How to remove rust from an old milk can

Updated February 21, 2017

Old milk cans fit in with many decor styles. Whether you're accessorising a cottage or farm-style room, a milk can makes for an unusual decoration. Outside, the cans function as garden accessories. Most old milk cans are made from tin. In times gone by, farmers used to use "fresh raw acid" to retin their milk cans and remove rust. In modern times, we have de-rusting products as well as homemade approaches to remove rust from an old milk can.

Rub fine-grit sandpaper over the rusty spots to loosen the rust.

Spray a rust dissolving agent all over the can.

Run a wire brush over the can to lift off the rust. Spray on more of the rust dissolving product, if necessary.

Rinse off the old milk can with water. Inspect it to determine if rust remains and, if so, repeat the scrubbing.

Dry the can with a cotton towel.

Scrub the milk can with a steel wool pad to loosen the rust patches.

Cut a potato in half. Choose whether to cut it lengthwise or widthways based on which cut will give you the best grip on the potato.

Dip the cut potato half into a mixture of three tbsp baking soda and three tbsp salt to coat.

Rub the potato vigorously and with hard pressure over the milk can's rust. Re-dip the potato into the baking soda and salt as necessary to keep it coated.

Rinse off the can with water and dry it thoroughly with a cotton rag.


Increase the baking soda and salt proportionally as needed if your old milk can has a lot of rust.

Things You'll Need

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Wire brush
  • Rust dissolving agent
  • Cotton rag
  • Steel wool pad
  • Potato
  • Bowl
  • 3 tbsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp salt
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About the Author

Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.