It’s time to paint your walls. You get your old clothes ready, you move all the furniture, and you cover the floor with newspapers. The only remaining thing on the walls is the electrical outlets, and you can’t help but wonder if it’s possible to paint them in a matching color.

Painting electrical outlets is possible, but it’s generally not recommended. If paint gets into the receptacle, it can cause a short-circuit and become a dangerous fire hazard. If you insist on painting the electrical outlets, stick to painting the outlet covers only. Alternatively, buy new outlets.

This article will explain how to paint electrical outlets safely, what precautions you should take, and a few alternatives to painting outlets. Also, I’ll touch on why painting the receptacles is dangerous.

Can You Paint Electrical Outlets?

You can paint electrical outlets, but only if you do it safely. You should never paint the socket. Only paint the outlet cover if you want to change the look of your electrical outlet. The best alternative is to replace the complete outlet altogether if you wish to have colored outlets.

The problem with painting outlets is that most types of paint are electrically conductive. They allow electricity to pass through it, which can cause a short circuit.

Essentially, the paint will cause whatever electrical device you plugged into the outlet to disconnect and connect hundreds of times every minute.

If you already have a painted electrical outlet and notice that your phone charger keeps turning on and off, stop using it immediately. It’s only a matter of time when the outlet catches on fire.

If you want to paint your outlet, make sure to use non-conductive paint. Also, don’t paint the receptacle. Don’t even touch it with your paintbrush.

Stick to painting the outlet cover, which is the part that you can see even when something is plugged in.

That way, you get the looks of a new outlet without the risk of burning your house down.

Let’s now go over how you can paint your electrical outlets.

How to Paint Electrical Outlets

As I already explained earlier, you should stick to painting the electrical outlet cover only. Also, you must unscrew it from the wall and then paint it.

Masking it off with tape won’t cut it. Even a single drop of paint in the socket is enough to cause a short.

As far as the paint is concerned, you can use any non-conductive type of paint.

Spray paint is the easiest to apply and find. Avoid metallic, pearlescent, and other types of paint that contain tiny flakes of metal.

1. Remove the Outlet Cover

The first thing you should do is remove the outlet cover. That’s the thing you’re going to paint.

Most outlet covers are held by a couple of slotted or flathead screws that you can remove in seconds.

Once the screws are out, pop the outlet cover using a sharp plastic tool, such as a plastic knife or guitar pick.

If your outlet doesn’t have any visible screws, it’s probably held by tabs. Again, use something non-conductive and thin to pop the tabs.

I already said it once, but I’ll repeat it here again:

This step isn’t optional. You must remove the outlet cover if you want to paint it. Masking the socket off won’t cut it.

Once you remove the outlet cover, put it on a piece of cardboard or something else you don’t mind throwing away.

2. Clean and Prepare the Outlet Cover

If you want your paint to stick to plastic, you must clean it first.

Since the outlet cover is just ordinary plastic, it’s fine to clean it with water. You can even scrub it using dish soap if it’s extremely dirty and sticky.

Before you do anything else, allow the outlet cover to dry completely. Put it out in the sun to accelerate the process.

This is now optional, but you can use a piece of sandpaper to roughen up the surface. It’ll allow your paint to stick better.

You don’t need to do this because you’ll be using primer, which plays the same role.

3. Apply a Primer Coat

A primer, also known as an undercoat, is the first layer you apply to the electrical outlet cover.

You must use a primer whenever you paint plastic. Glossy plastic is notoriously difficult to paint because everything will peel off.

But a primer coat will stick to the surface and will prevent flaking in the future.

To apply your primer coat, do the following:

  1. Lay your outlet cover on a flat surface.
  2. Use long and even strokes to cover the whole thing. Always go beyond the edge of the outlet cover to get an even coat.
  3. Let the primer dry completely before you apply paint.

4. Paint the Outlet Cover

It’s now time to paint the outlet cover. It doesn’t matter if you’re using spray paint, acrylic, or something else. The procedure is pretty much the same.

You’ll apply a thin, even coat over the whole outlet. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect from the get-go.

You’ll have to do at least two more coats to get it looking great. Allow each layer to dry completely before you apply the next one.

Otherwise, you’ll get an ugly mess.

Note that it may take up to 24 hours for some types of paint to dry. Check the label for more information.

5. Apply Varnish (Finish Coat)

Now that the outlet cover looks exactly how you want it, it’s time to protect it.

I learned a few days ago how important varnish is when I painted my old leather sneakers.

While you could theoretically skip the finish coat, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. The paint will flake off in just a matter of days. Especially if you use the outlet regularly.

You can use pretty much any varnish to finish your little DIY project.

I recommend the Krylon KO1305 Clear Coating from Amazon. You can use it on plastic and UV-resistant, which you need to prevent yellowing on white plastic.

Apply a thin layer of varnish the same way you applied the paint and primer.

