Vintage GE steel kitchen cabinets: Random fading problem

GE metal kitchen cabinets with irregular fading

Vintage geeks will find this interesting, I think: Did you know that vintage GE steel kitchen cabinets have this problem of fading randomly, over time, with different cabinet pieces prone to fading to different shades of pink, blue, yellow, green …. whatever? I spotted this set of pink GEs, in Ohio, on craigslistand posted it to our Forum. It shows the problem pretty clearly. Do we have any readers who worked at GE … or readers who are experts at painting steel… that might be able to explain or hypothesize about why this occurs? To be sure, the problem makes GE’s hard to collect if you are hoping to save money and/or sweat equity by not having to repaint.


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  1. Patrick Coffey says

    Brad before you fire up that GE Combo I suggest you talk to some of the guys over at and see what they reccomend you do before you fire that unit up for the first time. They will give you tips on how to revive that vintage appliance without doing any harm to it. I also reccomend you find the service manual for that unit because when they do act up they can be finicky to fix dependiong on what the trouble is.

  2. says

    Without knowing what’s in the enamel, I can’t speculate on why they fade like that.
    Has anyone tried rubbing the surface down with some USP Mineral Oil (available very inexpensively from better pharmacies)? I know that this particular technique is used with other antiques to bring back color to porcelain and porcelainized surfaces. You may need to soak a towel in it and wrap the cabinet in question and let it soak for several days to see if this will bring the color back.

      • Nolita de Ville says

        Indeed, best to avoid any such treatment. Mineral oil could sink into porous (scratched/pitted) surfaces, cause further uneven staining and darkening as it thickens and tackifies and darkens over time, while attracting dust and airborne kitchen greases. Any color change would be a trick of changing the surface reflection (refractive index) for a short while but would really have no effect on color. This is why varnishes appear to restore color – because they fill in tiny scratches. Any use or mineral oil in the antiques field as a shop remedy might actually be to loosen and lift greasy soil that is hiding color, used extremely sparingly on a wipe rag, not left in contact with the surface and then ideally rinsed with a mild soap or solvent or buffed away with clean cloths.

  3. Margaret in Maine says

    It’s likely the pigment fading – red is the most notoriously unstable pigment. It fades. period.

    Also what Kat said – different components =’s different factories =’s different formulas =’s different fading/color shift. The appliances are likely enameled and the cabinets painted.

    I’m not sure what kind of paint was used on the metal cabinets, but linseed oil, a common paint component pre-latex and pre-acryclics, yellows when not exposed to UV light. So cabinets will yellow on the interior more than the exterior.


  4. Adrian says

    I suspect the fading is caused by years of abrasive use from cleaners such as Ajax with bleach and also, the heat from the rangetop doesn’t help either. It is definately the hottest part of a stove especially when the oven is on. The oven door is not as hot when the oven is in use, just the range top. The primer in those days if any, was likely white which means that it could have been abrasive cleaners wearing down the paint overtime. You may be able to recondition it with automotive car wax like Turtle wax., other than that, I think you will have to repaint the top with an identicle color paint. Be sure to use clearcoat as well!

  5. Chris says

    Can anyone tell me what the “Asking Price?” was of this grouping before it sold and what “Year” were these cabinets made? Thank You Kindly.

  6. Bill says

    My whole kitchen is Metal White GE original to the house built about 1949-50..still white (doesn’t look faded),corner lazy Susan cabinet type,upper and lower cabinets ..even round fluorescent lights above sink ..really like them ..wife wants new kitchen I may use these for my garage workstation

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