Antique cans were popular in the days of full service gas stations. Some of the oil cans bear the logo of oil companies including Texaco and Esso (Exxon). Cleaning antique oil cans requires a detergent that can break up grime, without damaging the cans finish. After the oil can is clean and grime free, you can touch up the finish with enamel paint.
Cleaning The Outside of the Antique Oil Can
Wipe the antique oil can with a dry cotton cloth or shop towel to remove any loose dust or dirt.
Mix in a bucket 2 cups of a water-soluble concentrated detergent and ½ gal. of warm water. Stir the soap mixture with a scrub brush.
Dip a cotton cloth or shop towel into the soap mixture. Wring out excess mixture.
Scrub the oil can with the mixture-soaked cloth or shop towel. For stubborn stains, use the scrub brush to break up the grime from the antique oil can.
Wet a cotton cloth or shop towel with warm water from a sink.
Rinse the antique oil can with the damp cloth or shop towel. Continue rinsing the oil can until the soap mixture is gone.
Dry the antique oil can with a clean cotton cloth or shop towel.
Touch up the antique oil can's paint by applying enamel paint to the can with a paintbrush.
Cleaning The Inside of the Antique Oil Can
Use a funnel to fill the inside of the antique oil can with the soap mixture made in Section I.
Let the soap mixture sit in the oil can for 30 minutes.
Shake the antique oil can from side-to-side to break up any caked-on oil and grime inside of the oil can.
Pour the soap mixture from the antique oil can.
Rinse the inside with warm water from a sink. Pour out the water and continue rinsing and pouring until the water runs clear from the antique oil can.
Sit the oil can outside in the sun and let it air dry.