How To Upcycle Your Filing Cabinet

I learnt recently about volatile organic compounds (VOCs), they are toxins commonly used in paint which evaporate while drying causing that strong paint smell. Even when that paint smell disappears they can still be released into the air of your home for many years. VOC’s have been known to cause respiratory problems as well as cognitive and developmental health problems. According to the World Health Organisation professional painters have a 20% greater risk of developing cancer. Yikes! Is anyone else cringing at their walls which were painted in the last couple of years!?

Thankfully there are some awesome companies doing the right thing and making VOC free paint. I was gifted some VOC free paint from the lovely Sharon at i Restore Stuff to update my old filing cabinet, I actually rescued this cabinet from being sent to the tip. Sharon also suggested I use some Ultra Grip which works to adhere the paint to the shiny metal surface. I chose the colour Ash which I thought would work well to make the cabinet not look so bulky in the room. 

Before I started I used eucalyptus oil on a damp cloth and a paint scraper to remove all of the stickers and dirt. I also unscrewed the handles so I could paint them separately. I started off with a coat of the Ultra Grip which went on really easily, you really don’t need to use much as it’s quite thin and spreads very well. The instructions recommend to let it dry for 12 hours but I left it for about 24 hours. This had hardly any smell at all! I had the window open while I was painting but as soon as I was finished I closed it again, I really couldn’t tell at all that I’d been painting in there which was amazing. I usually get quite a bad headache from the paint smell so I was really happy about the low odour.

Then the fun began with the Ash Fusion Mineral paint, I used a small fluffy roller as I prefer a roller finish and my brush skill aren’t great. Again it went on super easy, this is thicker than the Ultra Grip and the coverage was really good, I thought I might get away with only one coat but it wasn’t 100% covered so I did two. It didn’t take long to dry and I did a second coat later the same day. I also painted all the handles but I used a brush for these, I found the trick was to use a very small amount of paint to avoid too many streaks. Again there was hardly any smell at all!

I could have called this post ‘how to make your filing cabinet look 1000 times better’ because it really does look great. I was a bit naughty and opened the drawers before the paint had cured and I chipped it a bit but I have plenty of paint left so I’ll touch it up. I’m so happy we rescued this cabinet before it went to the tip, for only $78 worth of paint I think the result is amazing. Companies are constantly getting rid of old filing cabinets, you could even ask around at your work and you might be able to save one too. We’re pretty paperless now so I plan on using it for storage. Now I’m looking around for something else I can make look awesome!


[Please excuse all the junk in the background of this photo, we're currently renovating and there's stuff everywhere!] If you're planning on upcycling some furniture I highly recommend you get in touch with Sharon, she's an absolute wealth of knowledge and really lovely too :) If you do end up painting something I'd love it if you sent me a photo!!   

Amy x


  • Helen King

    Looks beautiful!

  • edie115

    It looks great! X

  • Amy

    Thanks so much Sharon! I’ve got about 3/4 of a jar of the untra grip so you could do 4 cabinets with that. About 1/3 of the jar left of the fusion mineral, so could probably do a two drawer cabinet. It is definitely very addictive!

  • Sharon Hankins

    Great makeover, Amy! Looks so much better! Just curious how much paint it took, do you have a lot left in the jar? Could you paint another couple of filing cabinets? This up-cycling thing can be addictive! Enjoy.

  • Amy

    Thanks so much! See you there next month :)

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