

That’s all the info I can think of to share with you about how to paint a refrigerator or freezer, but I’m sure I left something out. If you have more questions, just let me know!



UPDATE:

My pantry is finished! Want to see the entire project from start to finish? You can find every single post about the pantry build right here…

Or you can skip to the end and see how it turned out. Here’s a peek of the finished pantry…

Butler's pantry remodel with dark teal lower cabinets, floating corner shelves, and whitewashed wood countertop

You can see more pictures on the before and after post right here…



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61 Comments

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Peggy
    November 5, 2018 at 8:50 am

    That’s an elegant freezer!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sue
    November 5, 2018 at 8:54 am

    I really like it and that brass handle is just the icing on the cake! Woot! Woot!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Carol
    November 5, 2018 at 9:18 am

    I love the color and that handle–so beautiful Kristi!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Peggy
    November 5, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Are you putting a top coat on the cabinets? If so, would the finish of the freezer look enough different to be obvious? And eventually annoying?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    MariaVictoria
    November 5, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Oh my gosh, that looks awesome, what a great idea! Love it so so much! I think I would go with a top coat.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Angela
    November 5, 2018 at 9:25 am

    WOW! Just WOW! You continue to amaze me! Now I’m staring at our white upright freezer in the garage wondering what color I want to paint it! haha

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Karen
    November 5, 2018 at 9:27 am

    What a very cool idea – it wouldn’t have occured to me to simply change the look on a freezer or fridge – you are such an inspiration! I love the chosen colour and assume that’s the one you are going to use on the cabinets as well? It will look beautiful!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ann
    November 5, 2018 at 9:35 am

    AMAZING !!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    MARA SMITH
    November 5, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Did you spray the primer inside? Did any iverspeay get on your walls, floor or countertop? How was the smell?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Charlene
    November 5, 2018 at 9:41 am

    You’ve changed the appliance decorating world. Wow!!!

    I can’t wait to try something like this.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    HeatherB
    November 5, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Blown away by how awesome this looks! And the color is BEAUTIFUL!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Alta Craig
    November 5, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Now that’s about the most elegant freezer I’ve ever seen! I like the color, and presume that is the color you decided on for the pantry cabinets? If you put a topcoat on the cabinets, will it have a different sheen than the freezer? Really looking forward to seeing the finished pantry!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Eileen
    November 5, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Again, a successful job! I love teal and I can see people all over the country painting their ugly freezers and refrigerators.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Cathy
    November 5, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Did you have to tape/cover the door, your cabinets when using your sprayer indoors? Just curious and it’s probably a silly question but I’m new to all this stuff. Thank you for the info.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kay
    November 5, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Stunning! 👍

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Carol
    November 5, 2018 at 10:16 am

    I love the idea of not have a big white “brick”! Can’t wait to see how this blends with the cabinets.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    cyd
    November 5, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Amazing transformation. Just love it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Linda Furtaw
    November 5, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Perfect.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tracy
    November 5, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Ok, I’ll eat my words, I was one that said “don’t paint it, put a door on it” 😳 but the handle here makes it! Looks So glamorous.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tara C
    November 5, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Wow, this is beautiful. I would never have thought to paint a freezer!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tina G
    November 5, 2018 at 10:55 am

    It looks great! I painted a refrigerator using good ole, oil based paint from Sherwin Williams. Sanded lightly, and applied it with a good foam roller. The paint job ended up lasting well over 5 years without a scratch. Unfortunately, the refrigerator finally died and we ended up getting a new one. Since this is an upright freezer that you won’t be getting in every day, and it’s in the pantry which won’t be a high traffic area, I doubt you will need a topcoat.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon C
    November 5, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Wow, what a difference……it looks so elegant now. Love the color and the new brass handle certainly adds the wow factor!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Margie
    November 5, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Okay, now I know how you did this, I can’t wait to do mine little freezer which sits in its space almost in my living room! I covered it up, but still not happy with it. Then I saw your finished project and I am going to go for it!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Melissa Cain
    November 5, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Would love a link for the brass handle!!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      HeatherB
      November 5, 2018 at 11:44 am

      There is one under #4 toward the bottom of the post. It’s actually a towel bar! How cool and creative is Kristi?!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      janice dinse
      November 5, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      I believe she posted it in the last paragraph.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Elizabeth A
    November 5, 2018 at 11:31 am

    I cannot wait to see your finished pantry!! You are doing an amazing job and it is so inspirational!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Gilmer Gal
    November 5, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Looks great! Are you going to use gold bars for your cabinets also? I can hardly wait to see the finished room!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jeannie
    November 5, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Never tho’t of painting an appliance in a pantry. But YOU did & it’s amazing. Love the color AND the handle.

    As Karianne would say: You are a rockstar!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Julie Brown
    November 5, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Curious what your history is with painting appliances and durability? I painted metal bathroom towel bars, etc. and they have worn off or scratched. Clearly I did something wrong.

