How to Decorate With Milk Cans

Written by susan lundman | 13/05/2017
How to Decorate With Milk Cans
Find milk cans at antique shops and at dairy farms. (Dairy Cream Container image by DSL from

Country farmers might be puzzled by their use as decor, but homeowners can transform milk cans into charming accessories. Milk cans appear in homes painted or unpainted, inside or outdoors, as containers or just as focal points on their own. These distinctive objects can find a place in homes with a little imagination and design know-how.

Clean the can with soap and water and let it dry. Painting is optional.

Place the milk can near the entry of your home or on your porch.

Fill the milk can with long stems of dried grasses and reeds in the summer, corn stalks in the fall and evergreen boughs in the winter.

Embellish the can with ribbon, raffia or a string of lights.

Use the can as a plant stand on the porch or anywhere in the garden. Put a short potted plant, such as a succulent, on the lid, or top the can with a plant with trailing vines that fall over the edges.

Paint the milk can to fit your room's colour scheme or leave it unpainted.

Use the can as vase or as a plant stand in the same way you might use it outside.

Place a milk can in a child's room for toys or objects with long poles, such as stick horses, baseball bats or hockey sticks.

Set a small lamp on the milk can in a bedroom in a location where the can is not apt to get bumped.

Place tools such as rakes, brooms or shovels upside down into the can. Because they are very heavy, milk cans make effective holders for these tall objects.

Use the can to hold sports equipment, such as baseball bats, tennis rackets or ski poles or as a storage container for rags.

Place the can near to a workbench to use as a waste receptacle.

Stencil or paint designs along the top or bottom edges to fit the decor or to paint for someone else as a gift.

Paint elaborate and colourful designs featuring flowers, birds and shapes all over the milk can using the Pennsylvania Dutch folk art of tole painting.

Paint an entire natural scene around the can, such as a colourful seashore or a country farm.


Milk cans eventually will rust if placed outdoors. Painting the can with paint made for metal will solve the problem.

Tips and warnings

  • Milk cans eventually will rust if placed outdoors. Painting the can with paint made for metal will solve the problem.

Things you need

  • Laundry or liquid soap
  • Wash rags
  • Tall grasses, corn stalks or evergreen branches
  • Ribbon, raffia or strings of light
  • Paint formulated for metal
  • Paintbrushes

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