Got a tired counter top? Looking for a way to revive it instead of replace it? Check out what other TBG readers have done!

Restoring Formica

How to restore Formica that has totally lost its luster?  That’s the question that Shari asked me a couple of weeks ago, saying “I can’t be the only one with 40-year-old laminate to restore!”

I didn’t have a good answer for her, so I asked on The Boat Galley’s Facebook page.  And the answers started flowing!  I wanted to collect the info here so it wouldn’t be lost.

Let me start by saying I have no personal experience with any of these.  I have simply collected and slightly edited the responses — some with links — as well as a couple of comments and photos that readers emailed to me.

Simple things to try:

Cindy Smith Balfour: Jubilee kitchen wax but it is hard to find.  [NOTE: Shari replied that she had tried this and it didn’t do much for hers]

Ginny Teatro: I use Bon Ami liquid cleaner and love it!

Michael Burby: Pledge and lemon oil works [Shari responded “Nope, too far gone.”]

Moderately complicated:

Rejuvenate Kitchen & Bath Countertop Polish, recommended by Martha Warner: I actually use the round bottle that they sell for floors, but I see they have one for Formica now. I have used the (probably identical formula) floor Rejuvenate for years. Each application shines for about six months, then I re-apply.

First I clean the counter well. Since mine is white, I use Comet and really scrub it, to remove any and all stains. When dry, I apply this (very thin coat) with a Viva paper towel. When dry, I do another coat. Shines better than new!

If you can’t find this locally, it is sold online both by the company and Amazon.  Shipping is expensive with either option.

Rick Crow: Car or boat gelcoat buffing compound along with a $20 Harbor Freight buffer/polisher will do wonders on old Formica. I have done that numerous times on old kitchen counter tops (and stainless steel sinks!) to give them a fresh shine and to clean up minor scratches.

Total makeover involving days to weeks of work:

Painting using a combination of products. Danielle Redwine McDaniel learned all about how not to do it with her first effort and her second effort turned out great. If you are even remotely thinking of painting, read her article as she gives detailed tips and tells why her first effort was a major fail.

Says Dani:  I primed and painted and top coated my  blue Formica counter tops in our boat. I used Giani Granite primer and topcoat and Sherwin Williams waterbased latex acrylic paint. The results are fantastic and still look good. Prep is everything!!!

The Giani Kits are available on Amazon, as is the topcoat (click here to see) generally with free shipping.  You can also buy them from Giani for about the same product cost but no free shipping.

Here is Giani’s video on how to use their product.  I think Dani’s using a solid color looks a lot easier for anyone who isn’t completely confident of their ability to create a granite look! (More ideas under the video)

Daich Spreadstone Countertop Refinishing Kit  Joy Fredrick used this and says, “It is a true stone roll on product available in several colors, and the end result is a stone finish similar to Granite. Our galley Formica countertops were 28 years old, and they now look like new.”

Here’s Joy’s before-and after, followed by a photo of the entire countertop.



Learn more and buy on the SpreadStone web site.  Here is their installation video (read below the video for one more product):

Rustoleum Countertop Paint:  Several people wondered about this, but none reported on using it. Rustoleum actually makes two products, one that costs about $20 and one $250.  Since the expensive one costs as much as a new counter, I checked into the $20 one.

I found several articles online about DIY-ers using it in homes, and none were all that excited about the results they’d gotten.  Two big things to note:  it reeks until it is dry and you must use a respirator and have as much ventilation as possible, and it takes 3 days to dry.

The immediate results were generally described as “okay” but three that I read had later updates that the paint was soon chipping and peeling in everyday use.  Here’s probably the best post I read on the application and here’s the follow up.

Got anything else you’ve tried?  Please leave a note and say whether it worked or not!  And if you’ve written a blog post about it — particularly with photos or tips on the process — be sure to leave the link.

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  • John Ahern
    Posted at 13 January 2014 Reply

    Looks great

  • Shari
    Posted at 13 January 2014 Reply

    Wow, I feel so famous! My Pearson 26 (from 1974) has laminate wall panels as well as countertops, so I will keep you posted on what I try and how it works out. Thanks so much!

  • Cari Gunsaulus
    Posted at 13 January 2014 Reply

    Ken put copper counter top in the galley. Beautiful…but expensive.

  • Carolyn Brown Fuller
    Posted at 13 January 2014 Reply

    Great post and timely for me. Countertop on our new boat was used as a cutting board by previous owner. I want a solid color, so will be following Dani’s recommendations.

    • Dani
      Posted at 13 January 2014 Reply

      Hi! I just wanted to tell you that the MOST important step after the prep is that you have to leave the Acrylic latex enamel to dry for 30 days before you apply the top coat. Latex needs a long time in dry conditions to fully cure. Also it’s not just any latex paint, it has to be the new age acrylic latex enamel. Regular latex is too soft.

      I’m telling you this because my process is very easy to wind up a big mess if you aren’t careful or don’t have the time. If I were going to do it over I’d probably put down some lighter colored maps or paper of some kind and use a clear coat bar top epoxy instead. It seems easier. Anyways, good luck! Feel free to email me on my site if you have questions.

  • Dani
    Posted at 13 January 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the link! I absolutely LOVE our Painted countertops. It was alot of work, but I don’t have the skill set to replace formica so this was within my range of DIY. I went for the Sherwin Williams Arcylic Latex paint because it was a solid color and the Giani Granite paint was of course made to look like granite and I wanted less pattern in the boat, to help with the clutter feeling and also seasickness. The Rustoleum countertop paint I’ve heard is just an epoxy paint. We ALMOST just laid down some maps, or pictures and covered it with “bar top” epoxy…this is another good method for covering formica. Looking back, I may have just done that instead.

