How to Age Galvanized Metal Buckets

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Aging Dollar Store Metal Buckets for Cheap

This year I am decorating in more of a rustic farmhouse look than the usual glitz and glamour Christmas decor.   I want to have small buckets with real trees throughout the house so there is no way I can afford $20 for each galvanized metal bucket.  Being cheap I decided to try and age some metal buckets I found at the dollar store.

Hubs forewarned me that the really cheap metal buckets could be a challenge to refinish once you remove the protective coating.  I already bought the buckets so I decided to try it anyway.

Although the four buckets only cost $18, I spent too long on Pinterest researching various ways of aging galvanized metal.  There are various methods using toilet bowl cleaner, bleach and peroxide (I don’t recommend that), or just peroxide and letting them soak.

With some trial and error I found a way to give my cheap buckets the burnished finish I wanted.    The final finish depends on you, and I will point that out as we go along.

Christmas arrangements made with aged metal buckets

Aging Galvanized Metal Tutoriala

Supplies for Aging Galvanized Metal


Metal Buckets

Strong toilet bowl cleaner

Cloth pot scrubber

Soft rag


220 grit sandpaper and sander

Matte finish polyurethane coating

A large plastic tray or container

Goggles, gloves, and eye protection.


Notice how shiny and tin looking the original bucket is.  Nothing wrong using it as is or painting it, but it wasn’t the look I wanted.

Supplies for aging galvanized metal

Safety When Aging Metal

Working with toilet bowl cleaner means you need to work in a well-ventilated area.  Preferably outside or in a garage where you can open the door to ventilate the fumes.  Wear a mask as an extra precaution, as well as eye protectors and rubber gloves.  There is no way to know exactly what the metal bucket is made of,  so please don’t take chances.

Aging Metal Tutorial

Pour half a container of toilet bowl cleaner into your tray.

Lay your bucket on its side, dip the scrubber into the toilet bowl cleaner and scrub around the bucket from seam to seam.   Go around the entire bucket two or three times, and then do the top ring of the inside and then the bottom.  Place your bucket aside and let dry.

How to age galvanized metal with a pot scrubber.

I left my buckets to dry overnight in the cold garage.  The next day the buckets had definitely aged, but it was shabbier than I wanted it to be for interior decor.    You may find the finish you get at this stage is exactly the one you want and if so skip the sanding.

Aged galvanized metal the before and after of final sanding.

Once again I put on gloves, glasses, and a mask.  Using a sander with 220 grit paper I removed all the black and rust spots, leaving a dull grey finish that I like.  I then took a rag and polished as much of the oxidization off of the bucket as I could and left it to see what happened.

I left the buckets for two hours and unhappily noticed that they had started to tarnish again.    I resanded the buckets and then coated them with spray on matte Varathane,  and waited.

The patina on aged galvanized metal.

Eureka, it worked!  I checked on the buckets a few times over 24 hours and no change.  Its been four days now and they aren’t rusting.

Don’t have time to make this now?  Pin it!


New buckets aged and rusted for Christmas


The final finish on the buckets is exactly what I wanted, but you can make these buckets as old and used looking as you wish.  Just sand off the areas you don’t like.


The final finish of DIY galvanized metal that has been aged.

These buckets now have a nice soft dark grey patina and only a few blemishes.  You could add ribbon embellishments or even stencil wording on them, but these ones are staying as they are for this year.

I know its early to be posting Christmas pictures, but closer to the holidays I won’t have the time or patience to be burnishing metal.

I love preparing for the holidays.


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  1. These are gorgeous! I love the look of aged metal and corrugated metal. I’m redecorating our bathroom right now, and this will be perfect for the containers that I wanted to buy but didn’t know how to age. Thanks so much!
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    1. LeannaForsythe says:

      That’s awesome. I look forward to seeing what you do with the bathroom. Thank you for commenting, the feedback is valuable and helpful.

  2. Thank for the tutorial, I have been wondering how to do that & just hadn’t had the time to do my own research. I love the way they turned out.

    1. LeannaForsythe says:

      Thank you Judy. I liked how I was able to control the burnish effects using the sander.

  3. That’s so good to know. I’m not a big fan of the bright shiny blingy buckets we find in most craft stores here and being able to tone them down with something we always have at home is going to make such a difference.

    1. LeannaForsythe says:

      Hi Michelle. It worked really well. Its a couple of week’s now and they still look good.

    2. LeannaForsythe says:

      Thank you Michelle. The new patina on them got rid of the cheap tin look they had before. Glad you like them.

  4. These look great!!! I love this idea!! Thanks so much for visiting and thanks for leaving such a nice comment!!

    1. LeannaForsythe says:

      Hi Debbie. You are more than welcome. I always enjoy reading about your activities, especially around Christmas.

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