Contact Paper Hack for Old Filing Cabinets

This is a quick blog post about the amazing transformation of an ugly duckling (in this case an old beat up filing cabinet) into a beautiful swan! Ok, well, beautiful might be a stretch – but it’s at least an attractive swan!

Here is the before picture:

Contact paper revitalizes an old filing cabinet

A bit shabby

I couldn’t look at this crooked, squeaky filing cabinet for one more minute!


Armed with a roll of contact paper from Walmart, a hammer, and a screwdriver, I got busy. I’ll be the first to admit that I man-handled this old filing cabinet. I stuck the screwdriver between the label holder and tugged and pulled until it popped out. It was somewhat bent up, but I hammered it flat again. That’s the man-handling part. 


I’m sure there’s a more gentle, skillful way of beating that little label holder into submission, but I’m not sure how else to do it. It did take a bit of muscle. The handles simply unscrew from inside the drawers.


Covering the old filing cabinet drawer fronts with the contact paper was pretty easy. The hardest part is smoothing out the bubbles and getting the contact paper edges straight.

Contact paper improves the look of old filing cabinet

This is how the filing cabinet currently looks. I need to spray paint the label holders – maybe black! If you look closely, you will notice that they’re fairly rusty looking right now.  That’s for another day when it’s not so hot in the classroom!

Old filing cabinet looks so much better!

Old stickers are U-G-L-Y!

One final tip – if you have old stickers and can’t peel them off with your fingernails (blech!), ask your custodian for some adhesive remover and a razor blade. You obviously don’t want the razor blade around when your students are present, but the adhesive remover should also only be used in well ventilated areas without students. 


All in all, this project was very, very, VERY worth my time! I’m happy with how it turned out.

I’d love to see your DIY projects! Have you taken an old filing cabinet and improved it? What have you revitalized?

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