Apart from transporting milk from farm to market, old milk cans and churns have many utilitarian and decorative uses, both indoors and outdoors, around the home. Before you start to use the milk can or decorate it, ensure that it is completely clean by scrubbing it out with a hot water and bleach solution.
Keep a milk can in your garage to store brooms, rakes and other yard equipment.
Use it to store potting compost, birdseed, animal feed, sawdust and other dry goods.
Use it to store sports equipment such as baseball bats, ski poles and hockey sticks.
Place a milk can near to a work bench to use as a trash can. Place it on a plant pot holder with wheels to facilitate ease of moving.
Milk cans work well indoors as umbrella stands or oversized vases for long stems of dried grasses, such as pampas. You can match the cans to your interior by decorating them with paints, stencils and decoupage.
Historic narrow boat or barge painting techniques work particularly well on metal objects such as milk cans. Dark backgrounds such as black or hunter green are used as a base for simple and colorful floral paintings in bright colors.
In order that the paint design lasts well, prepare your milk can for painting by sanding and removing any rust and then wiping down with a sponge and some white vinegar. Prime the can with a metal primer and then use paints that are produced for painting on metal. Once your paint design is completely dry, seal it with a coat of polyurethane varnish.
Instead of painting designs on the can, you can paint a base coat and then stick on pictures using the decoupage technique. These, too, can be sealed with varnish, once you have finished applying pictures and the glue has dried.
Milk cans can be used as plant stands. Fill a hanging basket full of your favorite, colorful trailing plants such as geraniums, fuschias, petunias, verbenas and ivies and lodge the hanging basket in the top of the can. This makes a very colorful welcome, when stood next to your front door.
Alternatively, plant your hanging basket with trailing strawberries or tomatoes, lodge it into the top of the can, place in a sunny spot and wait to reap the crops in summer.
As with all container planting, make sure you water it regularly.