So you got yourself a handy curb-alert or yard sale quality mini fridge for a steal! But it looks like it has spent the better part of the last 2 decades in Uncle Frank's basement... No sweat! Let's clean that thing up and put a little class on it with some high-quality* woodgrain film!
In this Instructable, I'll go through the steps and supplies necessary to clean, disassemble and refinish with some faux woodgrain vinyl.
*quality is subjective. But I think it looks really nice. So does Grandma.
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
Step 1: Tools, Materials, Supplies
The meat and potatoes here is the application of the woodgrain film, but we will need to disassemble the fridge to make it a little easier to wrap the body and the door. The following are the tools and supplies we will need to complete this garage sale overhaul.
- Screwdriver or Socket Set (depending on door mounts)
- Vinyl Squeegee
- X-Acto Knife
- Heatgun (for stubborn labels or badges)
- Mini Fridge (or anything else you'd like to look classy)
- Woodgrain shelf liner paper (i.e. Con-tact Paper)
Step 2: Clean-up and Disassembly
Sometimes with a good find, you get what you pay for. Sure it works, but it smells like Aunt Edna's famous* tuna salad began to start its own ecosystem inside here. Time to disinfect and clean! Simple enough, depending on the type of dirt and grim you're dealing with, start scrubbing!
My fridge wasn't too bad, so a good wipe down with clorox wipes top to bottom, inside and out, did the trick. From there, it's just a matter of taking the door off. The nice thing about small refrigerators like this (and most all with single swing doors) is that they're designed to change the door swing as necessary. This means you can make it swing either left-handed or right-handed just by swapping the mount to the other side.
Start by popping the top cover off the hinge. You should see 2-3 bolts holding the bracket down. Mine were 5/16" but also slotted for a Phillips head screwdriver. Take these out, open the door 90* and lift! It is resting on a post on the bottom, and should lift right off with a wiggle and a little effort.
On the opposite side, there is a small cover plate, covers the holes one would use to switch the door swing. Pop that off as well.
With the door and cover plates removed, you'll no doubt find more grit and grime. Grab another wipe and clean some more. My specimen still had the "LOOK AT THESE COOL FEATURES!!!" sticker on the front, as well as the brand badge. Yours might have a sweet White Snake Tour sticker stuck to it.
With any luck, they'll peel away easily. The badge should come right off with a little heat from the heatgun. Stickers and labels that were originally designed to peel right away, over time become more permanent and will take a little elbow grease and adhesive remover to get them off. Goo-Gone and heat are your friends here.
Once you have all the grime and residue is gone, give it all a final wipe down with some rubbing alcohol to remove all chemicals left behind from cleaning. (Goo-gone and similar residue will prevent the wrap from sticking)
*Fame is a subjective term, infamous perhaps...
Step 3: Applying the Woodgrain
I keep referring to this woodgrain, but really it's just shelf liner paper. It comes in all sorts of finishes: marble, granite, cork, woods of all varieties, ugly, pretty, you name it. I got mine from a local store for about $2.95+tax for an 18" x 20' roll. Plenty to do a fridge of this stature.
The nice thing about this material is that it is repositionable. Very forgiving.
First, measure out a length for the door and cut it off. Remove the backer paper and start by lining it up with the trim on the door. Grab your squeegee and work your way from the center down, and then out to each side. If it gets a bubble or wrinkle, lift it up and give it another go. I've provided you a couple of lovely time-lapses of the process.
Once the door face is done, flip it over to wrap the edges. These fridges all have the gasket on the door, making it a great place to tuck the edge of the film under to keep it nice and tidy.
Set the door aside and get started on the body. Depending on your the size of your material and the size of your fridge, you may be forced to use multiple pieces. You'll need to plan the seams where they'll be the least visible and proceed from there. For mine, the back will be hidden, so I chose to have the seam wrap around the back edge of the entire fridge, keeping the front in a single piece.
The body also includes the visible area where the door shuts, so be sure to leave enough overhang to wrap around the front (and the back) and have a nice finish all the way around.
Take your time, squeegee with purpose from the middle outward, and wield your exacto knife with extreme precision and care.
Once you've wrapped the body, take care to cut and wrap the edges.Make a straight cut in the corner of the overhang and wrap the sides onto the lip. Follow by wrapping the top down for a nice finish. If there are seams, trace them with the exacto knife to clean up edges and corners as well.
Now this thing is looking like the classy person that owns it! Rich Mahogany... Very important.
Step 4: Final Trimming and Reassembly
All that's left now is to put this piece of art back together and get it cooling some delicious beverages.
First, lets cut out the holes for the bolts and mount. I like to cut an X in them with the exacto then let the blade follow the opening to cut it out. It doesn't have to be super neat, it'll be covered anyway. Do this for the opposite side for the hole cover if you want to retain the option to change the swing in the future.
Follow the disassembly in reverse. Sit the door bottom back onto the pivot post and swing it closed. Position the top bracket into place and reinstall the bolts. Replace the hinge cover as well as the hole cover on the opposite side. Mine was pretty brittle and fell apart, so I just tossed it and left the holes covered.
Double check your edges to make sure they're nice and tidy and then stand back and admire your handy work! Man that's beautiful. Would look lovely in your study, library, etc.
Fill it with a 6 pack of b.. sodas... candy bars in the freezer... Anything you want to keep cool. You're ready to be refreshed in style!
Step 5: Final Thoughts
So you've made it this far. I'm proud of you. Heck, I'm proud of me. We took a dirty, disgusting old mini fridge and made it new and beautiful! Truth be told... this isn't my first rodeo. You'll see in the pictures above the first fridge I refinished in lovely woodgrain, which paired well with it's almond trim color. It blends seamlessly into my office, and the latest in beautiful "Antique Birch" (really? that's what the labelled said...) will no doubt make it's new home better for having it.
Don't stop at mini fridges, you can put this stuff on anything, and remove it just as easily. It's not the most durable surface, but for finishes that don't see much action, it's perfect.
If you tackle this, I'd love to see your results, post them in the comments, Thanks!
Participated in the