How do I go about painting a picture over a rusted patina milk can?


I have the last milk can from my grandfather’s farm, from before 1950, which contains only surface rust. I know I need to clean it up some but I want to keep the rusted patina appearance though. What kind of Rust-Oleum type spray paint is needed to seal it while at the same time giving the can a low gloss finish for the first part of my project with this treasure?

After this stage is completed I want a picture of my grandfather’s barn painted on the side of the can to finish the can. I’m including this bit of information because I need to know also whether the non-rust clear paint used initially will accept either or acrylic or oil artist paint?

Also so please tell me if I should just use a wire brush on the surface rust to keep the underlying rust patina or should I use naval jelly? I read naval jelly will remove all the rust taking the can down to the original galvanized condition. Is this true?

After the barn portrait is done the milk can will be kept in our entry on a ceramic floor. Will the existing rust make a mark on the floor or how do I prevent a rust mark from occurring? Thank you all for any advice provided.

By the way, the initial “J” visible to the right of the handle stood for my grandfather’s name. Since he started farming when horse drawn wagons came to pick up the milk the only way the driver knew which cans belonged to which farmer the farmer painted his initial on the can. Thought you might enjoy a little history lesson.

q how do i go about painting a picture over a rusted patina milk can
  12 answers
  • Jcraw Jcraw on Oct 28, 2018

    I don’t know the answer to all your questions, but please go gently.

    I do suspect that you can Naval Jelly in stages. Like any other product, it takes time. I would avoid your Grandfathers logo area until almost done.

    Personally, I’d get a good mask and lots of patience and a very fine sandpaper (wrapped around a big sponge)

    to ensure a perfectly mottled and smooth rust finish.

  • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on Oct 28, 2018

    Hmm..... Well, Jennifer, rust is the decomposition of the metal. In my opinion, the rust should be stabilized with a rust converter. The trouble is, the rust converter turns it a matte black. I personally love that look, but it will lose the red. You may be able to find a different brand of rust converter that is transparent (I've only used rustoleum brand.)

    The good news is that almost any paint will adhere to the converter.

  • William William on Oct 29, 2018

    Remove any loose rusty dust. Use Rustoleum clear coat finish to seal the rust. Apply several light coats letting each coat fully dry. You may need up to five to six coats. Do not use polyurethane or varnish. It will crack, flake off pulling the rust off with it.

  • Joette Joette on Oct 29, 2018

    Vinegar! Lay and soak can in pan of vinegar. The rust will rub off beautifully with a little elbow grease. Paint away!

  • Lucy Marie Bernier Lucy Marie Bernier on Oct 29, 2018

    Hmmmmm, how about putting a stencil and taping it the heck down. Use a small wire brush and brush away the rust. Once that’s done clear coat it.

  • Pennie Pennie on Oct 29, 2018

    first you will have to sand it. then base coat it with a good primer. then draw your picture and paint away

  • Bijous Bijous on Oct 29, 2018

    Hi. Wipe it down with soap and water and clear glue down any loose paint. Let dry. Clear coat the rust with a layer or two of spray sealer. You will then need to use artist's oils to do your painting. Glue felt on bottom to insure the pail does not scratch or mark the ceramic tiles. No need to top coat the oil paint. It has a tendency to yellow the white. Happy painting!

  • Finnworks Finnworks on Oct 29, 2018

    Flood penetrol is a paint additive available at home improvement stores in the paint section. It seals the rust that is there and prevents further rusting ... maintains the rust color. Apply liberally with a brush, let set for 24 hours. You can paint over it with oil based or alkyd or water based paint. I would try it on the bottom of the can that touches the floor ... first, to see if you like the looks. It should prevent a rust ring from being left on the floor also. Hope this helps.

  • John John on Oct 29, 2018

    My Holstein can

    C:\Users\Van Der Linden\Pictures\2018-10-29\DSC00807.JPG

  • Choli Choli on Oct 29, 2018

    Your best choice is to gentle hand brush the can with a wire brush or...use a wire wheel on it so all the loose rust is gone! Then, get some rust primer and get a few coats on the

    surface to seal it. Let it dry really well. Then get your cover coat ready and put it on per the instructions on the container. The paints

    they have these days are outstanding. Good luck with your milk can. Your Grandpa would

    ne proud!

  • Bonny Batchelor Bonny Batchelor on Oct 29, 2018

    I may be missing the point. However, from what I gather you’re wanting to keep the vintage rust (great idea!!)

    i would and have found that if you get a “scotch brite” scrubby in the Maroon package and go over the entire can. You will get rid of all the flaking and loose rust without losing the “rust effect”. Then, easy peasy- use a matte clear sealer to bond the milk can. Don’t use a finish coat. Especially, if you’re going to use a stencil or hand paint your grands barn. It will never look quite right. It’s two different things you’re trying to achieve. Save the rusted, aged look and then paint over it, making the barn.

    I would lightly spray 2-3 coats of the sealer. Let them dry completely between coats. Then, choose your colors, pattern, stencil, whatever and paint it. Allow to dry completely!

    Then it’s very simple to finish and top coat. Don’t buy spray can top coat. To each their own but my favorites are these.

    For your bottom- that’s as simple as the closest Dollar Store!!

    Buy these:

    Attach to bottom of can and VIOLA!!

  • Barb Barb on Oct 30, 2018

    I have one that’s old and I had it sand blasted before painting. Sand blasting isn’t cheap. You might want to try a spray on rust remover.