Metal buckets are used for a wide array of functions. While some use these buckets to hold icy beverages, others use them as containers for tools and plants. Add colour to your metal bucket and protect it from rust by applying paint. If the bucket is galvanised, it won't accept a straight finish. Encourage adhesion by treating the bucket with an etching primer. If your bucket is for decorative purposes only, you can finish it with a basic latex paint. If, however, it is subject to wear and tear, choose a durable enamel, or finish failure may result.
Empty the bucket of all contents and take it outdoors.
Wash the metal bucket with a degreaser. Be sure the soap is waterborne, or the primer may not stick. Scrub the bucket with a coarse cleaning pad. Steel wool is ideal for durable galvanised surfaces.
Rinse the bucket using a hose. Remove all soap to prevent adhesion problems. Allow the bucket to dry -- preferably under the sun -- for about an hour.
Place the bucket on a dust sheet. Use tape to protect the portions of the bucket that are to remain unpainted.
Condition the galvanised bucket with etching spray primer. Spray lightly, as a thick coat could lead to runs. Maintain 8 inches between the bucket and the spray nozzle. Allow the bucket to dry for three hours.
Paint the galvanised bucket as you primed it.
Although you may finish a bucket with latex paint, enamel will prove more durable. If you want to paint letters or designs on your bucket, use a stencil.
Don't finish unprimed galvanised buckets, or the finish will peel. Ordinary primers will peel from galvanised metal. Treat your bucket with an etching primer only.