How to Repair and Paint Melamine Cabinets

Bathroom vanity with peeling melamine coating.

Some bathroom and kitchen cabinets are covered with melamine coating, a type of plastic that can separate from the underlying surface over time.

If the melamine coating has only come loose in a few areas, you can reattach it using an instant adhesive, such as Super Glue or Krazy Glue.

Using instant glue to reattach peeling melamine coating on cabinet.
You can use instant glue to reattach peeling melamine coating on a cabinet.

However, if larger areas of the melamine cabinets are loose, you will need to paint the cabinets. But the process is different from painting wooden cabinets.

To paint peeling melamine cabinets:

  • Remove any loose or peeling plastic coating.
  • Sand the surface to dull the gloss and smooth the transition between the bare wood and plastic coating.
  • Vacuum any sanding dust, and then wipe the cabinet down with a damp cloth.
  • Apply one or more coats of a bonding primer to the cabinet (spray primer works best).
  • Apply two topcoats of paint over the primed surface. (Spray paint gives a smoother surface).

When spray-painting melamine cabinets, be sure to:

  • Mask adjacent surfaces with painter’s tape.
  • Use drop cloths to cover anything you don’t want painted.
  • Wear a respirator rated for spraying paint.
  • Provide plenty of ventilation.
Woman spray painting bathroom vanity.
You should always spray-paint plastic kitchen cabinets — and wear a respirator!

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: Some cabinets have a plastic melamine surface coating, rather than being painted or stained.

When this vinyl coating begins to peel, you can either remove all of the coating and repaint, or simply repair the damaged areas. Repair is far less time-consuming.

If the coating is loose but intact, it can sometimes be successfully reglued using an instant adhesive, such as Super Glue, that is compatible with vinyl.

The melamine cabinets’ peeling areas need to be sanded to remove the loose material and minimize the transition from bare wood to the vinyl.

The next step is coating the entire surface with a bonding primer. This will cover the bare wood and prepare the melamine to accept a top coat of paint.

Depending on the thickness of the melamine, it may take more than one coat of primer to smooth out the surface.

Since melamine cabinets have a smooth finish, using a spray for the primer and paint is a good option.

Just be sure to mask off adjacent surfaces, provide plenty of ventilation, and wear a respirator!

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