  • Jackie
    Posted at 13 January 2014 Reply

    Wow, that spreadstone refinish looks fantastic! Any idea what color Joy used? I have galley and head countertops that could use a little make-over. Thanks for the options!

  • Barbara Lowell
    Posted at 11 July 2014 Reply

    When I lived in Hawaii I bought a small house and it had beautifully done bright blue and yellow mexican tile kitchen countertops … i never use blues in decorating so I painted the tile (gulp) with ivory epoxy tile. It came out great, grout and all but over time it would absorb dirt and scuffs and would need to be redone; however I loved it.
    Now in FL I had horrible butcher block formica and 12 years ago covered it with an assortment of ceramic and slate tile. It has held up well but is dark and I am wanting to go back to the ivory feel so I was wondering what to do over slate. This gives me lots of ideas to go on my wish list. Thanx all for the pertinent sharings.

  • MWhite:LittleCunningPlan
    Posted at 17 July 2014 Reply

    This is timely as our galley redo will likely happen this year. Haven’t yet decided if replacing the countertops is in our budget so I’m bookmarking this page.

    • Lee Nicholas
      Posted at 21 October 2014 Reply

      On my 30 year old Sabre I went and did all new formica right over the old stuff. here is How. the whole trick is pattern making. get door skin cut in strips 1/1/2 in wide its very thin. now with a glue gun start at a straight edge and lay one down exact fit is perfect. now lay the 90 degree right on top of the corner and fit it too snow hot glue gun it to the first strip make the whole pattern that way. a razor knife will help any rounded corners. You can support by gluing and expanse with braces where ever ya like.
      Take the pattern home and clamp the pattern to the new formica . with a formica router cut the outside pattern. Take it to the boat to fit !
      rubber cement both the counter and formica wait 15 min and put the new down. . put weights on it and wait a day .
      Cut any holes like sinks and faucets now. I took the sink out and replaced it ! I have all sorts of pix before and after . lee nicholas clerwater fl

  • Jaye (Life Afloat)
    Posted at 26 August 2014 Reply

    We went the full route of removing every fiddle, removing the old countertop, and replacing with new granite-look laminate. Horrible messy job but 7 years later we’re still in love with the look! We did the work pre-blog so I don’t have a post specifically devoted to this project, but a few “after” photos are here:

    Also, check out a product called “Countertop Magic” at the hardware store. Its a spray full of nasty petrochemicals that restores scratched or milky-looking Formica better than anything I’ve ever seen.

  • Karen Jones Reilly
    Posted at 04 June 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the article as we are trying to figure out how to deal with ours. The Rust Oleum paint colors are not pleasing when applied. We tried 2 of the colors and gave up on that idea. Our latest idea is going over them with mosaic tiles but have not started yet. I will check out some of your other ideas.

  • Gimme Shelter
    Posted at 04 June 2015 Reply

    I used the paint on my old boat. Results were very mediocre. Yes, the countertop no longer had rusts rings or looked dirty, but it still didn’t looks good, and the paint chipped around the edges of the cooler lid.

  • Greg CANTORI
    Posted at 04 June 2015 Reply

    i bought new Formica laminate and contact cemented it over the old. Used a router and file to shape. New countertop!

  • Chris Smith
    Posted at 04 June 2015 Reply

    You can not paint Formica countertops and expect it to look good and hold up. However the coating products like Daich coatings are much more than paint. I used it on my old Formica counters last year and they still look great! I went with the spread stone and everyone who sees them think it’s corian can’t recommend them enough!

  • SV Rockhopper Suzanne Mummert
    Posted at 05 June 2015 Reply

    I painted mine with the rustilium counter top paint.It looked great for about 2 days and then began chipping. I layed wallpaper on my countertop and then put on a bartop epoxy finish. I love them.

  • Susan Lowe
    Posted at 06 May 2016 Reply

    I am thankful we have Corian on our boat..she is 11 years old and still looks like brand new with little to do to it.

  • Karen Bowen
    Posted at 13 May 2016 Reply

    I have successfully painted laminate countertops in the past. I sanded the surface to provide a tooth for the paint. I used melamine paint and applied 2 colours with a sponge then lightly rolled it to smooth it and blend colours slightly. It looked like a granite or quartz fleck when compete. The reason for the two colours is you can blend and hide a chip if necessary. After 4 yrs of daily use I had only a few small chips. An easy project.

  • Ruthie Griffin
    Posted at 14 February 2017 Reply

    Baking soda? I have the original counters in my ’69 Cal 40 and DH is not a fan of redoing them due to so many other projects and priorities. They are white and I’m able to keep them decent with just baking soda. I would like new… maybe one day.

  • Mark Wallis
    Posted at 14 February 2017 Reply

    Considering using this on my boat…

  • Danny Villagoza
    Posted at 07 November 2017 Reply

    I’ve got a tired looking Corian counter. Wonder how to get it looking much better?

  • Nica Waters
    Posted at 07 November 2017 Reply

    We’re thinking of going with corian or quartz!

    • Laureen Hudson
      Posted at 07 November 2017 Reply

      I kind of hate you people with sturdy, heavy monohulls with no weight considerations;)

    • Carla Barrett
      Posted at 08 November 2017 Reply

      Have corian on the boat and quartz at home! Love both, but quartz is my favorite.

  • Samantha Kahn
    Posted at 07 November 2017 Reply

    I’ve been contemplating this for 7 years. Thanks for the info!

  • Lemont Southworth
    Posted at 09 November 2017 Reply

    I had a badly faded walnut formica table in my 1970 Venture 24. Furniture polishes and various waxes did nothing. I got very good results from the detail spray for dirt bikes: SC-1. Their tag line is “new bike in a can” and it does make old bikes look new. AND it did a great job on my formica table!

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