7 Things You Should Never Paint

Not every household item benefits from a fresh coat of paint. Here are seven you should skip.

<p>Getty Images / Anna Efetova</p>

Getty Images / Anna Efetova

Painting over a worn-out household item or dated piece of furniture can be a great way to give it a fresh, new look affordably. But not all surfaces and materials are suitable for painting, especially those with a poor finish or damage beyond repair. Paint isn’t always the best answer to breathe new life into an old item. Here are a few to avoid in your next DIY project. 

1. Tile Backsplash

Painting a tile backsplash might seem like an easy way to change a kitchen’s look without major renovations, but painting tiles can be tricky. It is generally not recommended to paint a tile backsplash since it is not a porous material suitable for paint adhesion. In addition, its constant exposure to water, heat, and cleaning products can cause the paint to chip, peel, or discolor. Since there’s a lot of prep work needed to paint tile correctly, many DIYers find that it’s not worth the trouble. 

Rather than spending your day sifting between epoxy paints and sanding tile, try peel-and-stick backsplash tiles for a bold look as an easy temporary upgrade.

2. Dishware

It can be tempting to paint a plate, bowl, or cup to create a personalized design. After all, wear and tear can leave a colorful design looking faded or dull. Yet, painting over dishware is not recommended. Paint contains harmful chemicals that can be toxic when ingested. The materials used for dishware are food-safe, and many are also microwave- and dishwasher-safe too. The kinds of paint used in most craft projects can leak chemicals into food or drinks, posing a health risk. Consider investing in a new dishware set or getting advice from a ceramics professional before tackling a DIY dishware project with paint. 

3. Wood Floors

Painting wood floors is a job that can quickly go sideways. Even pros have to really know what they’re doing, and consider the wood type, existing stain, underflooring, and more. 

Enhancing the appearance of hardwood floors takes more than just a fresh coat of paint; it’s a job that requires multiple steps like sanding, filling cracks, staining, and sealing. But painting over wood floors can damage the wood’s natural beauty and deteriorate its long-term durability. A coat of paint can peel, crack, or wear off over time, especially in high foot-traffic areas. Paint can also create an uneven or slippery surface, which is a safety hazard.

If you’re inspired to paint to remove scratches or stains from wood floors, go with professional refinishing rather than a DIY coverup. 

4. Electrical Appliances

Painting electrical appliances, like refrigerators, ovens, stoves, and washing machines, is a no-no. These items are not made of paint-adhesive materials and are exposed to frequent wear and tear. In addition, most paints are not heat-resistant or food-safe, so painting is not a safe or practical option. The same goes for other electronics like laptops. Paint can damage the device, easily chip or flake, and prevent heat from escaping breathable surfaces. 

If you’re looking for a kitchen update, try painting cabinets rather than appliances. 

5. Hinges and Doorknobs

It is best not to paint hinges and doorknobs. The added layer of coating can impede the hardware’s functionality and make them stick. Doors may not close properly when the paint hardens and dries. Over time, paint can also start to chip or peel, which makes the newly refreshed hardware look sloppy. Paint can also show fingerprints and stains more than darker metals.  

Instead of painting, try replacing the hinges or doorknobs entirely. If you must paint them, remove hinges and door knobs altogether, spray paint them separately, and let them dry completely before reattaching them. 

6. Leather and Fabric Furniture

You probably shouldn't paint leather or upholstered furniture unless you’re a trained tailor, reupholsterer, or costume designer. When it comes to furniture, painting upholstered pieces can ruin the material’s texture and flexibility. Fabric and leather also require special types of paint that adhere to the surface. Even then, rarely do DIY paint jobs end in the desired finish. Most furniture will feel stiff and uncomfortable to sit on. Fabrics also soak up the paint, causing a mess and leaving furniture feeling like sandpaper. Paint could also seep into the stuffing or coils inside seating.

There are other ways to care for your leather furniture that don't involve paint. Instead, opt for reupholstery for long-term success.  

7. Cookware

As with dishware, beware of painting cookware. Paint can be toxic when exposed to high temperatures. It can release harmful fumes that could contaminate the food in a pot or pan. Ingesting these chemicals can pose a health risk, so avoid painting pots and pans. Use pots and pans made from cook-safe materials like stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron, or copper. These come in many color variations that can make your kitchen feel young and vibrant.

Burnt pots and pans can be cleaned with some scrubbing. But, if you have chipped enamel on a Teflon or nonstick pan, it is time to invest in new cookware, not paint over it. 

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