How to Remove Rust & Other Unpleasant Surprises from Your Antique Trunk


How to Remove Rust & Other Unpleasant Surprises from Your Antique Trunk

Antique trunks are a popular collectible item among crafters and antique lovers. They have a certain charm that’s hard to find in modern-day furniture and make a great addition to any home. 

Antique trunks are often a beautiful blend of different materials — pine boards covered in decorative tin, steel corners, brass locks, and nails. However, age and neglect can leave vintage trunks with rusted metal parts and corroded brass. If that sounds like your trunk, it’s time to roll up your sleeves for some restoration work.

If you have an antique trunk that you want to restore, you’re in luck because we’ve compiled some easy-to-follow steps on how to remove rust and other unpleasant surprises from your antique trunks.


Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk safety. Always assume any paint on your trunk is lead-based. Lead exposure can have severe health impacts, so equip yourself with respirators, disposable clothing, gloves, and safety glasses. 


Brass components are often found on antique trunks. They’re soft, so they demand gentle treatment. 

Use fine steel wool (not pot scrubbers) to polish the brass parts. Avoid the temptation to use brass or gold-colored paint to make every metal piece shine. It might look good to you, but it’s not authentic, and true restoration enthusiasts will know!


Rusted steel and tin require more vigorous treatment. There are two main approaches to rust removal: the ‘Slow and Steady’ method and the ‘Brute Force or Bust’ approach.

Option 1: Slow & Steady Wins the Race

This method involves hours of rubbing using steel wool or a wire brush. It’s labor-intensive, but rewarding as it reveals the shiny metal beneath the rust without damaging the wood slats or softer brass parts. Most of our customers prefer this method, and we don’t blame them.

Option 2: Brute Force or Bust

This approach requires less time but can potentially damage your trunk if done carelessly. You’ll need an electric drill fitted with a circular wire brush, protective gear, and lots of patience. When done correctly, it can be a quick and effective way to remove rust. However, remember to go easy on the brush and keep it on the metal parts only.

We recommend experimenting with both methods – use the wire brush for heavy rust, and finish up with steel wool.

Antique trunks are a beautiful addition to any home, but they can be a real challenge to restore if they’re not in great condition. Removing rust and other unpleasant surprises can seem daunting, but with a little patience and some elbow grease, you can get your antique trunk looking as good as new. By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to restore your antique trunk to its former glory in no time.

At Brettuns Village, we offer a wide range of tools perfect for your trunk restoration project. Whether you’re dealing with rusted steel, tin, or tarnished brass, we have the right tools to help you restore your antique trunk to its former glory. So, why wait? Start your restoration journey with us today!