Can You Paint Electrical Outlets Safely and Effectively?

Can you paint electrical outlets? The outlets themselves should never be painted. The covers is another question and we will get into that. It’s a question that might surprise some people.  After all, we paint walls, trim, even ceilings. But those plastic outlet covers always seem to stick out like sore thumbs against freshly painted walls. Are you stuck with bright white outlet covers forever or can you paint them?

As an electrician in Bucks County and surrounding areas, we do not recommend painting these, but follow our article for more information.

A little spray paint seems like such a simple fix. Then—voila—your outlets will seamlessly match your decor. But I’ve been in the home improvement game a long time, and I’m here to tell you it’s a bit more nuanced. While painting outlet covers is common practice, safety and longevity are important things to consider.

Painting Outlet Covers: The Dos and Don’ts

Before we talk about color matching, let’s get one thing straight—painting the actual outlet (where you plug things in) is a big no-no. Seriously, don’t do it. You don’t want to mess with live wires. I’ve learned firsthand the importance of electrical safety.

I once helped a friend renovate his dining room. He had this grand idea to paint his outlets black to match his accent wall, figuring it would blend in. I had to stop him right there and remind him that getting paint inside those tiny slots could create some dangerous loose connections. This could lead to overheating and even electrical fires, which is not a risk worth taking for a little aesthetic upgrade.

However, I’m all for making your home look amazing. So, replacing those basic white wall plates with a decorative substitute or painting them yourself is perfectly okay. But how do you do it right?

The Right Way to Paint Your Outlet Covers

You don’t want chipped paint or a messy finish on your new outlet covers. I’ve painted my fair share over the years and trust me, a little prep work goes a long way. I’ve also hired expert painters to do some work around my house since I am not a huge fan of painting outlet covers.

Follow these steps for painting outlet covers to achieve a professional look that lasts:

  1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need outlet covers, sandpaper (at least 240 grit), a sanding sponge (works wonders on those curves.), spray paint in your desired color, painter’s tape, a paintbrush, and a drop cloth or newspaper.
  2. Prep your work area. Protect your work surface with a drop cloth or newspaper. Good ventilation is also crucial when working with spray paint, so open some windows.
  3. Clean the covers. Give those covers a good scrub with soap and water to remove any dust, dirt, or grease. This will help the paint adhere properly.
  4. Sand and prime (if needed). Lightly sand the covers for better paint adhesion, especially if they’re glossy. If you’re working with plastic covers, consider using an etch primer for plastic. This primer is specifically designed for plastic and helps create a surface the paint can grip onto.
  5. Tape off any areas you don’t want to paint. This is especially crucial for screw holes. Use painter’s tape for precise coverage.
  6. Apply thin, even coats of spray paint. Remember, multiple light coats are always better than one heavy coat, which is more likely to drip or crack. Let each layer dry completely before moving to the next.
  7. Allow ample drying time. Once you’ve achieved your desired coverage, let the paint cure completely. Patience is key here.

Alternatives to Painting Your Existing Outlet Covers

So we’ve established that, yes, you can paint those outlet covers, and we’ve covered the steps. But what if painting feels like too much effort? Good news, there are easier alternatives out there. You can achieve that cohesive look without having to lift a paintbrush.

Paintable Outlet Covers

These things are a game-changer. Paintable outlet covers are specifically designed to be painted. They are usually made from a material that easily accepts paint, which means no more sanding, no worrying about that glossy finish, and no paint peeling off over time.

When I added shiplap to my kitchen island, those standard white outlets stood out like sore thumbs against the new design. Paintable outlet covers were the answer. I was able to paint them the exact shade of white as the shiplap, and now they blend right in. It makes such a big difference, but no one ever realizes it’s just the outlet covers.

They’re incredibly simple to work with. Just prime and paint like you would with any other surface. They come in all the standard sizes too, so you’re sure to find something that fits.

Decorative Outlet Covers

Don’t want to deal with paint? Not to worry, there are so many decorative outlet cover options on the market these days. This is an excellent alternative to consider if you’re looking to make a design statement, or simply don’t feel confident wielding a paintbrush.

You can find them in a range of:

  • Materials, including metal, wood, and even leather.
  • Colors to complement any decor.
  • Finishes from sleek matte to modern brushed nickel.

Personally, I like these from Legrand because they have a screwless design for a clean, modern aesthetic. However, options are virtually limitless. You can find anything to fit your style.

What Paint Should You Use On Outlet Covers?

Now, if you decide that painting is the way to go, selecting the right type of paint is crucial. Not recommended to paint your outlet covers. Just buy new ones.

I recently used this oil-based primer on a project with excellent results, as oil-based primers offer great adhesion and durability. Oil-based primers are ideal if your cover is non-porous, providing a good base for the paint.

When it comes to paint, you’ll want to use something that will hold up to frequent use and cleaning. I recommend:

  • Spray paint with a satin or semi-gloss finish.

Avoid high-gloss paints, which can highlight imperfections.

Some questions we get from homeowners when we do electrical services in Quakertown and surrounding area.

Is it Against Code to Paint Electrical Outlets?

While we’ve covered painting the covers themselves, painting the actual electrical outlets is a big no-no. This is against fire codes in many areas due to the safety risks involved with paint coming into contact with electrical components.

What Paint Do You Use on Outlet Covers?

When it comes to choosing your paint, stick to something durable that will withstand frequent use. I always use spray paint on outlet covers. A satin or semi-gloss finish will offer the best results and easy cleaning. Make sure the covers are paintable before you attempt to do this. Again not recommended.

So, can you paint electrical outlets? It’s not quite as simple as a yes or no answer. You can definitely refresh the look of your outlets with paint. However, it’s best to paint outlet covers and avoid painting those electrical outlets where you plug in your devices. I’ve always believed that an informed homeowner is a safe and happy homeowner.