How to Paint a Sink

It is incredible how a bit of paint can transform something old and ugly into something looking brand new. Today’s article is on something that you might not immediately think of when you are looking for things to spruce up with the old paint bottle – a sink!

Read on for how to paint a sink in 4 easy steps!

My mother-in-law is currently in the process of trying to sell her house, and as every day goes by, she seems to come up with new, incredible, sometimes absolutely hairbrained ideas for sprucing the place up.

From using double-sided tape to fix her cinderblock wall (“I promise it will work, Raff”) to wanting to spray paint her floor – she is constantly looking for quick fixes, often ones that I have to desperately try to persuade her to avoid.

Recently though, she was adamant that she wanted her stainless-steel laundry sink spray painted. I was hesitant at first, based purely on the wearability of spray paint and how well it would hold up in the future, (and also because I didn’t think the sink was that bad in the first place) but I was persuaded, because, look, you don’t mess with your mother-in-law.

So, today, I’m going to walk you through the 4 easy steps to paint a sink, and the results we achieved, so that you can decide if it’s the right option for you!

Step 1: Clean it!

It’s surprising how much dirt, grime and grease can build up on a sink, so it’s important to remove all of these things before going any further in the painting process.

But look, a simple soap and scrub isn’t going to cut it here, buddy.

Methylated spirits used for degreasing a sink

Many stores sell cleaners with the specific purpose of degreasing, but methylated spirits (denatured alcohol for those of your in the US), which is also used in the automobile industry for degreasing metal parts and cleaning tools, will arguably provide just as adequate results for this purpose. I gave the sink a good scrub down with spirits and a scouring pad then wiped with a rag soaked in mineral spirits as well.

To be honest, after the clean, I thought it looked spruced up enough to leave it at that aha!

Paint prep for a stainless steel sink

Step 2: Scuff it up

Stainless steel is notorious for not being an easy surface to paint. This is because the shiny, smooth surface of stainless steel makes it difficult for the paint to fully adhere to it and causes chipping over time.

In order to help that stubborn stainless steel really bond with the paint, we need to scuff up the surface.

Scuffing up stainless steal with sandpaper before painting

I used a 240 grit sandpaper and went to town on the metal of the sink. Using a circular motion with the sandpaper, I ensured that I gave the entire surface a thorough scuffing. When finished it was much less shiny – which is exactly what we want.

Step 3: Prep Time

I always tell people that your prep time when painting (depending on the size of the job) is often greater than the time you spend actually painting – it’s good to expect this and be prepared for it. As it happens, my mother-in-law is impatient and didn’t see why it was so necessary, so it was a fight to even get the edges of the sink taped up, much less cover the walls and cabinets.

However, I stood my ground and insisted on the tape job – albeit a rushed one.

Prepping the surrounding area before spray painting

Spray paint isn’t ideal indoors, both from the overspray angle as well as the ventilation issue. I made sure to cover the surrounding areas in plastic, newspaper, and cardboard – opened the door, and aimed a fan for some ventilation.

Once everything was taped up, I gave the sink a quick vacuum and wiped the it down once more with mineral spirits to remove any dust or debris that had settled there. A tack cloth would also work for this stage, but I didn’t have one on hand.

Step 4: Spray it!

Spray paint can look amazing. The outcome, when done properly, settles into a smooth, uniform surface that looks like something factory-made. However, it can be a bit finicky! Which is why, if this is your first-time spray painting, I recommend grabbing a piece of cardboard, a scrap piece of metal, or anything you don’t mind getting ruined, and practicing on it first.

My recommendation for a project such as this is Rustoleum 2x Ultracover. This paint is advertised as a primer and topcoat in one and can bond to metal, wood, and plastic. I have always found good bonding from this product without having to use a separate primer – which significantly decreases the time spent on a project! For this project,  my mother-in-law went with a glossy winter grey colour.

Rust-oleum 2x Ultracover used to paint stainless steel
This is a can I had around the house, not the colour we used, but I forgot to snap a picture at while there, doh!

When spray painting, you want to ensure that you keep the bottle at an even distance from the surface being painted throughout the entire process. I find about 20 cm to be a good distance if no wind is present, but again, you should test first!

Remember: It’s in the body, not the wrist! 

Move with your body instead of your wrist as moving from the wrist will change the angle and the distance that you are spraying at. Instead of holding the nozzle down throughout, practice stopping the spray at the end of each stroke – this helps to avoid over spraying in the same spot.

spray paint

As always with spray paint, you want to do several thin coats as opposed to one thick coat. Because spray paint is so thin if you do a heavy coat you are bound to get runs – something that should be avoided at all costs!

Check the directions on the back of your bottle – but generally around 20 minutes, or after it is touch dry, you can add another coat.

I ended up doing three thin coats all within an hour and half of beginning the project.

Step 5: Clean Up

After the paint is dry to the touch, remove any tape and coverings. If you have any overspray, now is the time to try to clean it up with mineral turps. Ideally, you won’t have any if you have done your prep properly!

Results

I have done a fair amount of spray painting in the past, and so I’m aware of how great it can look, but I’ll admit that I was surprised by just how great the sink looked when finished. It came out beautifully, looks spiffy, brand new, and definitely helped to spruce up the room.

Spray painted stainless steel sinkSpray painted stainless steel sink

It remains to be seen how well the spray holds up to the sink being used and abused – but I think it will do nicely at least until a new sink can be procured.

Have you ever spray-painted a sink? If yes, or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

3 Replies to “How to Paint a Sink”

  1. Hello RAFF! Thank you for this very informative article. I never think of painting my sink because I think it’s impossible. It really opens my eyes. Importantly, you list all the steps and explain it in detail.

    My father always complains the color of the sink is too bored because it’s already several decades of years. I will tell him asap believe he will be happy about that.

    I think the same skills can also be applied to other stainless steel surfaces so I can paint it to other colors.

    1. Hello!

      You’re right, the same techniques can definitely be used for any stainless steel surface. Clean, scuff, use a good metal bonding paint+primer, and paint away!
      Glad your dad will get a kick out of it! I’m sure he would appreciate an early Christmas present of a brand new looking sink 😉

      Thanks for stopping by, CT!

  2. What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You for sharing this quality post with others.
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