How to Paint or Stain Burlap on Old Trunks

Updated February 21, 2017

Burlap is a coarse fabric similar to canvas that can be made of cotton or hemp. It is used in a variety of functions and, because of it's durability, can be used as furniture covering, lining or inset material. With the proper equipment and fabric-painting techniques, you can paint or stain burlap fabric located on an old trunk.

Remove stains and debris from the burlap fabric with a water and vinegar solution. Apply the solution to a nylon brush and scrub away dirt and debris. Don't pour water over the burlap because you don't want to damage or stain the trunk.

Sand the burlap using medium grade sandpaper. Do this if your burlap has been painted or stained before and you want to remove the paint so that you can refinish it.

Tape areas of the trunk that you do not want to paint or stain. Use painter's tape, which won't peel off sensitive areas of the wood or any wood stains from the trunk.

Apply fabric paint to a flat shader brush, which creates smooth lines and edges. You can find fabric paint or stains at many hardware and craft stores.

Paint the entire surface of the burlap with the fabric paint or stain. Try to make long, clean strokes with the brush so that paint or stain isn't logged in the gaps in the burlap and forms bubbles or darker spots.

Wait for the first coat of paint or stain to dry before you apply another coat. This way you can see the true colour before deciding if you want to apply another coat.


You may need to remove badly frayed or rotted burlap fabric, especially if the trunk is an antique. Because preservation of the antique, as well as preservation of the value of the antique, is an important consideration when refinishing any old trunk, the best thing to do may be in fact to remove the burlap covering. Consult an antiques dealer or refinishing expert for advice before attempting to refinish an old trunk.

Things You'll Need

  • Cleaning solution
  • Nylon brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Painter's tape
  • Fabric paint
  • Flat shader brush
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.