How to Decorate With Vintage Milk Cans

Written by chelsea fitzgerald
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How to Decorate With Vintage Milk Cans
Put dried corn stalks in milk cans for a Halloween decoration. (pumpkins and corn straw image by ulga from

The use of milk cans began after the Civil War, when the dairy industry was booming. Popular as decorating pieces, you can find these vintage milk cans at garage sales, thrift shops and antique stores. They generally hold 5 to 10 gallons of milk and have a long, narrow neck that flares to a wider body with a fitted or flat lid. These vintage milk cans are not only decorative, they provide functional uses in country-style homes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Mild dishwashing soap
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Raffia or wide ribbon
  • Dried corn stalks, evergreen boughs or decorative reeds
  • Small pots
  • Plexiglass or distressed wood

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  1. 1

    Wash your vintage milk can with a mild dishwashing liquid, a cleaning cloth and warm water. Dry it thoroughly. You can go a step further, if you wish, and refinish the can by sanding and painting it, but many people prefer the vintage look.

  2. 2

    Insert seasonal decor, such as dried corn stalks, evergreen boughs or decorative reeds, into the milk can. Place the milk can on your front porch or in a room corner for a decorative touch.

  3. 3

    Place a large bow of raffia or wide ribbon around the narrow neck of the milk can. Choose a colour that coordinates with the room colours. You can also wrap seasonal garland around the neck during the holidays.

  4. 4

    Place the milk can in your foyer or near the entrance way of your home to hold umbrellas.

  5. 5

    Purchase a small pot to place on top of the flat lid on your milk can or one that sits down into the opening. Place a plant inside the pot and place the milk can on your porch. Another idea is to set an artificial plant on top of the lid to use as a plant holder indoors.

  6. 6

    Set a large piece of plexiglass or distressed wood on top of two milk cans to form a vintage-looking coffee table. Place each milk can near the end of the table top to balance the wood or glass evenly.

Tips and warnings

  • Place the milk can in a child's bedroom to store items, such as tennis racks or baseball bats.
  • You can also use the cans to store rakes and other long gardening tools in an outdoor shed or your garage area.

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