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How To Restore Vintage Oil Cans

How To Restore Vintage Oil Cans

Vintage oil cans are very popular collectables in today’s market, and antique brands such as Esso, Texaco and Castrol can command
high prices, as well as those in unusual materials or shapes. Clased under ‘Petroliana’, oil cans started making their way into the antique and vintage markets due to their logo designs, specific branding or simple aestetic qualities, and now have found their way out of garages and into collectors cabinets. These are real working pieces though, they’ve not been decorating shelves or used a few odd times, they’ve been filled up with oil in cold, damp garages, or used in industrial manufacturers to keep machinery in tip-top condition. This often means we find them today caked with years of grease and oil often mixed with a good few years  worth of dust on top. But beneath that dirt and grime lays beautiful stripped back metal and patina that only years of wear can achieve. So we’ve created a step by step guide to bringing vintage and antique oil cans back to their best.

Step 1:  Rub off any loose or large clumps of dirt from outside of piece using a soft cloth. Dependent on the amount of dirt, this process can take some time, so be patient, be sure to keep folding the cloth so you use the clean side, to avoid putting dirt back onto the can. Its important to have all the dirt removed before moving onto step 2.

Step 2: Prepare a solution of hot water and detergent in a large bucket. Soak the cans in this for 10-15 minutes. Use protective gloves such as rubber washing up gloves when placing the oil cans into the detergent.

how to clean vintage oil cans

Step 3: Once soaked, used a hard bristled brush to break up the oil and grime and soak again for a further 10 minutes. Again for this process we recommend using rubber clothes, take your time as with step 1, to ensure all the oil and grime has been removed.

Step 4: Ensure you drain any water out from the cans and then use a soft cloth to dry.

how to clean a antique oil can

Step 5: The cans should look cleaner now, but often this doesn’t remove the real stubborn grime. For this you’ll need to apply a degreaser solution. You can buy degreaser for less than £6 on the internet, we opted for the ‘Holts’ brand as it was only £4.99.

Step 6: Apply a good coat of this spray solution, and leave cans to sit for 5-10 minutes. We placed the vintage oil cans on a old rag, just to protect the floor from the degreaser.

how to clean vintage oil cans

Step 7: Next dip the cans into the detergent solution mix once again and scrub with a small bristle brush to remove any remaining
degreaser. By now you should noticed a huge difference in the cans compared to step one.

how to clean vintage antiques with degreaser

Step 8: The last step is to simply dry your oil cans with a soft cloth. They should now be much cleaner and free of grease, with all their lovely patina on show! We will polish the antique oil cans and give them a buff, ready for the photo shoot, this will give them an extra shine.

antique vintage oil cans

And below are the results, as you can tell by the final images the vintage oil cans have cleaned up fantastically. This whole process took hours of elbow greece and a little bit of patience!. Here at Arnett Vintage Co we take the time to prepare all of our vintage antique goods for re sale, whilst we like to keep all of our goods in original condition (you will not find repro’s here), we believe that giving them a good clean brings them back to life.

vintage oil cans for sale, buy from Arnett Vintage compan

If you have any hints, tips or would like to share your vintage goods restoration stories, then feel free to comment in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you!.


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