Instructions on Painting Metal Mailboxes

Adding a fresh coat of paint can resurrect an old mailbox and dramatically change the look of a new one. Painting a metal mailbox is a two-stage process that involves preparing the mailbox and then applying the paint. A properly prepared surface ensures that paint covers evenly. Because mailboxes can be subjected to rain, sun and dramatic changes in temperature, it's best to use an oil-based enamel paint or one designed especially for surfaces prone to rust.


Remove the flag and paint it separately.

Step 1

Remove the mailbox from its post, if possible.  Most mailboxes are bolted or screwed to their posts and can be removed with a screwdriver or socket wrench.

Step 2

Remove the flag and any house numbers from the mailbox.  The flag is fastened on with a clip that pops off.

If the numbers are glued on, heat them for roughly 60 seconds with a hair dryer and then scrape them off with a plastic scraper.  Do not use a utility knife or other metal blades as they can damage the surface of the mailbox.

Step 3

Lightly sand the exterior of the mailbox to remove any debris and smooth out rough spots.  Start with 200-grit paper or a sanding block and, for a smoother finish, sand the mailbox again with finer-grit paper, such as 400-grit, used for bodywork on cars.

Step 4

Wipe down the mailbox with a rag dampened with a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar to remove dirt, grime and any glue left over from the numbers.  If vinegar does not remove the glue, try a citrus-based cleaner.

Step 5

Caulk the inside seams of the mailbox with weatherproof caulk to prevent leaks.  This step is necessary only if the welded areas have deteriorated.


Step 1

Lay the mailbox down on a piece of old cardboard, drop cloth or other similar material to prevent paint from marking up your floor or lawn.  If you're using spray paint, apply it outdoors or in a well-ventilated area away from your hot-water heater.

Step 2

Tape off with paint tape any areas on the mailbox you don't want to paint.  Paint tape is typically green and can be found at most hardware stores.

Step 3

Apply the paint.  If you're using spray paint, shake it according to the directions on the can and apply it using short, even bursts.

You will likely need to apply multiple coats.  Let each coat dry before applying the next one If you're brushing on the paint, shake or stir the can well, particularly if you're using an oil-based paint.

Use a foam brush to avoid streaking.  If you find you need to apply multiple coats, examine the mailbox between coats and give it a light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper in areas where your previous coat is uneven.

Things You Will Need

  • Paint brush
  • Weatherproof caulk
  • Metal paint
  • Hair dryer
  • Paint tape
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Sandpaper


  • Depending on the state of your mailbox before painting, you may need to apply a primer to rusty areas. Look in the automotive section of your hardware store for spray-on primers designed to cover rust. However, certain paints designed to cover metal do not need to be primed, so read the instructions on whichever paint you choose before purchasing separate primer.

About the Author

Andrew Tennyson has been writing about culture, technology, health and a variety of other subjects since 2003. He has been published in The Gazette, DTR and ZCom. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Master of Fine Arts in writing.

Photo Credits

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