If you are renovating your home or fixing up your new place, you are probably focused on the big tasks, such as painting the walls and taking care of the floors. If so, you most likely lack both the time and money to deal with small issues (replacing light switches, for example), as other things are more pressing.

As small as light switches might appear, they can be quite an eyesore if they look rusty and old against a freshly painted wall or a redecorated room. Luckily, there is an inexpensive and effective way of dealing with old light switches that won’t take up all your time.

Instead of buying new ones and replacing what you already have, you can simply repaint them. Below, you will find out whether it is safe to do so and how you can make the best out of it.

Is It Safe to Paint Over Old Light Switches?

As with anything that has to do with electricity, painting light switches is a job that you should approach carefully and delicately. Though many people think it is not safe to paint light switches, if you ensure you are protected, you can indeed do it.

Before you begin with your task, you should turn off the electricity for the switch you are working on. That way, you can be sure you are fully safe and can touch everything without the possibility of getting electrocuted.

You can remove the switch plate and paint it that way, or do it on the wall itself. If you remove it, you will have a little bit more work, but you will also be completely safe. If you remove the plate, you will also protect the wall and your floor from any paint that might drip as you work. The plates will also dry faster.

In comparison to power sockets, which are more dangerous to paint, light switches are, thus, safe. As long as you follow the steps above, you will be just fine.

What You Can Use to Paint Light Switches

Most people use regular paint for their old light switches, and it is a good choice. You can also use spray paint, as the results will be pretty much the same. Spray paint is a bit less messy and will be done quicker. However, in the end, it all just depends on your preferences and what you have ready at hand at a given moment.

When it comes to color, it is all up to you and the walls you want to match the switches to. As long as the paint is suitable for plastic, you can pick any paint type and shade you like.

Since most light switch plates are made of plastic, starting with a coat or two of primer is the best way to go. The primer will ensure that the paint sticks to the plastic and creates a smooth and even surface. Any primer for plastic will do, but the Rust-Oleum Plastic Primer is a fantastic choice. It is affordable but will do the job nicely.

See also: How to Thin Rust-Oleum Paint for Spraying

Everything You Need for Painting Your Light Switches

Now, you know it is fully safe to paint your light switches if you take the necessary precautions. With that out of the way, here is a list of items you should get before you begin painting. These are the supplies you will need to perform this job safely:

  • Screwdriver
  • Water, soap, dishcloth
  • Etch primer for plastic
  • Any paint of your choice
  • A paintbrush
  • Sandpaper 
  • Anything you can use to cover up the area you are painting on

Painting Light Switches: A Step-By-Step Guide

1. Removing the Plates

As mentioned above, it is best to remove the switch plates from the wall before you begin painting them. You can use a screwdriver to remove them, and you’ll need just a minute or so (you can see how to remove the wires safely here). Once the plate is off the wall, you are ready for step two.

If you feel unsafe removing the switches even with the electricity off, you can get an electrician to help you. They can put them back up after you are done painting them as well.

2. Cleaning the Switch

This step is one that most people unintentionally skip, even though it is rather important. Cleaning the plate is vital so that the primer and paint can stick to the plastic well so that no residue and dirt are in the way.

Take a mild soap and some warm water and use a dishcloth to clean the plates thoroughly. Scrub if a speck of dirt is particularly stubborn, but be careful not to damage the plastic.

Once the switches are clean, leave them to dry. It is essential that they dry completely before you move on to step three and to painting in general. To ensure that, leave them be for at least half an hour. In the meantime, you can prepare the painting area and get all the supplies out so that they are within your reach.

3. Priming

Priming is a vital step in any painting process. However, it is especially important when dealing with plastic. Plastic is usually smooth, and paint does not stick to it well. A simple etch primer can change that in just a few minutes and ensure your switches have a durable coat of paint on top of them.

Take the primer and spray a light coat over the switch plates. Wait until it dries completely. You can touch it to check, but leaving it for about half an hour should be more than enough.

When it is dry, apply another light coat of the primer to ensure the switch is fully covered. When that dries as well, you will be ready to finally start painting.

4. Painting

You should start by preparing the painting area. Make sure you put old newspapers or cardboard underneath the sockets to protect your table or floor. As long as it is something you don’t need and can throw away later, it will work for protection. You can also wear gloves to ensure your hands stay clean from the paint.

This step will differ slightly based on what you are using for your switches: spray paint or regular paint. If you are using spray paint, simply spray them thoroughly and leave them to dry.

If you are using a paintbrush and regular paint, it is best to apply a lot of smaller and thinner coats instead of a long and thick one. That will ensure you cover every inch and that the paint is much more durable.

You can choose how many times you will paint each switch. Though it is always up to you and how much paint you are working with, it is best to do either two or three coats. If you do less, the old color might still be visible. If you do more, the switches might appear tacky or lumpy, and you don’t want that.

It is important that you let the paint dry completely between each coat. In addition, you should sand the switches lightly with a bit of fine sandpaper between each layer of paint. Doing so will give the switches a natural look and help the paint stick easier. Sand the switches after you are done as well to remove any bumps or uneven surfaces.

5. The Drying Process

Now, it is obvious that anything you paint has to dry before you can put it up or use it. However, that is especially important when it comes to light switches, power sockets, or anything else that is connected to electricity.

As strange as it may seem, your light switches will need quite a bit of time to dry off completely. And in this case, a bit of time means around three weeks. If you check on the switches sooner than that, you will notice that the finish is still soft, and touching it could ruin it. What’s more, it would be dangerous to connect the switch to electricity in such a state.

You will know that the switch is completely dry when you touch it, and the paint is solid and smooth underneath your fingers. You will not be able to make a dent in it or ruin the smoothness in any way, especially not by simply touching it. Once that is the case, you can put the switch back onto the wall.

6. Placing the Switches Back Up

You can do this by yourself or contact an electrician to help you attach everything once again. This process is just the reverse of step one where you removed the switch. And just like that, you’ll have shiny new switches without spending a fortune on replacing them!

To Sum Up

As you have read, the question of whether it is safe to paint over your old light switches finally has an answer. If you turn off the electricity and follow all safety instructions, you can complete this task rather quickly and save up a lot of money in the process. Hopefully, this article gave you an insight into all the precautions you need to take to make this job safe, efficient, and successful.

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