How to Remove Rust From an Old Milk Can

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Things You'll Need

  • Fine-grit sandpaper

  • Wire brush

  • Rust-dissolving agent

  • Cotton rag

  • Steel-wool pad

  • Potato

  • Bowl

  • 3 tablespoons baking soda

  • 3 tablespoons salt


Increase the amount of baking soda and salt in equal portions as needed if your old milk can has a lot of rust.

Milk cans can be used for their original purpose or move into the house as a decor accessory.
Image Credit: David Silverman/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Old milk cans fit in with a variety of decors and make for an impressive focal point when accessorizing a cottage or farm-style room. Outside, the cans function as garden accessories. Old milk cans are typically made from tin. In earlier times, farmers would use "fresh raw acid" to re-tin their milk cans and remove rust. In modern times, we have commercial derusting products as well as homemade remedies to remove rust from an old milk can.

Rust-Dissolving Agent

Step 1

Rub fine-grit sandpaper over the rusty spots of the can to loosen the rust.

Step 2

Spray a rust-dissolving agent all over the can.

Step 3

Run a wire brush over the can to lift off the rust. Spray on more of the rust-dissolving product, if necessary.

Step 4

Rinse off the old milk can with water. Inspect it to determine if rust remains and, if so, repeat the scrubbing.

Step 5

Dry the can with a cotton towel.

Potato, Salt and Baking Soda

Step 1

Scrub the milk can with a steel-wool pad to loosen the rust patches.

Step 2

Cut a potato in half, either lengthwise or widthwise, based on which cut will give you the best grip on the potato.

Step 3

Dip the cut potato half into a mixture of 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 3 tablespoons of salt to coat.

Step 4

Rub the potato vigorously and with hard pressure over the milk can's rust. Re-dip the potato into the baking soda and salt as necessary to keep it coated.

Step 5

Rinse off the can with water and dry it thoroughly with a cotton rag.


Tallulah Philange

Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.