Can You Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets with Exterior Paint? (Quick Answers!)

Exterior paint is known for its resilient finish, fungicidal properties, and ability to adhere to many surfaces, these features make it a plausible option for a kitchen cabinet paint job.   

Painting your kitchen cabinets with exterior paint is quite possible, however, it is not advisable to do so because exterior paint contains chemical compounds that are not suitable for indoor use.

 With that said let’s take a closer look at why exactly exterior paint isn’t the best option for your kitchen cabinets and other alternatives, you can use.

Can You Use Exterior Paint to Paint Kitchen Cabinets?

Exterior paint has a strong chemical makeup that makes it resistant to moisture, wear and tear, mildew and mold, so applying it to a kitchen cabinet doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but it actually is, and here’s why.

The chemical additives contained in exterior paint emit toxic fumes called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which when inhaled can cause symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

In an enclosed space or area with low air circulation like a kitchen, the fumes emitted are more concentrated.

Long-term exposure to these fumes can put your entire household at risk of major health complications like cancer or brain damage.

If you do decide to go ahead with painting your kitchen cabinets with this medium, avoid applying it with a sprayer as this would turn the paint into a breathable mist which has more intense effects when inhaled.

Make sure you have two airflow fans set up in your kitchen as you paint, if you can’t paint your cabinets outside, one to vent out the toxic air and the other to bring fresh air inside.

You should also have in mind that the use of exterior paint, whether indoors or outdoors, is illegal in some areas.

Is It OK to Use Exterior Paint Inside?

It is not okay to use exterior paint inside your home. First of all, it is produced for outdoor use and outdoor use only, and secondly, it off-gasses over time, which is not safe to inhale.

Both exterior paint and interior paint emit toxic fumes, but they are not harmful to the same degree.

Exterior paint has harsher chemicals than interior paint because it’s manufactured to withstand adverse outdoor conditions.

Also, the exterior paint has a very distinct texture when dry which may not be desirable indoors.

Outbuildings such as detached garages, sheds, or cabanas can have their interiors painted with exterior paint, provided that they are well-ventilated and no one sleeps in them.

As suggested in the above point, the risk of applying exterior paint indoors can be abated if the room or area it is applied to has good ventilation and isn’t really in use.

Can You Use Exterior Paint on Wood?

You can use exterior paint on wood, but make sure it’s acrylic exterior paint, as this has a nicer finish, lasts longer, and adheres better to wooden surfaces.  

Thorough preparation is also necessary for a successful paint job. If the wooden surface you plan on applying exterior paint on is glossy you’re going to have to roughen it up.

Get a piece of sandpaper and run it along the surface of your wood to ensure your paint adheres well, you can also use some liquid deglosser to prep the surface.

You’d need little to no sanding if you’re working with natural or bare wood, this type of wood absorbs a considerable amount of paint so ensure that you apply some primer paint.

Please note that primers are manufactured according to the types of paint there is, so if you’re using oil-based paint, make sure you purchase an oil-based primer and so on.

Primer paint will help ensure that every coat of exterior paint applied is even, making your paint finish well textured and visually appealing.

Pros and Cons of Exterior Paint on Kitchen Cabinets

Applying exterior paint to kitchen cabinets has many advantages and disadvantages. So, in the points below, we’ll be taking you through them to help you decide whether this makeover approach is worth it.

Let’s start from the most obvious advantage, applying exterior paint to your kitchen cabinets is far cheaper than replacing them with brand new ones, it’s also pretty simple.

Additionally, the exterior paint has a resilient finish, what this means is, it’s long-lasting and it’s resistant to wear and tear.

The last but not the least advantage of applying exterior paint on kitchen cabinets is that it’s cleanable, so if grease or dirt gets on it, you can easily scrub it down with cleaning agents.

Now to the disadvantages, exterior paint emits toxic fumes which are not safe to inhale, these fumes can also affect food items and condiments negatively.

 Exterior paint also tends to discolor over time, in areas or spaces with low lighting discoloration takes place quite fast.

Lastly, exterior paint takes a considerable amount of time to dry, you’d most likely have to wait a couple of days for it to fully cure which can be frustrating if you want to make use of your kitchen immediately.

Here’s a summary of the advantages and disadvantages outlined above,


  • Cheap and easy makeover approach
  • Possesses a resilient finish
  • Easy to clean and maintain


  • Emits toxic fumes
  • Paint discolors overtime
  • Takes a long time to dry

Other Alternatives for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Interior paint is undoubtedly the best option for painting your kitchen cabinets, it might not last as long as exterior paint but it is much safer; it emits less toxic fumes and consists of milder chemicals.   

You can paint your kitchen cabinets with the following types of interior paint, alkyd paint, latex paint, or acrylic enamel paint, these are more suitable for kitchen cabinetry.

If you’re working with a tight budget, consider looking through the paint discount section, here you’ll find discontinued paints and mistaken returns at slashed prices.

Large hardware stores usually have this section overstocked with more interior paints than exterior paints.

Another thing you should also give high priority is the type of paint finish you use on your cabinets, there are three types and you’ll find all you need to know about them below.

1. Gloss Paint Finish:

This type of paint finish will give your kitchen cabinets a super shiny appearance. It contains a lot of binders and resins which will make the paint job super durable and scratch-proof.

A glossy paint finish is just what you need on a cabinet painted with a bold color or one in an ultra-modern kitchen.

2. Semi-Gloss Paint Finish:

This paint finish is widely preferred on kitchen cabinetry to a gloss paint finish. It provides a moderate level of sheen to any surface it is applied to and lasts for a pretty long time.

Applying a semi-gloss paint finish to your kitchen cabinets will enable you to wash or easily maintain your cabinets.

3. Flat Finish Paint or Eggshell Paint:

Avoid using this type of paint finish on your cabinets. Flat finish paint or eggshell paint isn’t washable and is not resistant to wear and tear.

Kitchen cabinets coated with this paint finish are super hard to maintain and would need to be repainted frequently.

What Do Professionals Use to Paint Cabinets?

A lot of professionals prefer to use latex paint on kitchen cabinets because it dries faster and it’s washable. Latex paint also emits lower levels of volatile organic compounds, making it perfect for indoor use.

Here are some tips that’d help ensure that you paint your kitchen cabinets like a pro,

  • If you’re working with laminate cabinets make use of laminate-specific paint and primers and gently sand the surface of your cabinet before and after priming.
  • Use a paint roller with a 1/4-inch nap, for easy and even application on a kitchen cabinet with flat doors.
  • Avoid using paint brushes with natural bristles, if you’re using latex paint, use brushes with synthetic bristles instead.
  • Kitchen cabinets made of MDF are super porous around the edges, so if you’re working on this type of cabinet make sure you take extra steps to seal up the edges.
  • Repair all chips, loose edges, and cracks, with wood glue before sanding your cabinets’ surface and painting.
  • If your kitchen cabinet has a paneled surface, use a paintbrush to ensure that your paint job is thorough and even.
  • Use a razor blade to gently remove dried paint from a glass-front cabinet.
  • Take out all the hardware on your cabinet before applying paint. If you plan on changing your kitchen cabinet’s hardware and making new holes, drill them in before prepping your cabinets’ surface and painting.

Final Thoughts

Painting your kitchen cabinets is one of the things you can do when embarking on a kitchen makeover on a tight budget.

It’s super straightforward and can have a transformative effect if you pick the right colors.

It’s also a renter-friendly way to make desirable changes to your living space without breaching your tenancy agreement.

We hope we’ve been able to provide a concise guide on how to paint your kitchen cabinets and trust that you’ll do a great job whenever you decide to embark on this DIY project.