How to Spray Paint Plastic {Plastic Crate Revamp}


How to Spray Paint Plastic


How to Spray Paint Plastic


How to Spray Paint Plastic


Up until last week, I would have never considered spray painting plastic. It’s one of those things that just knowing from learning the hard way, nothing “really” works.  This last week, I stumbled across a product/process in my quest for creating some unique and cheap storage pieces to spray painting plastic that will actually work!!

I can think of a ton of plastic items that would be fun to paint but my goal was to try and figure out if there was anyway possible for me to “successfully” paint plastic grocery store milk crates and large Coca Cola drink carriers/crates like these:


How to Spray Paint Plastic


I wanted to use these plastic grocery crates for my project because they are heavy duty and are the perfect item to use for storage because they are …drum roll… Stackable!! Oh yea, come to Momma:


How to Spray Paint Plastic

Best of all they are cheap or even free if you can charm your local grocer, or find them in junk yards/stores.

I wanted my crates to have that same silvery color as a steel/zinc bin or tray to coordinate with my project.  Valspar makes a “Brilliant Metal” shiny steel/metallic spray paint that looks pretty close to new zinc/steel that I knew would give me the result I wanted.  After trying a couple different products and combinations, I successfully painted my crates and the paint stuck for good!  Oh joy!


How to Spray Paint Plastic


Now that I know this technique works, my mind keeps wandering to all the plastic spray fun I can have.  The possibilities are endless!  How fun would it be to paint these crates in a bright orange or fabulous turquoise! Oh fun stuff!

So here are the steps to successfully paint plastic;

1) Clean plastic thoroughly with soap and water. Use a water hose to spray to remove any soap residue and allow to completely dry.

2) If plastic is super smooth, use a super fine grade of sand paper or steel wool to very lightly rough up surface.  (my crates were beat up and had plenty of roughness) Wipe off any residue.

3) There are several spray plastic primers on the market but I can only speak for Valspar’s  clear plastic primer:


Valspar Plastic Primer


Follow the directions on the can and spray two thorough coats of spray primer allowing 15 minutes in between each coat.  After the second coat, allow a full hour for the primer to dry {it dries pretty quick}.

4) The directions on the primer say that you should paint the primed plastic with an enamel paint, which makes sense.  I used Valspar’s Brilliant Metal (silver cap) which is an enamel:


How to Spray Paint Plastic

I sprayed one heavy coat of paint and let it dry and then turned it upside down and sprayed another coat:


How to Spray Paint Plastic

I allowed my crates to completely dry overnight.

5) If you have ever worked with enamel before, you know that it takes several days to fully dry.  While you can carefully use the item after 12-24 hours, it can scratch easily for a couple of days until it completely dries.  I also read online that you can add extra precaution from scratching by finishing off with a top coat of clear spray polyurethane but you cannot do it on the metallic paint as it dulls the glisten/metallic.

If you want to add chalkboard paint for labeling, just apply 3-4 coats (drying in between) directly on the spray paint.  I didn’t prime the area and it worked perfectly.  You could also cut to fit chalkboard vinyl as an alternative to painting:



How to Spray Paint Plastic



Well friends I am heading back to finish my big project and you can see how I used these crates and other unique storage items when I post the revamp on Friday morning.

Have a great week friends!



This entry was posted in DIY, Do It Yourself Projects, Organizational Ideas, Revamp Projects, Tutorials and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to How to Spray Paint Plastic {Plastic Crate Revamp}

  1. Miss Kitty says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this GREAT storage idea, Cyndy! I was dumpster diving early this morning for cardboard boxes to store things in and saw some of these plastic crates by the dumpster. I wondered if they were there for the supplier to come back and pick up OR if they were free for the taking. I didn’t take them at the time but now…….hmmm.

  2. I was .just. thinking about spray painting plastic this morning! Of course, you did it before me and so awesomely (-: I love these crates and they might just be what I was looking for for my new home office. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Cyndy says:

    Thank you sweet Kristen! Yes, send me pics if you do. I would love to see how they look in another color besides the steel! Have a great day!

  4. Oh my, those turned out so nice. They are a piece you can showcase and not hide. Love it

    • Cyndy says:

      Oh thank you Lisa! I want to spray paint more of them in different colors! I think they would be so cool in a modern all white space spray painted white. Lots of possibilities! Thank you so much Lisa!

  5. Amanda Eck says:

    Girl! this is awesome! I would have never thought of painting those silver. LOVE it! Cant wait to see what you’ve been up to!

  6. Maureen says:

    What a terrific idea, thanks for sharing it with us! These came out beautifully and I can see that this would work for a lot of purposes. I love the idea that you added the chalkboard paint for labeling, it looks so nice, was it difficult to spray it neatly or did you use a brush? I like that you can reuse the crates and just change it the “label” with chalk.

    Thanks again for the information and for a great project I can actually do!

    • Cyndy says:

      Thanks Maureen! I used a brush to paint on the chalkboard paint and did it in the sun and it each coat took about 2 minutes to dry! ****New tip, chalk paint in the sun or use a hair dryer on cool, takes 5 minutes! These trays/crates are awesome because you can sort and stack and even 7 or 7 stacked crates take up very little room but you see how much room you have in each tray. I wish I would have done it sooner! Thank you again Maureen!

  7. Linda says:

    I saw the title of your post and thought “Hmmmm really?” I have to say this is such a terrific idea and my mouth actually hung open when I saw how great the crates turned out! Love the silver and I agree that turquoise would be awesome ~ so glad I took a minute to read. Thanks for your blog ~ you are so very creative!