Safest Methods of Changing the Color on Your Electrical Outlets

While you can paint an electrical outlet cover, it doesn’t come without risks. There’s always a small chance that the coating of paint causes problems.

If you’re ready to go through the trouble of removing, preparing, and painting the outlet cover, you might as well replace it with a new one.

It takes significantly less time, and it’s probably cheaper too. And you can never achieve the look of a factory finish with a can of spray paint.

More importantly, it won’t compromise your safety.

Let’s take a quick glance at a few viable options.

Replace Your Old Outlet Cover With a Colored One

Nearly all outlets in the US are of standard dimensions, so getting a new outlet cover isn’t difficult.

You can replace all the outlet covers in your home at once to save on costs by buying in bulk.

Any standard wall socket will fit through any outlet cover.

The only problem is the screw layout.

Some wall plates use a single screw in the middle. Others use one on the top and one on the bottom.

When you figure out what layout you have, your options are nearly endless. You can get outlet covers in pretty much any color.

The most popular one is the Leviton Duplex Receptacle Wallplate. You can add a nice accent to your wall by picking unconventional colors like red or ivory.

Get a Receptacle That Matches Your New Outlet Cover

I already mentioned that painting the receptacle is a horrible idea. The paint can cause problems whenever you plug something in. It’s a fire hazard.

But if you’re willing to go through the trouble of replacing your receptacles, you can have a colored socket.

You can either match the color with the one on your outlet cover or create a cool contrast. For example, white receptacles look phenomenal with red outlet covers.

The Leviton Duplex Receptacle matches perfectly with the Leviton covers mentioned above. They’re durable and feature a shutter mechanism to protect you if something like a needle gets stuck in the socket.

Install a Sleek Socket Outlet Cover

Here’s a creative alternative to colorful outlet covers. Instead of spending time to make the outlet look good, why not hide it altogether?

The Sleek Socket Outlet Cover does exactly that. It’s essentially a power strip that simultaneously hides your ugly socket with a sleek plastic cover.

Socket covers like these are great for minimalists. You can hide the power cord behind furniture, and your wall will have a cleaner look.

Why Painting Electrical Outlets Is Dangerous

When you paint your electrical outlet, the paint doesn’t allow electrical devices to make full contact inside the socket.

In turn, this causes the whole thing to overheat.

The electrical wires inside the socket will get extremely hot and melt the plastic. And that can cause the socket to burst into flames.

Even if your socket is fire and heat-resistant, it can still catch on fire in extreme situations. Even the paint on the outlet may begin to burn.

Is It Against the Code to Paint Electrical Outlets?

It’s against the National Electrical Code to paint electrical outlets. Paint is considered a foreign material, which can damage electrical equipment. If you do paint your electrical outlet, you may face a lawsuit.

The National Electrical Code, or NEC for short, is a US standard adopted by individual states.

It’s set in place to protect people from various hazards that emerge when dealing with electronics.

Painting your outlet breaks the code. In fact, paint is explicitly mentioned as a foreign material that can damage or contaminate electrical equipment.

For you, that means painting your electrical outlet is a breach of the NEC.

Can You Use Wall Paint on Electrical Outlets?

You can’t use wall paint on electrical outlets because it’ll damage the electronic parts inside. Wet wall paint can cause a short if you plug something into the outlet, which may cause the outlet to catch on fire or explode. Dry paint will cause overheating issues and is considered a fire hazard.

If you’re in the middle of painting your interior walls, don’t even think about painting over the socket.

It’s a horrible idea and very dangerous, but I’ve seen people do it nonetheless. But you should never do that if you don’t like fire hazards.

On the contrary, you should be especially careful when painting near the outlet.

You can remove the outlet cover and then use a precise brush to apply a very thin coat around the receptacles. Don’t allow a single drop of paint to end up on the socket itself.

Can You Paint an Outlet Cover Without Removing It?

You can’t paint an outlet cover without removing it first. If you do that, you’re risking paint getting into the receptacles, which can then turn into a fire hazard. It only takes a few seconds to remove the outlet cover from the wall, so it’s not worth the risk.

Before you ask, applying tape over the socket won’t protect it from paint. It can still seep into the socket as the outlet cover dries.

Most outlet covers are held in place with a couple of screws. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to remove it before painting.

Plus, it’s significantly easier to clean, prepare, and paint it when it’s off the wall. And removing it means you won’t get paint all over the wall either.

Final Thoughts

Painting electrical outlets is possible, but it’s a questionable practice. If paint gets into the socket, you’re breaking the National Electrical Code.

There’s a safe way to paint your outlet cover, but you can’t and should never paint the receptacles. The paint turns the socket into a dangerous fire hazard.

But instead of wasting your time, effort, and money painting the sockets, simply replace them with new ones instead. You can find outlets in dozens of colors nowadays.

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