Can You Paint Ikea Malm Dresser? [And How To]

The Malm dresser, with its sleek modern profile, is one of Ikea's most popular offerings. If you'd like to spruce yours up a bit, you may be considering painting it. But, its melamine laminate surface does not take paint well. So, how do you get a great-looking, long-lasting paint job on an Ikea Malm dresser? We've done the research, and we have the answers for you!    

To paint your Ikea Malm dresser, follow these steps:

  1. Disassemble the dresser
  2. Scuff-sand 
  3. De-gloss  
  4. Prime with bonding primer
  5. Paint with chalk or latex paint
  6. Allow the paint to cure 
  7. Seal with clear polyurethane or wax

In the remainder of this article, we'll describe each step in detail and explain which paints are best for Ikea furniture. We'll also discuss the differences between laminate and veneer finishes and how to tell them apart. And we'll reveal several hacks for making your Ikea furniture look more expensive. 

Room interior with grey chest of drawers near beige wall, Can You Paint Ikea Malm Dresser? [And How To]

How To Paint An Ikea Malm Dresser

1. Disassemble The Unit

If your Malm dresser is new, paint it before you assemble it. However, if it is already assembled, you should take it apart before painting it. This will take some time, but it allows you to thoroughly sand all the surfaces, a critical factor in getting the paint to adhere to the laminate surface.

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Young adult man hand using manual screwdriver and screwing black metal drawer handle

There is no need to disassemble the drawers, but if you've added knobs or handles, you should remove them before sanding and painting. Be careful as you disassemble and reassemble your dresser. The Malm is among Ikea's least expensive furniture lines, constructed of chipboard and melamine veneer. This makes it vulnerable to stripped screw holes and chipped veneer. 

Click here for 2-drawer Ikea Malm dresser on Amazon.

2. Scuff-Sand All Surfaces

sandpaper, Emery paper

Sanding is the most important step in the process of painting your Malm dresser. Without sanding, the nonporous laminate surface of the Malm will not absorb primer, and your paint job will quickly peel off.  So, it is necessary to scuff up the laminate sufficiently so that primer will adhere to it. Using a random-orbit sander with 120-grit sandpaper, scuff-sand all the surfaces of the dresser with broad, arcing strokes.

Click here for 5-inch orbital 120-grit sandpaper on Amazon.

3. Apply De-glosser

After sanding, consider de-glossing your dresser's laminate surfaces, as well. Removing some of the gloss from the laminate will help the primer bond to the surface and ultimately will keep your paint job from peeling off.

First, wipe all the laminate surfaces of your dresser clean with mineral spirits. Allow them to dry, and then apply de-glosser as indicated on its label. After de-glossing, wipe the dresser's surfaces with mineral spirits and allow them to fully dry before moving on to the next step. 

Click here for de-glosser on Amazon.

4. Prime All Surfaces

Select a primer specifically designed for use on laminates: Zinsser B-I-N adheres well to laminate and provides a strong bond between the surface and the paint. Prime the surfaces you intend to paint, including the edges. To ensure a smooth coat of primer without visible brushstrokes, use a mini-roller. After the primer has dried, sand it lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.

Click here for Zinsser B-I-N primer on Amazon.

5. Paint

painting a dresser with dark coating after white coating

Chalk paint and water-based latex are the best types of paint to use on laminate furniture like the Malm dresser; we provide a detailed description of the pros and cons of each type below. Whichever paint you choose, you will get the smoothest results if you apply it with a small paint spray gun or a mini-roller. Avoid using a paintbrush, as the brushstrokes will show in your finished product. You will need to apply multiple coats to achieve a rich, smooth finished color. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next -- if a layer of paint remains even slightly damp, your paint job will be vulnerable to peeling. 

Click here for mini-roller set on Amazon.

6. Allow Paint To Cure

After all the coats of paint are applied, allow the surfaces to cure completely according to the paint manufacturer's specifications. This is particularly critical for laminated furniture such as the Malm because the paint will peel and chip if the furniture is used before it is entirely dry. You can expedite the process of curing if you keep your wet-painted Malm dresser in a warm area with good airflow throughout the curing process.

7. Apply Clear Sealer Or Wax

To fully protect your new paint job, apply a clear sealer after the paint has cured. If you've used latex paint, your best choice for a sealer is the clear, water-based Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish. Apply two to three coats, allowing each to dry thoroughly. Sand lightly between each coat, and carefully wipe away all dust before applying the next coat.

Click here for Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish on Amazon.

