DIY Soup Can Planters: An Experiment in Rust

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The project that I’m about to share is not for everyone.  But if you like rusty things, then this one’s for you.

A couple of months back, while at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I noticed this cute little planter at one of the booths in the marketplace.

inspiration
Cute planter as found at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

I just loved the rustic patina and wondered if I could duplicate it.

So for fun, I saved a few empty soup cans.  I removed the labels and cleaned them.

before

The Experiment Begins

The patina I wanted to copy looked like a mixture of paint and rust. The paint part was easy enough, but what about the rust?

There are some wonderful rust accelerators on the market, but I wanted to keep this experiment low-budget since, after all, it was only an experiment.

My husband, Chris, offered to whip up a rust accelerator for me using simple household ingredients.  So while he searched Google, I searched through our spray paint cans.

The paint

Since I wanted to experiment with different results, I thinly sprayed the soup cans with random combinations of Rust-Oleum Heirloom White and Rust-Oleum Matte Citron – both paints that I already hand on hand.

I sprayed some cans with only the Heirloom White, some with only the Matte Citron, and some with both colors.  I made sure to leave a few unpainted patches of raw metal – mostly at the top of each can.

Then I rubbed each can with steel wool, especially on the horizontal ribs, to expose even more metal.  The photo below shows it better than I can explain it.

DIY Rusty Patina - partially painted first

You can see that I wasn’t going for accuracy here, which is what is so fun about this project.

The rust

Meanwhile, Chris was mixing up his special batch of rust accelerator in a spray bottle, using a formula he found on this website.

The formula, which should be mixed in a certain order, calls for white vinegar, salt, and hydrogen peroxide.  All fairly innocent ingredients on their own.  But combined, they become a strong, wicked acid. Wear eye protection and gloves when mixing or handling.  Use this mixture in a well-ventilated area and away from anything that you don’t want to rust, stain, or inadvertently kill (sorry lawn). For more safety information, head back to this website.

Before I applied this mixture, I saturated each can with white vinegar. This etches the metal so it will better absorb the mixture.  Then I let the cans dry completely.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

Now it was time to apply the magic mixture.  Using a spray bottle, I saturated each can.

It didn’t seem to work – at first.  Then after a few minutes the rust started.  I let each soup can dry, and then I reapplied the mixture.

Soon I just filled a shallow plastic pan with about 1/8-inch of the rust mixture and rolled the cans in the mixture, let them dry, then rolled them again.

I rolled the cans about four times.  It seemed that the mixture was starting to eat through the spray paint a bit.

Finally I was happy with the patina, although I might have overdone it.  The cans did turn out rustier than my original example.

 

 

The finish coat

I rinsed each can off with water.  I noticed that if I rubbed the cans at all, the paint would flake off and expose the un-rusted metal underneath.  Not good.

So once the cans were dry, I applied two coats of a clear, flat acrylic finish by Krylon to stabilize the patina and prevent any more paint from flaking off.

All done!  I love the rustic results.

DIY rusty patina

A Planter or a Vase

My cans look like a vintage find from Grandpa’s tool shed.

DIY rusty patina - planter

Since some plants don’t take well to being planted directly into metal containers, I plant them in small plastic pots and then set those pots inside the cans.

The cans also make cute vases.  I think they would be fun as table decor for a rustic-themed reception.

DIY rusty patina - vase

I could also see using cans of varying sizes in groups as a centerpiece.

To avoid having the cans leave a rust stain on any surface, I will use little coasters under them.

Thanks for stopping by and, while you’re here, hop over and check out my brother’s fun DIY garage rebuild.  I’m so proud of his work!

 

This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial.

 

Resources:


Love rusty metal?  Check out the huge supply of rusty things on Etsy.

I especially love these cute industrial planters from Mike and Art Design.

rusty planter
Photo courtesy of Mike and Art Design.

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