Asked on Dec 06, 2017

Getting stacks of metal storage bins apart: HELP!

by Jessica
I got a great deal on Spectrum's Macklin storage bins ($5 each!) and bought twelve to put in two cube storage organizers. They'll look great for kitchen storage IMO.

My problem is that they came stuck together--probably sitting that way for a year or two and, like the common plastic basket quandary, they just won't come unstuck.

I've been looking for a good way to easily unstick them without messing up the finish (at least on the front); we were able to unwedge one using a screwdriver and muscle power. But it did mark the item up. And the one post I could find online basically said that WD-40 worked, but it took hours to get the baskets apart and they ended up pretty marred.

A lot of people talk about using hot to expand and cold to constrict with plastic and/or metal kitchen pots and the like. I'm wondering whether I could stick each stack at a very low temp in the oven for a few minutes and then stick them in cold water (or vice versa)?

I called Spectrum and they were totally unhelpful, except to confirm that they are powder-coated--so to the best of my understanding, they'd be fine at a low temp for a bit.

Has anyone ever had a similar experience, or have any ideas whether this would work or if something similar would work?

Photos below show what I'm dealing with, from two angles. Thank you in advance for your help; really don't know what to do!

  27 answers
  • Amanda Amanda on Dec 06, 2017

    Hi Jessica. Try putting a hair dryer on them. I would try one at a time.

    • Jessica Jessica on Dec 06, 2017

      That's a good idea. See below--put them in the oven and they were fine, but it might be easier to pinpoint the part to expand if I did that. Thanks.

  • Sharon Sharon on Dec 06, 2017

    I'd call who you purchased them from, and ask them for replacements.

    • See 1 previous
    • Sharon Sharon on Dec 06, 2017

      Try dusting with baby powder, and if you can get them apart easier, I would just rinse them under the shower to get rid of the talc.

  • Depending on where you live, perhaps stand them outside in the cold overnight, they might constrict a bit.

  • Gloria Arzadon Gloria Arzadon on Dec 06, 2017

    Maybe spray them with wd40?

  • Suellen Hintz Suellen Hintz on Dec 06, 2017

    The hot/cold method has worked each time I've ever used it! Not sure of the size of the containers but fill the bottom one with very hot water or sit it in very hot water, then try separating the upper one from it. If not working, put ice into the top one. Key is to allow time for expansion and constriction to occur.

    • See 2 previous
    • Jessica Jessica on Dec 09, 2017

      Don't have one, thanks.

  • Inetia Inetia on Dec 06, 2017

    Have you tried holding them up while someone else smacks them with something. Like a four foot 2X4 wrapped n a towel. Alternate smacking opposite sides. You might try WD40 and a hair dryer to heat them while you beat them.

  • Jessica Jessica on Dec 06, 2017

    Yes, need to get my buddy involved. Just exhausted now (see above lol). :)

  • Suellen Hintz Suellen Hintz on Dec 06, 2017

    The idea behind hot and cold is to make one expand (the outer piece) and then contracting (by making cold) the inner one...i.e., slightly changing the two pieces sizes so you can pull them Apart. Heating a few, then putting in the freezer isn't the way it usually works... Example...two matching drinking are stuck together. You place the bottom one in hot water. You put ice cubes in the top one. You pull them apart.

  • Suellen Hintz Suellen Hintz on Dec 07, 2017

    I don't think the change in temps for expansion/contraction is going to work. You need to go mechanical. Don't exactly know how but you need to attach one end of the stack to a stationary object. The other end of the stack needs a mechanical pulling device...a winch, a car jack, something that ratchets to exert pulling pressure... Or see if two very determined men can pull them apart.

  • Tom Stuart Tom Stuart on Dec 07, 2017

    There’s a simple solution that’s been used for hundreds of years: opposing wedges. Get a piece of scrap wood slightly wider than the gap between the lip on a bed key and the one below it. Cut the wood corner to corner and you have two wedges. Slightly move the wedges apart and put them in the gap. Gently tap on the end of one wedge with a hammer and they should slowly widen the gap. It’s easiest if you have a pair of wedges on each end so you don’t twist the baskets making another bind. It sounds complicated but it’s really quick and easy.

    comment photo
  • Marcia Marcia on Dec 08, 2017

    Have you tried pouring baby oil around the top of each basket and letting it run down between each? May work but then again may be the paint sticking them.

  • Wow , a lot of work for those baskets. I would pitch them.

  • Yvo31699702 Yvo31699702 on Dec 08, 2017

    If you pry them apart and damage the paint, you can always spray paint them.

    I’m curious as to the outcome.

  • Kay Kay on Dec 08, 2017

    Well.. you probably are going to have to wd-40 the heck out of them. Use a couple of steel brush's.. Then turn them up side down. And bang them against something not so soft. Keep turning as you bang.(not to hard). You get the idea. If you want them you will have to put some muscle into them. Then clean with Dawn soap. And dry them in the sun. Then steel brush's again. Then clear coat or primer paint. ECT.. Just what I would do. (Hard work )...Kay

  • Jennifer Jennifer on Dec 08, 2017

    Wedge them apart with rubber or wood door stops (if you have any) along with a little bit of coconut oil in the tightest part.

