Can You Use Exterior Paint on Kitchen Cabinets?


Given the fact that exterior paint provides excellent resistance to moisture and readily sticks to kitchen cabinets, you’re naturally left wondering whether it’s suitable for use on the inside of your home.

It’s not safe to use exterior paint on kitchen cabinets. Exterior paint contains toxic chemicals that give off harmful fumes, which can make you very sick. The toxic odors given off by oil-based exterior paint are more dangerous than those of water-based versions. The best paint for cabinets is acrylic paint.

If you’ve accidentally painted your cabinets with exterior paint, removing and replacing it with acrylic paint is probably the safest option. This article includes:

  • Why exterior paint is so dangerous
  • Remedies if you’ve accidentally used exterior paint
  • My recommended acrylic paint kit for cabinets

What Is Wrong with Using an Exterior Paint Inside?

Exterior paint can resist harsh weather and sticks to most surfaces, so it is reasonable to think that you can use it on kitchen cabinets.

The reason exterior paints are so resilient is that they contain powerful chemicals that help them stick to masonry and preservatives to combat sun rays and storms.

Oil-based exterior paints will hold Volatile Organic Chemicals, such as acetone and xylene, which vaporize out of the paint as it dries.

These VOCs are toxic and will cause irritations to your eyes and airways. In extreme cases, they can even cause blackouts and nerve damage.

The same health concerns apply to varnishes, spray cans, and gloss paints. Water-based external paints can still cause health issues, but the strength of the fumes tends to be less and much safer.

Accidentally Used Exterior Paint on Kitchen Cabinets?

If you use exterior paint on your kitchen cabinets by accident, you will feel the strong fumes building up in your sinuses. Your eyes will water, you will start coughing, and you may begin to feel light-headed.

If you feel nauseous, check the labeling on the paint tin to make sure it’s water-based. If it is oil-based paint, stop painting immediately and stand out in the fresh air for a few minutes before you pass out.

What to Do if You Use Exterior Paint

If you have applied exterior paint to your cabinets, start by checking to see the chemical ingredients. If it is a water-based exterior paint, you may be able to resort to opening the windows for a day until the air clears.

Exterior paints can take a long time to deodorize, and even after a week of having the windows wide open, the smell may still linger. This odor is more of an issue for oil-based exterior paints that will have solvents and strong mold inhibitors.

How to Remove and Repair Exterior Paint on Cabinets

Removing the paint that you spent time and care applying is an upsetting business, but it may be necessary. If you have a kitchen coated with exterior paint, you may have no choice but to remove it.

This will mean leaving the paint to dry so that you can use the following methods:

Rub Down

Sanding off the exterior paint is going to be messy, and you may want to take some of this work outside if you can. You can reduce the dust by starting with a scraper then moving on to an electric sander with 60-grit sandpaper.

Do not use a pressure washer, as the water will get everywhere and may destroy your cabinets. You can rinse off the cabinets after sanding to remove the dust but dry away all excess water straight after.

Heating

Heat guns are a handy tool for removing oil-based paints, though they will bring out the fumes in the paint. Wear a professional respirator mask, gloves, and goggles if you decide to use a heat gun.

On high heat and with a scraper, you should be able to race through the paint removal process. A heat gun is the least messy of the three methods and uses the least number of consumables.

You will still need to sand the cabinets after, to remove stubborn paint and the unavoidable burn marks it will make. Blowtorches work the fastest, but they will ignite flakes of paint, so use an electric heat gun.

Chemicals

Paint stripper relies on a powerful alkaline solution to melt paint away from the surface. A common paint stripper is lacquer thinner – a highly corrosive mixture that demands respect and caution.

Modern lacquer thinners have fewer VOCs, but they will still melt through thin rubber and plastics. So, wear long 5/16-inch (8mm) nitrile gloves (or thicker), goggles, and a mask.

Do not use lacquer on plastic dipped cabinets, as it will melt everything back to the wood.

What Is the Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets?

You want to use paint that is easy-to-apply, looks good, and lasts. You also want paint that is low on odors and safe to use in a family home kitchen.

Nuvo Titanium InfusionOpens in a new tab. is an all-in-one kit that comes with all the materials and tools you need for sprucing up your kitchen cabinets. This kit will cover up to one hundred square feet or 40 linear feet of cabinetry.

The paint mixture is ready to go and works on wood, laminates, and metal without the need for a primer. This kit comes with a roller and a 2-inch angled paintbrush for fine work along the edges. Nuvo Titanium takes around 8 hours to fully cure.

  • Included: 2 × 31 oz. cans Nuvo paint, 2 × roller stripes, roller arm, 2″ paint (angled) brush, 2 × stir sticks.

Paints to Avoid

Avoid using any type of paint that is intended for exterior use as the chemicals and odors are far stronger than paint developed for an interior. You will find that the odor from exterior paint never disappears, and you or your family may develop health issues from breathing in the fumes.

Cheap paint is not worth the savings, and you will be disappointed when your hard work peels off a year later. You may also discover that the mineral spirits in an oil-based paint end up melting through the protective coatings glazed onto certain types of cabinets.

Frequently asked questions

Can You Use Exterior Latex Paint on Kitchen Cabinets?

Exterior latex paint is waterproof, so it is often a go-to paint where there is going to be moisture and abuse. Depending on your cabinets, latex paint is a good choice for wood, but make sure it is water-based and safe for interior use, and low on mold inhibitors.

Can I Use Wall Paint on My Kitchen Cabinets?

Interior wall paint can give a wooden cabinet an interesting, washed look and will even build character over time. Wall paint is better on solid surfaces, where there is a porous surface to soak up the paint.

Can You Use Porch Paint on Kitchen Cabinets?

Porch paints hold a lot of additives that cure the wood, preventing rot and weather damage. You can find low-toxicity porch paint, but for the cost, you will get a better deal with paint intended for kitchen cabinets.

Graham Walsh

I want to share everything I know about home improvement in order to help you. Whether you're a home enthusiast or an industry professional, I have the information that you need.

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