Medicine Cabinets: Repair Toothbrush Water Damage & Prevent Its Return

Matthew Gingerella
by Matthew Gingerella
You know that patch of peeled paint, exposed rusting metal, muck, and bacteria growth that is located below the toothbrush holder in the medicine cabinet?...Well that’s what I am repairing in my daughter’s bathroom in this project case study.
It was a bit of work, but the results were excellent and my daughter loves it - so I’m a happy daddy. I’ve included plenty of photos to help you follow along.
STEP-1: Sand Through the Muck & Rust
a. I started out overly optimistic regarding this sanding step (pic-1). I armed myself with sheets of sand paper (wet or dry) and a sanding sponge. Luckily, it only took about 5-10 minutes for me to recognize that was a mistake and to come to my senses.
Pic-1. Started out manually sanding.
b. I broke out the power vibrating sander and ground through the paint and metal with vigor (pic-2). It still took quite a while to sand the rust damage out of the metal surface.
Pic-2. Yep - a power-sander was the way to go
c. Manually sanding the cabinets sliding mirror channels was arduous and gross (pic-3).
Pic-3. Manually sanding gross door channels.
d. In fact, at one spot in the channel the rust had created a raised bump. It took a metal file and elbow grease to remove the defect (pic-4)
Pic-4. Metal filing a raised bump of rust.
e. Although I was able to use the power sander on the back and top surfaces of the cabinet, the sides required more manual sanding (pic-5). The old paint needed to be roughed-up to be ready for applying primer.
Pic-5. Used sanding sponge to get the sides.
STEP-2: Prepare Cabinet for Primer Coat

a. I thoroughly rinsed and dried all interior cabinet surfaces, especially the mirror channels.

b. The cabinet was taped off with newspaper and masking tape to protect the surrounding areas that I didn’t want to get primer on.

STEP-3: Spray on Primer Coat

a. I chose to apply a primer coat to fill in the rust-damaged metal areas, provide some rust protection and as an adherence layer for final coat of paint.

b. For ventilation, I opened the bathroom window and used a stand-up fan. I had forgotten how stinky spray painting was – even with ventilation. I had to put on a painter’s respirator to stay in the room.

c. I applied one coat of grey Rustoleum ™ Primer (pic-6). Placed the fan in the room to blow the fumes out of the window and closed the door. Since that part of the house still stunk like paint, I used Fabreze ™ Spray to knock the odor down. It helped.

d. Note that Primer only creates a semi-smooth surface. To do a really good paint job, I would have had to wet sand all of the primered surfaces. Since I was in a hurry, I decided to live with semi-smooth results.

e. I let the primer coat dry overnight.
Pic-6. Med Cabinet after Grey Primer coat.
STEP-4: Spray on Final Paint Coat

a. I wiped all the primered surfaces down with a damp rag to remove dust and loose primer particles, then dried the surfaces.

b. I chose Rustoleum ™ Metal Spray Paint – Gloss White for the final coat,

c. Using the same ventilation and safety methods in STEP-3, I applied the white paint heavily to smooth out the semi-smooth primer surface (pic-7).
Pic-7. After application of White Paint.
It came out smooth enough for a quick job and the damaged metal was undetectable (pic-8).

d. I let the paint dry for about 6-hours.
Pic-8. Damaged metal is now undetectable.
Pic-10. Finished results - Toothbrush Ready!
Project complete, daughter and daddy are happy.
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Stefanie Stefanie on Jul 06, 2021

    Can I use appliance paint instead of the rustoleum?

Join the conversation
2 of 11 comments
  • Eleanor Eleanor on Mar 21, 2015
    It is a lot of work. Thank you so much for sharing all the steps to cleaning the cabinet. Good job.
  • Matthew Gingerella Matthew Gingerella on Mar 21, 2015
    Thank you @Eleanor, its a bit more work to do it right the first time - but worth it. Take care, Matthew