How to Clean Galvanized Buckets

Kate Carpenter

A galvanized bucket is steel coated with zinc. The zinc coating is applied to the bucket to prevent rust from affecting the steel beneath. Over time, a milky looking film may appear on the surface of the bucket. This is the zinc coating leaching to the surface.

It should not be scrubbed off or removed as it is the protection for the bucket against rust.


Keep acid-based substances, like citrus juices, vinegar and some cleaning solvents, from contacting the galvanized bucket. When galvanized steel is exposed to acid-based material or fluids, it turns a dark gray color and there is no remedy for removing it.


Never heat galvanized steel. Heat will cause the zinc to evaporate, and zinc fumes are very harmful and can even be fatal.

Easy Does It

  1. Wash the galvanized bucket inside and out with soapy water made with mild dish detergent and water. Use a sponge to get the dirt and grime off. Do not scrub too vigorously since you might remove the zinc coating. Rinse and dry with a clean cloth.

  2. Use a solvent-based cleaner, like mineral spirits, on a clean cloth to remove grease, oils and particulates. It may take a little "elbow grease" to get some of the grease or oil off. The solvent will not disturb the galvanized metal. Rinse with warm water and dry.

  3. Use a light-weight oil on a clean cloth to further remove any grease. This oil, if it is a light coat, can be left on the galvanized bucket and will not harm the zinc.

  4. Apply a thin coat of car wax with a clean cloth to the bucket, if appearances are important. When the wax dries, gently buff it to a satin finish with a buffing pad or clean cloth. This protective layer will keep the bucket looking new and further inhibit any lose of the zinc coating.