How to Paint Plastic Rain Barrels

Updated February 21, 2017

Rain barrels collect and store rainwater, which then can be used to water plants and gardens. They're especially useful during droughts or dry periods. Some units come with hoses and spray nozzles as well as attachments that can be connected to gutter systems. Commercial rain barrels come in a variety of colours, including white, black, blue and grey, but you can spruce them up by applying spray paint designed specifically for use on plastic. After applying several base coats, add decorative elements like flowers, vines, animals, clouds or raindrops.

Find a workspace with good ventilation, low humidity and temperatures between 10.0 and 29.4 degrees C.

Rub a small, inconspicuous area of the barrel (such as the bottom) with a 220-grit or finer sandpaper, then check for scratches. If no scratches appear, sand the entire barrel with the sandpaper. If you see any scratches, use a finer grain sandpaper.

Wipe down the entire surface of the barrel with a soft cloth dampened with an ammonia-based cleaner or solvent, then cover the barrel’s spigot and overflow valve with masking tape.

Shake the spray paint can vigorously for two minutes. Position the can 8 to 10 inches from the surface and spray the paint in sweeping motions while maintaining an even distance from the surface. Apply a thin coat of paint, then wait 30 seconds to one minute before applying the next coat. Apply multiple thin coats to the barrel surface. Avoid runs and drips and touch up any areas. Allow the spray paint to dry for at least one hour.

Hand-paint decorative elements with paint brushes, acrylic paint and/or stencils. Let the acrylic paint dry for one to two hours, then apply a clear spray sealant in sweeping motions, just as you originally painted the barrel. Let the barrel dry for 24 hours before handling, then remove the masking tape from the spigot and overflow valve.


Check your manufacturer’s specifications to see whether your rain barrel is coated with UV protection. If it is, clean it with window cleaner and a soft rag before sanding the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Spray paint designed for use on plastic
  • Masking tape
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Stencils
  • Clear spray sealant
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About the Author

Angela Brown has been a book editor since 1997. She has written for various websites, as well as National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio and more than 20 fiction anthologies. Brown earned a Bachelor of Arts in theater and English from the University of Wisconsin.