What Can You Do With an Antique Milk Can?

Three rusted antique milk cans sitting on a ledge
Photo by cmophoto.net on Unsplash

Antique milk cans may not be your first pick for a collector’s item or home decor, but they carry a ton of history and versatility.

In this article, we’ve gathered some of the coolest and most creative ways to use your antique milk cans and bring old-school charm to your surroundings. So get ready to dive deeply into the world of milk cans and incorporate vintage vibes into your home!

Importance of Antique Milk Cans in History

Back in the early 1900s, milk cans were super important for dairy farmers. They were made of steel or aluminum and could hold up to 5 or 10 gallons of milk. Once the farmers had collected the milk from their cows, they would pour it into the cans and had to haul it to the processing plant.

Sometimes they had to make multiple trips a day just to keep the milk fresh. But as technology improved and the dairy industry grew, dairy farmers started using refrigerated trucks instead of milk cans.

Nowadays, vintage milk cans are a beautiful symbol of the past and a reminder of how hard dairy farmers had to work back in the day.

Where to Find Antique Milk Cans?

Closeup image of three antique red milk cans
Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

There are many places you can find antique milk cans, from local antique shops and flea markets to online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy. And if you’re feeling bold, why not hit local farmers or dairy farms to see if they’ve got any metal milk cans lying around that they are willing to sell or donate?

But before you splurge on an antique milk can, inspect it closely for any damage or corrosion. You don’t want to get stuck with a piece that won’t hold up in your collection or as farmhouse decor. And keep an eye out for cans with markings or labels, as they give you a peek into the can’s history and add value.

Once you have it in your arms, it’s time to decide what to do with it. The following section will discuss decorating ideas with metal milk cans and dos and don’ts.

DIY Tools to Use

Yellow metal drill lying on a workbench
Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Painting your antique milk can is one of the easiest ways to make it stand out and add personal flair to your home decor. You can use metal-specific paint, such as Rust-Oleum or Krylon, and get creative with stencils or freehand designs.

Before you start painting, it’s a good idea to prep your milk can surface with sandpaper. Beginning with a coarser grit (around 80) and working your way to a finer grit (around 220) will give you the best results and ensure a smoother finish.

If you want to turn your milk can into a lamp or planter, you’ll need a drill to make some holes. To avoid damaging the can, use a drill bit designed for metal surfaces and start with a smaller size to make a pilot hole before moving on to a larger size.

Another tool you’ll need for a DIY project involving your metal milk cans is a jigsaw. Jigsaws can be handy for cutting out a particular design or shape in your can. Look for a jigsaw with a metal-cutting blade to make quick work of your project.

Finally, if you’re not confident in your painting skills, you can always use decals to decorate your milk can. You can find vintage-inspired designs or create custom decals with a vinyl cutter.

With these DIY tools, you can transform your antique milk can into a one-of-a-kind piece of home decor.

DIY tools for milk cans:

  • Metal-specific paint
  • Sandpaper (80 to 220 grit)
  • Drill (drill bit for metal surfaces)
  • Jigsaw
  • Decals
  • Vinyl cutter

Fun Ideas for Using an Antique Milk Can

Two antique milk cans filled with red flowers on top of a wagon
Photo by Alan Bowman on Unsplash

Garden Planter

Ditch the boring planters and go for something unique, such as an antique milk can. This repurposed gem will add rustic charm to any outdoor space, whether you’re decking out your porch, patio, or backyard. Fill in the soil, add your favorite plants or flowers, and voila, you’ve got a very creative garden planter.

Lamp Base

Want to add some personality to your pad? All you need is an antique milk can, a lamp kit, and a cool shade that matches your home decor. Assemble the kit and attach it to the top of the milk can. With this idea, you’ll get a funky lamp base.

Whether cuddling up with a good book or getting creative with craft projects, this lamp base will add a cozy and charming vibe to any room.


Just cut a small hole in the side of the can and attach a hinged lid to create a mailbox that’s as charming as it is unique. Not only will it stand out from the dull, traditional mailboxes in your neighborhood, but it will also enhance your home appeal. Plus, whenever you check your mail, you’ll be reminded of your innovative genius for repurposing that old can into something handy.

Umbrella Stand

Are you tired of tripping over umbrellas in your house? Don’t let soggy umbrellas clutter up your entryway. Instead, transform the antique milk can into a stylish, functional umbrella stand that keeps your entrance neat and tidy. With your new umbrella stand, you will always have a convenient spot to stash your umbrella on rainy days.

Pet Food Container

Two white milk cans with cow logos
Photo by Birgith Roosipuu on Unsplash

Do you want to upgrade your furry friend’s feeding area? Repurpose the antique milk can into a chic and unique pet food container. Remove the lid and fill it with your pet’s food. Your pet’s food will stay fresh and organized.

Kitchen Storage

Want to spice up your kitchen storage? Ditch those dull containers and go for a vintage milk can instead. It’s super handy for keeping all your cooking stuff organized in one place, plus it brings a cozy and rustic vibe to your countertop.

Flower Vase

Two milk cans used as vases holding pink and purple flowers
Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Whether you prefer fresh blooms or dried flowers, repurposed vintage milk cans make a stunning centerpiece of any room in your home. So fill it with your favorite flowers and let the rustic vibe take you back to a simpler time when life was a little slower and sweeter.

Event Decor

Antique milk cans are the perfect way to add cool, rustic decor to your events. For example, if you’re throwing a wedding day or party, you can use them to hold your silverware and napkins. Plus, you can get super creative and hang them on a wall or make a fantastic archway for instant photos.

Toy Storage

Forget about stepping on Legos and action figures all day long and turn that old milk can into a toy storage solution that will make you and your child smile. With just a little creativity and effort, you can transform that antique milk can into storage for all the toys and stuffed animals, and this practical fix will make your life a breeze.


Vintage milk cans are more than just old metal containers. They are pieces of history that can be repurposed and decorated in various fun and creative ways. From painting and sanding to drilling and cutting, there are plenty of DIY tools you can use to make your milk can stand out. And let’s not forget decals- the perfect solution for those of us who lack painting skills but still want to add some personality to our milk cans.

So get your hands on an antique milk can and let your creativity run wild.

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