How to Transform an Old Wooden Crate

Shrubs on refurbished crate

The Spruce / Caylin Harris

Getting Started

art supplies in a wooden crate
The Spruce / Caylin Harris

Never underestimate how useful old crates can be—not only are they beautiful to look at with their antique finishes and logos—but they also can store a variety of items. The problem? The only way to get the true look of an antique is to find a nice old wooden version. Sometimes they're covered in dirt and dust that hide their beauty. But don't worry, with a little work and some elbow grease you can get that vintage look in your own home.

Gather Your Materials

Materials needed to spruce up a wooden crate
The Spruce / Caylin Harris

Before you gather your materials you need to think about whether or not you want to just clean up a vintage crate or completely refurbish one. As a suggestion, if you have a crate made of a gorgeous vintage wood we'd recommend just cleaning it up. But if you're not into the wood finish or it's made of cheaper material, you can sand and paint it. Here are the materials you might need for both:

  • Your crate
  • A rag
  • A dry brush/hard-bristled brush
  • Vacuum (if needed)
  • Primer or clear finish
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Painter's tape
  • Newspaper

Clean It Up

Brush dirt and dust off with a clean paintbrush
The Spruce / Caylin Harris

For both techniques, you're going to want to start by cleaning up your crate. Using a vacuum or a rag, remove dirt and dust from the surface of the crate. A dry paintbrush is a great way to work dirt from inside the cracks and crevices too. Take your time and make sure all of the dry grime is off the crate first. If there a lot of grooves that have dirt, scrub it down with a dry brush to get everything out.

If there is still dirt on the outside or if there is a weird musty smell, you may want to get a little more aggressive. For dirt, you'll want to use a slightly damp rag to wipe down the outside. Just use water and don't over-wet or soak the wood. If you're dealing with a weird odor, use equal parts water and white vinegar to wipe down the inside and outside of the crate. Again without over-wetting the wood. Before moving on to the next step let the wood dry completely.

Prime and Prep

Painter's tape on a wooden crate
The Spruce / Caylin Harris

For some people cleaning might be the end of the process—especially if you have an unforgettable vintage look that you want to preserve. But if you're looking to update a crate with a new paint color or add a nice clear finish to protect the wood, here's what you'll need to do. Start by using painter's tape to cover any logos or hardware. Once you're satisfied with the coverage, apply the primer or clear coat finish. Let it dry completely.

Finish With Paint (Optional)

Spray painting a wood crate
The Spruce / Caylin Harris

If you've decided to paint your crate, apply it in a well-ventilated area whether it's simple acrylic paint or spray paint. You can use either. You'll most likely need two coats minimum to cover the primer coated wood. The darker the color, the faster it will cover. Let the crate dry completely before putting anything in it.