How to spray paint a metal filing cabinet

Painting the metal filing cabinet is a great idea to add the style that your office needs. But, you need to understand how to go about the job.

The steps that you have to follow to get the job done will be explained in this article.

paint metal filing cabinets

This guide is for those newbies who don’t understand the painter’s language but want to spray paint their metal filing cabinets on their own without creating any mess and getting a perfect finish and satisfactory results.

Follow each step explained in this guide in order to achieve the results you want.

You have surely seen these pieces of furniture before, and if you have been an office worker for any period of time, you have probably used one.

They are metal filing cabinets, and they have been used for decades and decades, but are now being replaced by standard filing cabinets, or electronic filing cabinets.

This Blog post’s Purpose: To show the uses for old metal filing cabinets and why you should consider keeping or making a home for one in your life.

Prepare the workplace before painting the metal filing cabinet

Putting a fresh coat of spray paint on your filing cabinets can really make a difference in their appearance.

But it’s important to do this in the proper setting so that you don’t end up with file cabinets that are shiny and nice looking but covered in rust from improper spraying techniques!

The best way to accomplish this is by making an outdoor structure by stacking old cardboard boxes on top of each other with some sheets of newspaper.

In order for you to take on painting your filing cabinet, there are a few things that you need to do beforehand.

First of all, make sure that the room in which you’ll be working is properly ventilated. There are many kinds of paint and lacquer available on the market today.

But regardless of what kind of paint you’re using, make sure it will cause no harm at all if inhaled, and be sure to wear proper protective equipment such as rubber gloves.

And a respiratory mask when applying paint to ensure safety from harmful chemicals. Here are some tips to paint metal surfaces.

Sand the metal cabinet surface

Sand the metal filing cabinet and clean it thoroughly. You can use wire-bristle brushes to clean it and wipe it.

Then wash the filing cabinet with soap and water. If there is any adhesive, dust, or other dirt still on the cabinet, then you can use detergent to clean it.

Then dry the cabinet and do a test spray painting on a hidden part of the filing cabinet.

You may need to apply a few coats depending on the color of your filing cabinet and the type of paint you are using. You can use 200 grit sandpaper for this purpose.

spray painting metal cabinet surface

Apply primer

Use an appropriate primer on the cabinet (not needed if new cabinet). Then, use sandpaper to remove rust and paint as much as possible.

Apply several coats of primer until the surface is covered. Be sure to apply the primer in a thin, even layer.

Allow time for the primer to dry between each coat. Once the primer has dried, you can paint the filing cabinet with the desired color.

Start painting metal filing cabinet

There are two best ways to paint metal cabinets. The first one is to use an air compressor with an air spray gun.

It is a very effective method not only for filing cabinets but for any metal surface you need to paint. If you don’t have a compressor, you can use paint spray cans.

Though it is not as effective as a compressor, it is a good alternative if you have no way to get one.

Truly, you can spray paint cabinets with regular spray paint, but it usually doesn’t look that good.

But if you use a specialty metal paint like Rust-Oleum’s Metal Effects spray paint, you’ll get better results.

Spray 2 to 3 coats of paint. If you have a large metal cabinet, as opposed to a small one, you may need more than three coats of paint.

Let the paint dry for at least 12 hours before you start moving it around.


Effectively paint steel file cabinet by using paint brush, petroleum jelly and newspaper. Mix black paint with petroleum jelly. Cover half of the filed cabinet with newspapers. Apply black paint with brush to the cabinet’s body. Wait for five minutes. Now, remove the newspaper from the cabinet. Apply petroleum jelly to the remaining black paint on the cabinet. Now, spread the petroleum jelly evenly to the black paint with the help of brush. Let it dry for 10 minutes. Remove the remaining black paint from the cabinet using clean white cloth.

This is a tricky question because it is impossible to give a simple answer to it. The paint you use on a metal file cabinet depends on several factors. If you want to paint a metal file cabinet which is rusty, you should use a product which can seal the rust properly and then you can use a common paint. If the metal file cabinet is already painted, you should clean it well and then use an enamel paint which is specifically designed to paint the file cabinet because it can resist the use of the cabinet. If the metal file cabinet is an antique, it is better to hire a professional.

When it comes to painting, priming is not necessary for all kinds of surfaces. We need to prime the surface if the paint is not going to adhere properly. Metal is no exception. One reason why you may choose to prime metal is when you’re painting an object that has a glossy finish and you want it to have a matte finish. Another instance is if the metal you’re painting is a rusty object. You can paint right over the rust with rust-inhibiting primer, but the primer is a good idea if you’re just painting to paint. The paint will still not adhere to the rusty object. You can prime the object first, then paint it. No matter what surface you’re painting, you should always apply two coats.

Sanding is necessary before painting metal if you want to get the best results. Sanding removes any rough spots and gives a more even surface. If you sand a surface properly before painting, it will make the job of the finish much easier. This is done by placing sandpaper on a flat surface and holding the surface to be painted on top of the sandpaper, while dragging it across the sandpaper in a back and forth motion. This will remove any tiny imperfections and give a very smooth surface. Before spray painting metal, you need to sand it properly. If you do not sand metal before spray painting, it will give a rough and wrinkled surface, which will look ugly and will be damaged easily. For example, if you have a metal shed or a car and you want to paint it, you need to sand it properly. Remember to start with the finest sandpaper, before moving onto the coarser sandpapers.

Yes, you can. If you are planning to spray paint your metal (the surface) without using primer then you can go ahead and give it a try. You don’t have to use primer if you are spraying only the outer surface though. But you have to be careful in choosing the right spray paint. Metal is a conductive material and the paint will bead off the surface. To be more specific, you have to use a lacquer (clearcoat) spray paint for this purpose. Another important thing is the paint’s surface tension. It should be around or below 50 dynes/cm.

Summary of How to spray paint a metal filing cabinet

Now that you have finished reading this blog post, you should know how to spray paint your metal filing cabinet.

If you still have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us anytime in the comments section.

Thank you for reading and we are always excited when one of our posts is able to provide useful information on a topic like this.

Till then take care of yourself and spray-painting tools. Don’t hesitate to ask any queries in your mind in the comments section.

Leave a Comment