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This project idea was hatched when we had to remove the metal bathroom shelf above the toilet to prepare for installing new flooring in my parents’ bathroom. By doing so, it became clear that the silver metal had seen better days.

The bathroom shelf was really rusted in places, especially along the shelf poles. In all honesty, it looked like it needed to be thrown away and replaced. 

However, it’s not unusual for an over-the-toilet metal shelf unit to cost $75 or more. And this metal shelf still did its job well–it just needed an aesthetic makeover.

restore a rusty metal bathroom shelf - pin for pinterest

So, in Frugal Thumb style, I thought about how we could salvage it… and realized it just needed one thing.

Spray paint!

Why throw it away when you can restore that rusty metal bathroom shelf with some spray paint for $5? 

It’s a quick and easy project that you can do in a couple hours.

And it’s being thrifty and green!

How it’s Thrifty: You’re only paying about $5 for a can of spray paint to restore your existing shelf, thus saving your money, rather than spending $75 or more for a new one.

How it’s Green: You’re making the most of what you already have, saving the environment by sending less to the garbage dump, rather than throwing away a perfectly usable metal shelf.

Bonus: it’ll look great when you’re done!

If you want to see the before and after pictures and read the steps I took to complete this project in an afternoon, read on.

This is the “before” picture of the rusty metal bathroom shelf:

before restoring the rusty metal bathroom shelf

5 Steps to Quickly and Easily Restore a Rusty Metal Bathroom Shelf with Spray Paint

Step 1: Pick your spray paint color.

You can try to match the existing color of your shelf or go with a completely different look. We decided to go completely different. This bathroom shelf was a shiny silver and we bought a can of bronze sparkly metallic color. You can find affordable spray paint on Amazon.com, (Rustoleum brand currently $3.96).

Step 2: Set up your spray painting area.

We took everything off the rusty metal bathroom shelf, unscrewed it from the wall, and carried it outside. Don’t forget to bring the screws too!

There, we laid out a tarp in the grass. This will keep pieces of dirt, grass, and leaves from getting stuck to it while it dries. Make sure you pick a day with nice weather!

Spray painting the rusty metal bathroom shelf

Step 3: Spray paint your shelf!

When one side has dried, flip it and spray again. Continue to do this until you have spray painted the whole thing. Check for any missed spots and respray as necessary.

Step 4 (Optional): Use extra spray paint on other small items in the bathroom to bring the look together.

The color turned out so nice that I also spray painted the electrical outlet cover in the bathroom and the new flooring transition strip to match.

This added a nice touch to the final look of the bathroom.

spray painting other items in the bathroom to match the bathroom shelf

Step 5: Bring your restored shelf back inside.

Finally, once the paint has completely dried, reinstall your shelf.

It looks like new again for the price of a can of spray paint!

This is the “after” picture of the restored rusty metal bathroom shelf:

after restoring the rusty metal bathroom shelf with spray paint

Now, the next time you think you need to trash an old rusty shelf, give this $5 project a try. You may just find you love the new look better than any new shelf you could’ve bought at a store.

Plus, you’ll feel good about doing it yourself, being thrifty, and green.

Thanks for reading!