If, on the other hand, you've chosen to use chalk paint on your dresser, you can seal it either with polycrylic finish or with a wax sealer designed specifically for chalk paint. The wax sealer is highly recommended if you want your dresser to have a distressed or antique appearance. 

Click here for finishing wax on Amazon.

How Can You Tell If Your Furniture Is Laminate Or Veneer?

Modern cupboard with drawers, metal handle

Laminate and veneer are two common materials used to provide a finished surface on inexpensive furniture. Laminate is composed of plastic and typically comes in white, black, or faux-wood-grain colors. Veneer, by contrast, consists of a very thin sheet of hardwood applied to a core made of plywood or MDF. Because it is real wood, veneer has a grain; it can be painted, stained, or clear-coated the same way as solid wood furniture. Laminate, on the other hand, is identifiable by its shiny appearance; it cannot be stained, and can be painted only using the multi-step process detailed earlier in this article. 

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Ikea Furniture?

The best types of paint for Ikea's laminate furniture are chalk paint and water-based latex. Avoid oil-based paints, as they don't adhere well to laminate, even after priming. 

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is the best choice if you'd like your furniture to have a distressed or antique appearance or if you'd like to blend it with white to achieve lighter hues. It blends well and is easy to thin for use in a paint sprayer. Although chalk paint is designed to be used on wood furniture without sanding or priming, this is not true for laminate surfaces: sand, degloss, and prime your Ikea furniture as described above before applying chalk paint. After the paint has dried, apply chalk paint wax if you want a matte finish or clear polycrylic finish if you'd like your furniture to look glossy.   

Click here for chalk paint kit on Amazon.

Water-Based Paint

For a modern, sleek finish, use water-based latex paint in eggshell or gloss sheen. Darker colors may require three or more coats to achieve a rich, deep hue; consider having your primer tinted gray to improve the coverage of each coat. No matter what color you choose, use a sprayer or a mini-roller, rather than a paintbrush, to get a smooth finish. After the paint has fully cured, apply two coats of clear polycrylic to protect the paint job and provide a glossy finish. 

Can You Paint Over Already-Painted Ikea Furniture?

If you want to change up the look of your Ikea furniture, it is possible to put a new coat of paint over an existing paint job. Remember that the new coat of paint will adhere to the older coat -- so, if the original paint is flaking or peeling, you should carefully sand off all the loose portions before applying the new paint job. Be careful not to build up too many coats of paint on your Ikea furniture, though: like any other furniture, multiple coatings of paint can result in a lumpy, thick texture.  

How Can You Make Ikea Furniture Look More Expensive?

Add Knobs Or Drawer Pulls

A simple way to dress up your Ikea furniture is to add knobs or drawer pulls to cabinets, dressers, and nightstands. This easy, inexpensive DIY project allows you to add a touch of style to complement the decor in your room. 

Install Interesting Legs

Add legs to an Ikea bookshelf, dresser, or entertainment center. Switch out the Ikea-provided legs on a sofa or armchair with more expensive-looking ones. This is another simple, cheap hack that can integrate your Ikea furniture with the rest of your decor and make it look more upscale. 

Spray Paint Metal Parts

Many Ikea items -- bar carts, floating shelves, and others -- come with chrome parts. You can spruce up their appearance by spray-painting the chrome in gold or brass.  

Add Crown Molding

Installing crown molding atop your Ikea bookshelf, wardrobe, or entertainment center adds a classic, custom-made look. This is a more difficult DIY project than others identified here, but well worth the extra effort! 

Add Metal Embellishments

Embellish the corners of coffee tables, dresser tops, or cabinet doors with brass fittings for an antique look. Or go shabby chic by riveting squares of reclaimed tin to the doors of an entertainment center. Metal embellishments can support a wide variety of styles and colors. 

Wrap Drawers In Fabric

To make a dramatic statement without a time-consuming paint job, try wrapping the fronts of your dresser drawers or wardrobe doors with colorfully patterned fabric. This can add a real punch to your decor at a minimal cost and with little effort. 

In Closing


You can spruce up your Ikea furniture in a number of ways: painting it to complement your decor, adding decorative touches, and switching out generic features for more expensive-looking ones. By following the advice above, you can transform your generic Ikea furniture into a striking expression of your own style!

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One comment

  1. Hi there,

    Just to clarify – if I have a veneer dresser I can just paint straight over it, and I won’t need to sand or prime it? And I can use a chalk or egg shell paint?

    TIA 🙂


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