{Tutorials & Handmade}

before & after: locker restoration

As I mentioned yesterday, this weekend I found a rusty project for myself in Beth’s junior high school.

I’m a pretty big fan of post-rust restoration, so I’m willing to put in some elbow grease to bring things back to life. Last year (on superbowl sunday, actually), I found a bank of lockers on Craiglist for $20.  They looked rusty in the listing photo, but they were twenty dollars.  Twenty dollars=price I can afford and am willing to pay.  

Here’s what they looked like, fresh off the truck:before: crusty rusty

This is before, people.  They were only $20, but they were also rough.  Also, not pictured (why did I forget to photograph this?  whhhhhhhhhhhhy?) are a bazillion stickers stuck to the inside of the lockers.  They were in a junior high school, afterall.  Many kids claimed them over the course of time, and they had the sticker stories to show it.

So, I scrubbed as much rust off as possible, and also scrapedscrapedscrapedscrapedscraped stickers out of the guts.

I discovered halfway through a rust scour the lockers are green.dirt is not eh natural color, they're green!

I used aluminum foil and white vinegar to scrub off most of the topical rust.  I liked it because the supplies were inexpensive and I also didn’t worry about the chemicals in my cleaner.

After the rust scrub, I scraped out inside of the lockers, and gave them a good final wash.


Camera hog.  Also, water hog.  He thought wash the lockers was wash-the-dog time.  Grub loves water.

prepped for a sealant

I did a soapy water wash and rinse to prep them for a clear coat of spray paint (it took two cans, in case you wondered).  While I felt like they made great progress in the rust department, I didn’t want it to rust any further nor did I want exposed rust.  I liked the fade and blotchy patina (look veeeeeeeeery carefully) so I just sealed it in.

And now they look like this…


As you can see, there was some rust I just couldn’t scrub away, so I wooed Jared into trimming the bottom out in some leftover pallet wood.  On the inside he also lined the bottom of each locker with wood.

aw, illinois momento!


It’s fun and handy storage!  It took quite a few hours to restore, but I’m at a point in life where I can find hours not bills:).  We keep Kobuk’s dog food, some backpacking and climbing gear, and hats and mittens inside, so it’s worked out well!

great storage

Between baskets, wood crates, and lockers, I’m pretty happy with our current walk-in-the-door organization.  before! after!

Take that, rust!


7 thoughts on “before & after: locker restoration

  1. WOW! Love this so much! Now I need to find some old lockers to love (they just need to be very teeny-tiny to fit into our apartment). Also: love that globe on top. It’s the perfect pop of color!


  2. Love it!! I had some lockers that I had to leave in Fairview…sad sad day! And I am pretty sure I am never going to find any here…oh well, all for Jesus right?


  3. I have a huge bank of 15 that i’m having problems with . the rust is pretty bad and starting to crack on the bottom three rows. do you think this will work on mine or is it better to bite the bullet and powder coat?


    • Hi Jaren!
      I am by no means an expert, but I think it would depend on a few different factors, like what the lockers will be used for (will kids be interacting with them all the time, or will they be in a studio with only you using them?) and how long you hope they will last. Usually I would say to go for the diy, but if they’re that bad I think I would definitely look into getting them powder coated.
      Hope that helps (and doesn’t add to muddying the waters)!


      • Thanks for the quick reply. They will definitely be a piece of functional art in my studio.
        So i’ll have to bite the bullet and powder coat.


  4. Thanks for your post. I just bought a set of 3 lockers to use in my son’s room. There is some rust on the bottom so I’m going to try the aluminum foil/vinegar method. Then, I’ll spray paint it and distress it a little. Very helpful and congrats on the great look!


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