  • Holly Holly on Dec 08, 2017

    Try cooking spray oil. its made for metal pans.

  • Kate Kate on Dec 09, 2017

    Contact the seller and/or manufacturer.

    Buy something better than WD-40- not cooking oil but something made for painted metal*

    Hang them upside down with a weight on the bottom one.

    Look for particular pieces that are catching

    Hang them, etc. attach ice to the lower one, heat the one above to expand the upper, constrict the lower.

    Return to your first option

    * This is when you go your locally owned helpful hardware store and discover the plethora of excellent products. Maybe you bring some basket s with you and the shop is able to work magic on them. At any rate, you realize how lousy walmart is and the pennies saved aren't worth what you've lost by shopping there: expertise, gainfully employed community members at better wages (dare I say "a living wage"?) and a wealth of quality products, many made in the US. You decide you have a moral imperative to stop shopping walmart, particularly when you learn almost all (all?) of every dollar spent at your locally owned store stays in your community vs almost all of every dollar spent at walmart leaves the community (and don't forget the free land and tax write-offs they were given to be lured in).

    Good luck with them.

  • Kandis Kandis on Dec 10, 2017


  • Jessica Jessica on Jan 05, 2018

    OP here. Just wanted to let you all know that NOTHING worked. I wrapped them up and threw them on the lawn and a few came apart but they were dented and some of the handles came off. I stuck them in the freezer and then heated them with a hair dryer and same thing; one more came out. I still had seven that were stuck together more or less. Even tried WD-40, and no luck there at all. I ended up calling the store and just returning them. Explained the situation and they're paying for return shipping. Should have done that from the get-go. Live and learn.

    It really sucks though because these $19.99 baskets that I got for about $6 a pop on sale and with a rebate have to go back and now I'm shopping for things and can't find anything affordable. I've looked at DIY fixes and there's some good ideas using just plain boxes and fabric or spray paint or contact paper etc but even the cost there are pretty expensive. Let's just say a bargain isn't always a bargain. Thanks for your help.

    • Patty Patty on Aug 08, 2020

      I would shop on Craigslist and NextDoor and Marketplace. I bought some wire baskets at Fred Meyer (a Kroger company) that were on close out for $3 each, bought all they had. Keep your eyes open there. Or, go for Hobby Lobby, they often have 50% off sales. At one point, years ago, I actually saved the boxes that printer paper came in. I bought rolls of Contact paper at the dollar store. 1 roll covers 2 boxes. Was not the best, but served the purpose!

  • Itsmemic Itsmemic on Jan 05, 2018

    that's probably why they were so cheap :( Sorry.

  • Holly Holly on Oct 12, 2019

    Spray it with windex. Lightly mist and they separate like magic!

  • Michael Spitz Michael Spitz on Mar 07, 2020

    Use a chain spreader. It's like a reverse pliers with leverage pushing away instead of towards the two edges. You can find them at lighting and hardware stores.

  • Shirley Shirley on Aug 08, 2020

    OK , so I had some vintage locker room wire baskets stuck together from being in storage. I found a can of "WD- Rust Release Penetrant Spray + that my husband had bought for something else. I sprayed it on the wires and l let it sit for a few hours. It wasn't real easy, but they did come apart without bending at all. Loved this product for that job!

  • Rr Rr on Sep 18, 2020

    I just unstuck 6 wire baskets just like in the posted picture. I started by looking at the lines of the top basket to see if it was uneven, even slightly in the stack. It was. I then hit each side of the top basket edges/corners to even it out. Once I did, the basket started coming out a bit until I could pull it apart. I was able to get all the stuck baskets apart. No oil, spray or anything used but a pair of pliers to hit the corner edge of the top basket-once the top edge of tiny squares in the basket look even-it all worked

  • Vimarhonor Vimarhonor on Apr 02, 2021

    Hello. I wonder if a WD-40 or even a food safe Pam spray might help you get these baskets unstuck.

  • Mia Z Mia Z on Apr 18, 2021

    Hi, Mine just miraculously popped off with this method: I sat them upright on the floor and used a padded wrench handle as a lever. (The handle side of a screw driver could work too with a rag over it but I found it was too thick to get between the grids). ---I tilted the stack up a little first. Then pried the bottom basket from the one above by using the lever action of a car jack. I started to go around the four sides and it just popped down after the 2nd side. I then kept repeating with each basket. The top 2 were the hardest for some reason. But on a whole it was eerily easy after having tried almost everything except the WD-40.

    I had initially tried starting this method from the top basket first which did not work. I believe it caused the other baskets to squash even further down rather than release the top one. Not sure if it's a gravity thing, or just something to do with how they are stuck together, but it just worked great from the bottom up.

  • Stacey Stacey on Jan 30, 2023

    And the winner is…PAM COOKING SPRAY.

    Bought two wire mesh wastebaskets that were seemingly cemented together. I tried everything I could think of to get them apart without denting them, to no avail. For three days they were sitting there tormenting me. I would intermittently walk away from them and keep coming back and trying to get them apart. Finally, I read a suggestion to use Pam cooking spray, as it work wonders on metal cooking pans. I have been using Pam for years in cooking and knew of its properties, so I figured why not. I sprayed the baskets with Pam, and with almost no effort pulled them apart. I love Pam!