  8. Jennifer says:

    What a good idea. Amazing how much spray paint can make a difference!

  9. Where did you get your containers? Can you just get them from the back of a grocery store? Please let us know. Your closet and crates look wonderful.

    • Cyndy says:

      I have a friend who works for a chain of grocery stores, she picked them up for me. I have seen them in thrift stores and I’m not sure but it doesn’t hurt to ask the grocer if they have any that they don’t use or old ones. I think bottling plants would have extra as well. Good luck.

  10. angie says:

    I have searched everywhere for a forum or something talking about silver paint/plastic/clear coating. I have tried everything under the sun-I am trying to paint plastic with the silver chrome paint or any kind of shiny silver but so far, it doesn’t matter how long I let it dry, it still scratches when I touch it or some of the paints I’ve tried leave fingerprints even 2-3 days later. I tried every clear coat I could find and like you said, they all dull. You can put water based polyurethane over the oil based metallic paint but it has to be dry but the problem is, the clear coat peeled off very easy. I always thought you couldn’t put oil based over water but it’s different with the polyurethane. My question is, are your crates scratched up? or do they still look smooth without any fingerprints? Is the brand valspar a special type of paint? I have heard of it but I haven’t seen it anywhere in the area I live in. I would be willing to order it if you think it’s a better paint or if it’s specifically for plastic. I will probably order some and try it anyway because I’m ready to pull my hair out over this project!! Thanks for your post!

    • Cyndy says:

      Angie- My crates are holding up and not scratching with this process. However, I have worked with enamels for years on glass and I have found that the enamel really takes a full 3 weeks really dry/cure all the way on glass. I can tell a difference between 2 weeks to 3 weeks in the enamel as strange as that sounds. I suspect that it probably works the same way on plastic. You can scratch off enamel on glass for 2 weeks and after the 3rd, it’s solid. Good luck!

  11. angie says:

    OMg that gives me so much hope! lol I’m driving myself crazy with this trying to figure it out because I know there has to be a way. I think I will order the spray paint you used and thn just wait 3 weeks. thanks again!!

  12. Liz says:

    Was searching for how to do this. I am redecorating my office in cantelope, fushia, and turquoise and these should look great painted in those three colors. So excited hope I can find the right paint. Thanks yours look awesome.

  13. Great tip…thanks so much! I have a few plastic things I want to paint!

    Susan @ Oh My! Creative

  14. Danielle says:

    Great tip! Just what I needed.

  15. Mallory says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much for posting this. I had the same idea using crates as shelves. I’m moving into an apartment and at this point cheap is good. I love what you did with these crates, they look great. I’ll be sure to follow this process step by step!

  16. jan says:

    Great idea, only one question do you have problems wiwth drips when spraying?
    I just spray painsted some plastic pots and really had to be careful of the drip look. With all the nooks and crannies of a crate, how do you avoid that?

  17. Kristy Swain says:

    Looks great! I linked to your post in a post on my blog via your image!

  18. SHANNON says:

    I painted plastic plant hangers with these paint and they turned out great!!!

    • Whitney says:

      I really want to revamp some plain plastic hangers of mine, I just wasn’t sure if I could get the spray paint to stick to the plastic. Did this process work well for you? Did you hang them up on string or lay them flat to paint?

  19. Beth says:

    Love the crates!!! I too have been working on a home office/craft room and I am hating using plastic storage containers, but my office is in our barn and I have to consider mice in my stuff. So I have to have something that seals, but now I am thinking I might could spray the tops and maybe even some of the containers so they are not so see thru and match better to my room colors… My question to you is…I am also painting some megaphones for our cheerleaders that are plastic and they need to be based red first…do you think this same process will work for the base color and then I can paint on top with acrylic paints for the details and then seal it off?

  20. Wendy says:

    Thanks Cindy for the info. Lately I’ve been thinking of spray painting my crates from my classroom in different colors to store math manipulatives. I just didn’t know how to do it. FYI: Ask your local school lunchroom for milk crates. It’s where I got mine from- FREE!

  21. Michelle says:

    Cyndy, those look so cool. I love the metal spray paints. I have to round up crates now! Really good look with the combination of the black chalk paint. I

  22. Scarlett says:

    It’s actually illegal to pick up milk crates from grocery stores and the like. Even if you have a friend that works there–they’re stealing the crates and apparently it’s punishable by law. Who knew? Better off buying them!

  23. Kerry says:

    Just wondering how many cans of spray paint you used. I have 6 milk crates and wanted to know how many cans I would need to buy.

  24. John Snow says:

    Clearly an advert for the spray. How much did they pay you?

  25. Michelle says:

    Beautiful job!! I have a couple questions: do I need to scuff every tiny bit of crate before priming?
    And roughly how many normal size milk crates did u do with 1 can of primer and 1 can of paint? Thank you so much for sharing your amazing work!

  26. Claudia says:

    How many cans did you use per crate? Your crates look really nice! I would like to build a bookshelf for my daughter using this technique.

  27. Karen powell says:

    Could you email about how many milk crates you were able to cover with one spray can thx

  28. Martha says:

    Just found your website and you did a great job. I have some Rubbermaid white wire shelving and it looks so plain. Do you think your process would be something I could use. Thank You

    • Cyndy says:

      Hi Martha! Yes, if you follow the same directions that I listed in the post (using plastic primer for sure), it should be just fine. Remember, it will take awhile to fully dry and harden but it should work just perfect. 🙂

  29. Aziza says:

    This was exactly what I was looking to do with my milk crates. Thank you very much for the details on how to accomplish this task.

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