    Your refrigerator turned out very pretty.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    CathyR
    November 5, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Home run! It’s a standout especially with the brass handle. I’m wondering though why you didn’t use oil based; that seems to be your go-to for things like this.
    I, too, am surprised how easy it was. There may be a painted fridge in my future!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Aime
    November 5, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Beautiful! Looks like you spent several thousand on a custom appliance…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    janice dinse
    November 5, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    When you first talked about painting your brand new freezer, I cringed. But boy, it is BEAUTIFUL!! What a perfect color and finish. That gold handle is just the perfect touch.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Dawn Hill
    November 5, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Wow,

    Great color and love your creativity using a towel bar! I see my garage freezer going from turquoise to teal in the near future! 🙂 Thank you for sharing all your product tips too!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lisa Johnson
    November 5, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Wow! That makes your freezer look soooo high end! You might want to change your floor plan to make it front and center- LOL! (Just kidding, of course!) But it truly looks beyond wonderful- GREAT JOB!!!!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ardith
    November 5, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    I do believe this is the prettiest freezer I’ve ever seen. Cheers, Ardith

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ellen
    November 5, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    could you please explain how you attached the mounting brackets to the freezer? Did you screw directly into the door or did you somehow use the mounting holes that were already there. Did you have to use a different mounting screw than what came with the bracket? Also, might you have an idea of how to mount a wooden panel to a fridge that is not a specialized one to receive a front panel? Thanks Kristi. Love how it turned out.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Adele
      November 6, 2018 at 10:01 am

      Kristi answers many of these questions in her post.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Ellen
        November 6, 2018 at 11:33 am

        Adele, I read her entire post. I saw where she took out the original mounting bracket/screw that held the plastic door handle. She used new brackets that look to have 2 screws. Therefore I was asking if she screwed those directly into the door panel or somehow used the hole that was there from the original mounting screw. Those type of mounting brackets, that it looks like she used generally come with short screws, so I was wondering if she used those or changed them out for something else.
        Of course that last question I had about mounting a wood panel was just hoping she might have an idea about.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    November 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Awesome!😁

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sherre
    November 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Your fridge looks great, but my biggest takeaway is that I really like that towel bar for an actual towel bar! 🙂 The brushed nickel set is right up my alley!

    I love Amazon too- but am I the only one that has the fear that it will one day take over the entire market? Haha!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Erin Hager
    November 5, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    As a random aside, I love how *everyone* is going gaga over Emily Henderson’s Portland house kitchen with teal cabinets, wood floors, brass hardware, marble counters, and white subway tile like it’s going to be next year’s major trendsetter.
    https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/portland-project-the-kitchen-remodel-reveal
    https://www.mydomaine.com/emily-henderson-modern-kitchen
    Not that it isn’t absolutely beautiful, but I think we’ve all seen this somewhere before…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Carol E
    November 5, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Always enjoy reading about your renovation process. Also, thank you for generously sharing your resources for your tools, paint and handles. It is so helpful to see what is used behind the scenes to make it all happen. This has been a very interesting project to watch! Good luck with the rest of your project!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon
    November 5, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    That’s fabulous! I’m very impressed! I’d never thought of changing out a handle.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Erika
    November 5, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    WOW!!!🙀IT LOOKS AWESOME!!! Love the color. Excellent job!!👍

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Khristie L.
    November 6, 2018 at 12:40 am

    You are just so handy and awesome…it is sickening. I mean that in the best possible way. Dang, you make it all look so easy.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Karen
    November 6, 2018 at 10:14 am

    How did you attach the handle since it’s not really a freezer handle. I didn’t see that in the post

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    designdreamer
    November 6, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    That’s A. Ma. Zing!!! and beautiful!!! Thanks for the details!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    TrudyLynn vanGiessen
    November 6, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    the brass handle takes this pantry to the “too kool” level. I would never have thought of a towel bar for a handle. You amaze me!
    BTW if you did use the gen finish top coat would you spray it on with your little critter? I use this same top coat and hate that i cannot get to level perfectly. It always has brush streaks.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rochelle Blackford
    November 7, 2018 at 10:56 am

    A Towel Bar???? Who would of thought…. I love it!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Theresa P
    November 7, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    I need an IG sneak peak! You’re making us wait too long for an update! 🙂

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Sherre
      November 7, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      HAHAHA, I came here to say the same thing. No blogs, no peeps on Instagram. I’m feeling neglected!! 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Olivia S.
    November 12, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    In the early 1980s, my mum had a side by side fridge in harvest yellow and decided she wanted it to be white so she wouldn’t have to buy a new oven, dishwasher, etc. I have no idea where she came up with this idea, but she had it taken to an auto shop and they painted it for her.

    I know if my mum wasn’t in her late 70s now, she would have loved this site. She did major plumping, electrical, sewing, knitting, etc. She didn’t pass some of those skills onto me. I have wallpapered since I was 9 (I will only do an accent wall at my house – because I hate removing wall paper even though I prime it carefully). I can do minor plumping, knitting and sewing.

    I love the idea of the towel bar (wonderful). I am going to start on small projects on the weekends so I can finish the job within a month. I work and am afraid I might get overwhelmed and not finish a project.

    I am so envious of Kristi’s skills and energy. I loved her kitchen, tile and door frames.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Terri Beavers
    November 30, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    I use spray paint for everything I can diy. However, I’ve never thought about painting my fridge. What a fantastic idea. Yours looks fabulous.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Brenda
    September 6, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    We recently decided to put our freezer in the kitchen. Thank you for giving us an idea to turn this unsightly convenience into something beautiful. You are one amazing lady!

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