How to Antique New Galvanized Metal - Get The Look For Less!

I absolutely love the authentic natural patina of vintage metal pieces, but they can be a bit pricey! I've been collecting rusty garden accessories and decor for years and recently I scored a handful of olive buckets at Target for $5 on clearance! (Not to mention several adorable metal accessories out of the Target Dollar Spot. My guiltiest pleasure!) You just can't beat the $5 price and the buckets were just precious! My only hesitation was that they were just a little too new looking. And so commenced: Operation: Rusty Buckets. :)

I've seen tons of tutorials on Pinterest and blogs and I knew I wanted to give this DIY a try. I also want to be completely transparent in my trials and errors during this process! Spoiler Alert: I had some major fails! Rusty antiques can take years to acquire their perfectly aged patinas, but hopefully my tips can help you to speed up the process if you love the look as much as I do.

Galvanized metal is usually composed of zinc or iron with a steal coating sealed on top to prevent it from rusting. There are some products that you can use to remove this protective top coat and kick start the natural aging process. What I have learned through many, many, many attempts is that your success is ultimately determined by the actual make-up of the item you're trying to alter. You can have all the corrosive products in the world, but unless your bucket is prepped correctly AND is indeed made of a galvanized product - your attempts may be futile, as mine were! Your results can also vary drastically depending on the item and length of treatment. I've seen my pieces appear to only have a duller finish, with a full rusty patina and even end up with a foggy white finish. All were pleasing! Just be prepared for varying results. And just think of how unique your project will be! Not a single identical one like yours in the world! ;)

So here's what I started with and the look I was aiming to achieve:

Here are a few of the bulk products I had on hand to begin the aging process. There a few items I experimented with that are NOT PICTURED! (Lysol and Clorox toilet bowl cleaner, Zep Acidic toilet bowl cleaner, pre-mixed salt water, salt block, steel wool, tap water and rain water.)

You will also need gloves, a few utility spray bottles and buckets large enough to fully submerse your items in.

Items pictured: Bleach, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, muriatic acid.

Links to purchase all supplies at the bottom of the post!

My initial attempts to age my buckets to the extent I wanted were unsuccessful. I removed the rope handles and started by spraying them down with several coats of a muriatic acid and water solution. (Make sure you wear gloves and protective clothing if you're working with this product!) I repeated this process twice and barely noticed any changes. After the second try, I decided to take it up a notch and I scrubbed the buckets with steel wool, but this time I coated them with several coats of pure muriatic acid. 

Still no changes.

My third attempt was to spray them with salt water and let them sit outside in the elements and rain to see I could see any progress at all. After four days outside - nothing.

I then generously coated the buckets with the toilet bowl cleaners, but after three tries with three different brands I hadn't noticed any change. 

The Indestructible Bucket!
At this point, I realized that the bucket itself may be resistant to this process. I was pretty discouraged! But, I was determined to make it work on something! I grabbed a shiny metal milk jug that I also bought at Target and soaked it overnight in a solution of vinegar, water and bleach. I didn't measure the amounts. I just grabbed what I had on hand and poured it all into a large bucket. The metal needed to be completely submersed so I added water until the solution covered all sides of the jug. I don't have a photo of the jug before I dunked it.. Bummer! But trust - It was S.H.I.N.Y! Much more so than the olive bucket!

Here are the results after soaking overnight! JACKPOT!!!

I knew as soon as I pulled the jug out of the water that its finish reacted completely different to this treatment than the olive buckets had to my other tries. The photo on the left is immediately after removing it from the solution. The photo on the right is after rinsing in clean water and letting it sit outside for a few hours! And the longer it sits the rustier it gets!

LEFT: Just after soaking overnight in a water/vinegar/bleach solution RIGHT: Finished product!

The perfect patina!

So.. obviously after my success I decided to try the same technique on my buckets. Onto try number... 257!?!? 

