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How to Paint Vinyl Laminate Shelves

Darren White

How often do you look at your vinyl laminate shelves and think about how to change them? For many homeowners, those cabinets were a quick, simple solution to updating the bathroom or kitchen, but when you want a new update, painting can seem an impossible task on vinyl laminate, which is essentially plastic.

With the proper tools, you can give your shelves a colorful update with little hassle.

  1. Break down the shelves as much as possible with a screwdriver. This will allow you to paint the smallest corners of the shelves that might be unreachable otherwise.

  2. Remove all oil, dirt and grime from the surfaces of the shelves by wiping them down with a clean cloth soaked in a mix of household dish detergent and warm water. Once cleaned, dry the cabinets thoroughly.

  3. Sand all surfaces of your shelves with 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. This will create a stronger surface for the primer and paint to stick to.

  4. Wipe over the shelves with a tack cloth to remove any loose particles created by sanding.

  5. Put a thin coat of primer/sealant on the shelves with a natural bristle brush. Let the boards dry for an hour or until dry to the touch, then paint a second coat with a foam brush in long, consistent strokes. Let the second coat dry fully to the touch.

  6. Paint a coat of acrylic latex paint on the shelves in your desired color or finish with a foam brush or roller. Use even strokes across the surface. You may need to apply multiple coats, depending on the shelves' original color. Allow the paint to dry fully.

  7. Apply a thin coat of a clear, wipe-on polyurethane varnish to the shelves with a clean cotton rag. Follow the specific directions on your brand of varnish.

  8. Put the shelves back together with the screwdriver once all pieces are completely dry.

  9. Tip

    You may apply the acrylic latex paint with a spray can or electric paint sprayer for the most professional finish and the least evidence of the human hand.


    Apply all paints and varnishes outside or in well-ventilated areas. The primer and varnishes in particular have extremely strong fumes.