The medicine cabinet in the bathroom of our new apartment is gross – it can’t even close properly because so much paint has accumulated over the years. Even though I’m completely in love with the place in general, it’s in an old building & you know what that means… Before every new tenant since the beginning of its life as an apartment building, a new layer of white paint is added over everything in the apartment. Doorknobs, light switches, outlets, walls, and yes – the bathroom medicine cabinet. After living with a particularly gross cabinet in my last place, I was adamant that this time I’d have a nice one dammit! It was impossible to find tutorials dedicated to this specific project, so I’ll do my best to contribute… I present to you – How to strip a metal recessed medicine cabinet!!
- CitriStrip worked much better/easier than a heat gun in this case, and I tried both. I used the heat gun for the back, which took FOREVER, and CitriStrip for the front & sides. CitriStrip for the win, hands down. That said, IT EATS THROUGH GLOVES! I was wearing regular latex gloves (not thick ones), and they ripped. I thought it was because I was using steel wool & that ripped them, but after donning a new pair and using my hands to rub CitriStrip on the frame, the tips literally disappeared. Be warned!
- Using a heat gun on layers of different kinds of paint probably wasn’t the best idea – Although the uppermost layers are probably latex, I think underneath were old layers of oil paint & possibly the original enamel/lacquer. Whatever it was, something was giving off fumes that made my head hurt, eyes red for 2 days, and nauseous – and that was with 4 out of 5 windows in my bedroom open, a ceiling fan on, and a floor fan running top speed to circulate air outside.
- The easiest combination was CitriStrip with a flexible metal scraper, followed by a stiff scraper to scrape off tough layers of enamel/laquer at the bottom.
- CitriStrip doesn’t damage mirrors (which I was worried about).
- It’s MUCH easier to remove the door & strip it while it’s laying down on the floor, rather than while it’s still attached to the cabinet. I laid it down on a thick piece of cardboard (a flattened West Elm box – they have the BEST boxes!) and went to town. Nothing seeped through to my floors, and I just picked the whole mess up & dumped it when I was done.
- It must be assumed that everyone knows how medicine cabinet doors are removed, because I couldn’t find ANYTHING that showed you how – so this is how:
- My cabinet door was attached with 2 hinges on the inside edge where the door met the cabinet. Each hinge was held to the door with two screws, and to the cabinet with 2 screws. Originally my plan was to remove the four screws that held the door to the cabinet, but of course one of the screws stripped so badly that I couldn’t get it out. So THEN I had to remove the four screws on the cabinet side – luckily they all came out without much of an issue. The hardest part was probably finding them under the LAYERS of paint, but I used an utility knife to scrape & cut until i could find the screw. Once you find 2, it’s easier to find the others because you can guess where they are based on how the first two are positioned.
- Stripping is hard, and I’m probably just going to do the door. Thinking of doing the entire rest of the cabinet is making me twitch.
Latex Gloves – had these already
CitriStrip – $13
Steel Wool (Multi-Grade Pack) – $4
Heat Gun – $23-$30
Flexible Scraper – $5-$7
Stiff Scraper – $5-$7
Cardboard (to work on & protect my floors)
Various Screwdrivers to get the screws out
This project was a serious nightmare, but I’m happy with the outcome – just not entirely convinced that it was worth it. Here’s a quick before/after shot before I get into the details:
Now to pick up from where I left off – with the door down to bare metal.