Sadly.. here are the results. After soaking overnight in the same exact vinegar/bleach/water solution AND sitting outside in the rain afterwards AND another coat of acid - they barely look any different. Two thumbs down. :( Aside from literally getting a grinder on these things I've just about tried everything. My friend Kelly also suggested that we set a salt block in them and let that natural process try to corrode the finish, but to be honest, I was ready to throw the towel in and set up my porch decor!

The Indestructible buckets after their overnight soak..
Olive Bucket result after ALL attempts.

Overall, the buckets are ever-so-slightly more dull, but nowhere near the rusty finish I wanted. However, my milk jug looks AMAZING and I am so pleased with it! For a $5 investment I can honestly say these buckets will last you a longggg time and still look as good as new! The cheapest vintage ones I found at the Nashville Flea Market this weekend ran about $40+.. So I can appreciate my clearance finds for the new awesomeness that they are!

Our 2015 fall porch at the farm.

I sincerely hope you can learn from my trial and error and that these tips help you achieve your rusty vintage bucket dreams! Happy DIY-ing!


If you'd like to order any of the products I regularly use to achieve this look you can order them here!
(affiliate links)

Zep Commercial Acidic Toilet Bowl Cleaner, 32 oz Bottle

Lysol Power and Free Toilet Bowl Cleaner Value Pack, 2 Count

Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner With Bleach Rain Clean Scent Bottle 24 Oz, 2-Pack

SUNNYSIDE CORPORATION 710G1 1-Gallon Muriatic Acid

Clorox Bleach Regular, 64 oz White House White Distilled Vinegar 64oz

Bragg Organic Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar 32 oz

White House White Distilled Vinegar 64oz

Mad Buck Innovations Deer Brick Salt Lick Mineral Block with Exclusive Scent Cell, Acorn Scent

Red Devil 0320 8-Pack Steel Wool, 0000 Super Fine


  1. OMG your Home is so gorgeous... good call with the rusty buckets...

  2. Hi Lauren, I just discovered your blog and am really enjoying reading through your archives. My husband and I are restoring an 1880s Victorian and its great to find other people who are also fixing up old homes and blogging about it!

    Love this DIY for an antique galvanized look. It's hard to believe those buckets were so resilient!!

    1. I'm so glad you're here! Thank you so much for the comment. Restoration can be overwhelming but so rewarding!

  3. Thank you for this blog. That's all i can say..useful information shared...

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  4. I have the little milk can, and I'm glad you found a way to age it! I'm bummed that I missed out on those olive buckets though!
    P.S. Your porch looks great!

    1. Hi, Meg! Thanks for reading! I think I literally did a happy dance in Target when I found those buckets! Hahaha! 💃💃💃

  5. Hi! I am so excited to find your blog! We are actually neighbors! You may not remember but last year after Thanksgiving I came by your house looking for my dog that had disappeared. I had no idea that we have so much in common. I love ALL things old and rusty! I love to repurpose!

    1. Hi, Robin! Yes, of course I remember you! I'm so glad you found your way here. Stop by sometime or give us a honk next time you drive past!

  6. Looks very cool! It's a good idea for my sector, thank you! Only I have no old metal galvanized bucket :( I began to look for them online and found one store called Apromera http://apromera.com/ . If you are interested there there is a large choice of buckets different sizes and they deliver throughout the UK and the European union. I look forward to your bucket to create such beauty as you have :)

  7. How ridiculously CUTE is the front of your home!!! I mean that as a compliment, Your place is so adorable. I have been searching for ways to age canning lids for coasters and I tried bleach, vinegar and then some peroxide which only rusted everything. I heard that Zep acidic toilet bowl cleaner or Lysol toilet bowl cleaner is supposed to work. Your milk can came out perfectly, though! Thank you for all of the tips and pics and blog! : )

    1. Hi! Thank you! Yes, I often use Zep and toilet bowl cleaner. I tried them on these buckets but they must have been coated with something extra. It works well on raw galvanized metal, though!

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