Rusted Vintage Trunk Makeover

I was given this vintage, rusted metal trunk (for free) from one of my co-workers late last summer. He had it sitting around and, knowing him, the challenge this would have presented probably amused him. But I was up for it.
Or so I thought.
It was musty and smelly…
dirty...
and pretty rusty.
I had some citric acid leftover from my soap-and-sundry making days, so I used that and water to make a paste (no measurements). I scrubbed at the rust with the paste, some steel wool and a wire brush.
The bottom has been scrubbed, the top has not
Then I tackled the inside. It was…a chore. I may have cried a few tears of frustration. There was a wallpaper type lining in it that wanted to come off in teeny-tiny little pieces, even with multiple vinegar baths. Then I tackled it with multiple course grit sandings…power sanding and hand sanding. It was stubborn…very, very stubborn.
After filling in the big dents with Bondo, I primed it with Rust-oleum Rusty Metal Primer and painted the trunk using Sweet Pickins Milk Paint in Suitcase.


For the trim I used Rust-oleum Hammered Finish in Brown.


The inside got stained because after how hard I worked to get that paper off, I wasn't going to cover it back up.
I'd like to think it now has a few more years left in it.
Susan @SalvagedBySusan
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  • Myra Myra on Apr 06, 2016
    This is crazy, but I have a trunk like that of my grandmother's that passed away when she was over 100 years old..... and that was probably 20 years ago when she passed. I have kept my old albums in this trunk, but recently put it in my garage to do "something" with. Thank you for your post,..... I am now inspired! Started scraping the paper yesterday, which was a horrible chore. But my question is, do you any suggestion on how to fix the broken wood on the lid? Thank you!

  • Cfr2230743 Cfr2230743 on Jan 21, 2017
    Where can I get citric acid?

  • Kathleen Kathleen on May 18, 2019

    My Grandfather's WWI trunk was left outside. My husband apparently put tools in it and covered it with a tarp. It has gotten rusted. Do you think this technique would work for tgat? There's no wood inside. It's strictly metal.

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