Retro kitchen appliances are sought after by vintage enthusiasts. Vintage refrigerators are so durably constructed that many are still in working order. The internal parts may outlast the exterior factory finish. Repair surface damage to the exterior and the interior of the refrigerator without special skills. Many replacement parts can be obtained for various vintage models. Seek professional services for electrical repair of the refrigerator to avoid risk of electrocution.
Clean the refrigerator with hot, soapy water. Remove racks, crisper drawers and removable parts. Dry thoroughly.
Move the refrigerator onto a dust sheet in a ventilated area. Put on a protective face mask and gloves.
Spray rust remover onto rust. Scrub away the rust with steel wool. Clean the residue with soap and water. Dry thoroughly.
Fill holes or dents with automotive body repair putty. Smooth while wet with a broad knife or spoon back. Auto putty is sold under many brand names and is available at automotive stores. Allow the putty to dry.
Sand surfaces with 120-grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block until smooth. The same steps must be completed for the interior as well as the exterior if repairing the inside. Many interiors only require touch ups to chips, whereas the exterior requires full repair and restoration.
Wipe the sanded surfaces with a soapy sponge, followed by a clear water rinse with a clean sponge. Dry thoroughly.
Tape the rubber gasket (if you're retaining it) so it is completely covered with masking tape. Cover the interior door with newspaper. Tape securely. Cover the inside opening with newspaper and tape. Cover metal logo pieces or designs on the door or elsewhere with tape. Leave the door open when priming and painting.
Spray surfaces to be painted with metal primer. According to Ask the Builder, the primer must indicate rust inhibiting properties and be oil-based. Allow the primer to dry.
Spray the exterior with paint intended for outdoors and metal use. Allow the base coat to dry. Repeat with one or two additional coats. Each coat must dry before the next is applied. Allow paint to dry.
Spray with a clear coat. Allow the paint to dry.
Fill cracks in the rubber gasket around the door with silicone caulk. Extensive damage to gaskets cannot be repaired and these gaskets should be replaced. Many online services, as well as manufacturers of vintage refrigerators, offer replacement parts. You will need the appliance serial number.
Paint chips, cracks and other minor damage to the interior finish (or to the steel drawers) with white enamel paint. Allow the paint to dry. Repeat with as many coats necessary to create a solid finish. Paint the repair with clear enamel paint.
Sand discoloured metal racks with steel wool. Apply rust remover and remove rust with steel wool. Clean thoroughly. Spray a rust inhibiting metal primer onto the rack. Allow primer to dry. Spray the rack the appropriate colour paint intended for metal and outdoor use. The moisture and temperatures of the refrigerator mandate outdoor paint.
Tighten hinges or screws on icebox doors or condiment shelves.
Handles, internal light switches, and door locking mechanisms usually require the door to be disassembled. Unless you have electrician or appliance manufacturing skills, these tasks should be left to professional services.
Vintage paint used on refrigerators may contain lead. Never repair a refrigerator indoors.