Sustainable Berea

PO Box 1302

Berea, KY 40403


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©2019 by Sustainable Berea. All Rights Reserved.

Plastic Rain Barrel Painting


It is especially important to follow correct procedures to ensure that the Rain Barrels (RB) remain intact and in good condition.  Quality craftsmanship is important to the overall integrity and success of the project.


Quick Overview


Barrel handling and prep:

  • Stressing the fixtures (faucet or elbow) can cause their seals to leak. Please do not handle the barrels by fixtures, and when moving the barrels around, be careful not to kick the faucet or bump it against things.

  • The interior should not be painted. One way of keeping splatter out of the inside is to remove the screen, wrap it with a small piece of newspaper, and reinsert it. Be careful to push down on the screen frame, not the screen itself, so the screen does not pull away from the frame.

  • The fixtures should not be painted and must be protected from paint.

  • The barrel needs to be cleaned, sanded and primed before it is painted. You must be able to apply the primer immediately after sanding, as the surface will re-wax if left.

  • Barrel prep should take you about an hour. Detailed tips can be found below.



  • It is recommended that the paint is added in two to three light coats. You may want to consider this in your design. The less time you have to paint the simpler you may wish your design to be. Please leave at least 48 hours (longer is better) drying time before moving your barrel. This gives the paint time to cure.


Detailed Prep and Painting Tips


1. Label Removal --- For a paper label, spray it with water and let it soften, then take a scrubby sponge and scrub off all paper and adhesive. A plastic paint scraper is also helpful. Any adhesive you can feel but not see can be sanded off later.


For plastic labels --- Peel off with a plastic paint scraper. Citrusolve or a Goop type product may help for a particular difficulty label. If you have a barrel where the label has been partially burned, you may find there is a permanent “tattoo”. It may be impossible to get this off.

This can be sanded over then painted.


2. Wash barrel, top, bottom and sides with warm soapy water and dish detergent. Dry with soft cloth. With masking tape, tape off faucet and elbow. Add newspaper covering to screen (or figure out some other way to keep the paint from getting on the screen or going in the barrel.)


3. Turn the barrel upside down and sand with 220-grit sandpaper (bottom up). A light sanding is all that is needed to remove the barrel's waxy coat and give the primer something to bite. The paint then sticks to the primer. We are attempting to create a new “skin” of paint over the plastic barrel.


4. Wipe barrel down with either vinegar or an ammonia/water solution


5. Primer --- Do not brush out too thin. Work into all crevices, including stamped letters. Cover the entire surface. Let dry well.  This will take longer than normal, as the surface is not absorbent. When dry, flip the barrel right side up, and sand the top lightly again and prime.


You must be able to put primer on immediately after sanding, as the surface will re-wax if left. It will be helpful to do each step in sections so you know the entire surface has been prepped.


6. When the primer is completely dry you may sketch your design and begin painting. Use a dull pencil, as a sharp pencil will scratch off the primer. The pencil marks do erase well.


It is recommended using two to three light coats of paint, to reduce the chances of the paint sagging then dripping. (This will happen after you walk away and then discover it after it is dry!) The thicker the paint the more likely it is to peel.


When your barrel is finished it highly recommends giving it at least 48 hours drying time before you move it, longer would be better. The paint needs a period of time to cure to reduce the possibility of damage to the paint job. The lower the temperature of your work area the longer the drying time.


  • Please feel free to use artist paintbrushes of your choice that meet the needs of your designs.


  • Follow the basic rules you would when painting a wall.  Tape (mask), cut in and fill in. Do the background first and then detail.


  • Tape off lines with masking tape if using and complete one color at a time.  You will need multiple light coats of paint---two, maybe three---to get complete coverage. Thick coats will tend to peel, so please use multiple thin coats. Once you have full coverage with the first color move on to the next. You may want to remove masking tape before the paint dries to prevent the tape from pulling off dry paint. If this happens you will need to re-prime.


  • Clean up misplaced paint right away with a damp soft lint-free cloth.


  • Waxed paper works well as a paint palette.​