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how to waterproof tin can

How to Waterproof a Tin Can in 4 Easy Steps

If you’re into DIY projects, tin cans are excellent resources to use for a variety of purposes. They are widely available since many products are packed in tin cans — and they come in many sizes and shapes.

Tin can planters are an excellent choice to complement your décor or make your patio or garden really unique. But there’s one tiny problem: if you don’t treat them beforehand, your tin can planters will start to degrade or even rust after just a few weeks.

If you keep your tin cans out in the open exposed to the elements (especially rain and water), you will start noticing specks of rust after only a few days.

Therefore, if you want to keep your handmade tin can planters rust free, you need to treat them with rust-resistant solutions. In a way, you need to make your tin cans waterproof since water, rain and dew are the arch enemies of your tin cans.

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this process so that you may maintain that shiny metal finish of your cans for years on end.

Things You Will Need:

  • Tin cans
  • Liquid soap
  • Warm water
  • Wash cloth
  • Clear, rust-resistant enamel spray
  • Primer paint
  • Paints in various colors
  • Paint brushes

Steps to Waterproof Tin Cans

Step 1: Clean the Tin Cans

Ideally, you should be using rust-free cans in the first place. Inspect the cans inside and outside for any rust specks, stains, oily spots and any residues. Pay special attention to the rims and seams as it’s pretty difficult to spot rust, dirt or any other unwanted residues there.

If you don’t have clean cans, you can still use cans that have a little rust. Make sure you thoroughly clean those tiny specks of rust before going to the next step.

You can use liquid dish soap and warm water to clean the cans. Always double check the inside bottom seams as well as the outside rims and seams. The cans need to be free of any substances that might prevent the paint or sealer from sticking to the metal.

Step 2: Make Sure the Tins are Completely Dry

Before applying any rust-resistant or waterproofing solutions, make sure your cans are completely dry. Use a cloth to wipe out any water, oil or  other substances.

Step 3: Apply Water and Rust-Resistant Spray on the Cans

The safest and quickest way to make your tin cans waterproof is to spray them with a coat of enamel rust-resistant spray inside out. Apply the first coat of spray on the entire surface of the can making sure you covered the outside rims and seams.

Wait until the spray coat has dried (about 30 minutes) and then spray the cans again to make sure you completely covered the entire surface.

I recommend spraying the entire inside of the cans to increase the longevity of the planters.

If you spray just the top of the can (that interior part of the planter that will show), water will continue to damage your planters from the inside. After all, you are going to water your plants regularly.

Step 4: Apply a Coat of Primer Painter

If you want to add colorful designs on the outside of the cans, apply a coat of primer paint or acrylic varnish. Once again, make sure to cover the entire surface of the cans, paying special attention to the rims and seams.

Let the primer dry and then apply a second coat to make sure your cans are protected against the elements. You can now apply various paint colors on your tin cans. Just let your imagination and creativity loose.

What you need to know about waterproofing tin cans

Do tin cans rust? Tin does not rust. Despite the name, tin cans used today are actually not made of tin. Tin is rare and expensive and most tin cases are made of aluminium which is prone to corrosion but not rust.

What paint will stick to tin cans? Any paint type will stick to tin cans so it really doesn’t matter what kind of paint you’re using. Once your tin cans are painted and dry, apply a coat of acrylic varnish to seal in the paint and make it completely waterproof.

Can you grow herbs in tin cans? You can use tin cans to grow herbs, succulents and any type of small plants. Tin can planters are just as good as the planters you would normally buy from any home accessories shop.

Three Reasons Why You Should Make Your Own Tin Can Planters

1. Make recycling fun

Most people simply discard used tin cans. But you can assign a new role to these cans by recycling them into tin can planters. Add some colour and they’ll make for great homes for your plants, especially succulents.

2. Let your creativity loose

Once you’ve applied waterproof and rust-resistant spray or paint on your tin cans, you can take this DYI project further by colouring them or painting various patterns to make your planters unique.

3. Inspire others to do the same

Once your friends and neighbours have seen how beautifully your tin can planters decorate your porch or patio, they’ll be feel inspired to do the same.


If you want to recycle your tin cans and use them outdoors, you need to apply a coat of paint and acrylic varnish to make them waterproof. In this manner, they’ll last longer and you’ll protect them against the elements.

If you’ve got other tips and tricks on how to waterproof tin cans, let me know in the comments below.

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