How to Clean Rusted Metal Milk Crates

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Things You'll Need

  • Steel wool pads containing soap

  • Fine-grit sandpaper

  • Damp towel

  • Gloves

Rust is not alive. It "grows" due to moisture and oxygen moving deeper into the metal.
Image Credit: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

When iron and steel are exposed to water and oxygen, they begin to rust. Rust is a chemical compound called iron oxide. Iron oxide molecules are larger than the molecules in iron and steel; the larger molecule size results in rust bubbling out from the metal and flaking. There are many petroleum- and wax-based products on the market that prevent rust; zinc primers available in aerosol cans will also prevent metal from rusting. Once you remove the rust from your milk crates, treat them with a rust-prevention product and keep them dry.


Step 1

Dip the steel wool pad in water to moisten.

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Step 2

Rub the rusted area with the pad, using quick back-and-forth movements.

Step 3

Wipe with the damp towel to remove the rust residue and soap.

Step 4

Sand off the remaining rust with the fine-grit sandpaper, using the same quick back-and-forth motion.

Step 5

Wipe the crate clean with the damp towel; rinse it often.

Step 6

Dry the crate thoroughly with a towel, or let it sit in the sun until it's completely dry.


If you are going to paint your metal crates, prime them first with a metal primer that prevents rust.

Wear gloves when working with steel wool to avoid skin abrasions.


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