Repairing A Rusty Wagon: A Little Red Renovation

While on a garage sale gift shopping spree, I ran across this rusty red wagon for just five dollars.  Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about getting a wagon for my son’s birthday and it did look rather damaged, but its previous owner coached me through the steps for fixing it up and ended up convincing me to buy.  I’m so glad he did!

The total time it took to fix the wagon was about three hours (including shopping time) and didn’t require much effort.  We followed  a few simple steps and found ourselves quite happy with the results.

Sand down the rust. Using steel wool, we scrubbed down the inside of the wagon with soapy water until it was as clean and smooth as we could get it.  We should have paid more attention to the corners and seams between the bottom and sides, but overall we did well.

Let the wagon dry: Just long enough so that the paint can be applied to a moisture-free metal surface.

Treat with rust-prevention product:  We ended up using “Naval Jelly” which seemed the least toxic and applied it outside so the area was well ventilated.  

Brush on enamel paint: A small container of red paint, perfectly matched to children’s wagons, was easy to find at our local hardware store.  We could have also checked at our recycled building materials center (BRING) to see if they had any on hand.  It cost a whopping twelve dollars for the paint, but it also helped to fix up my son’s tricycle.  While the container recommends a liberal coat, ours was a bit too thick.  We were told not to use a primer, and it worked fine without it.

Wait at least 24 hours: The wagon was just so beautiful and shiny that we rushed to share it with our son before it was fully dry.  Since we used a thick coat, we should have waited even longer than 24 hours.  My son’s foot marred the paint a bit, but overall it still looks great.

The total cost for the wagon after buying the paint was $17.00, compared to $90.00 retail!  Already, we are so happy with our purchase.  Roscoe pulls the wagon around the backyard filled with leaves and sits in it for neighborhood walks.  We used it at his birthday party to haul food to the picnic table and provide free rides.  It’s pretty wonderful to think that this little gem was saved from a landfill only to provide us with years of sturdy service.  

Check out the creative cost-saving, eco-friendly posts below for more enlightenment this Thrifty Green Thursday.  Anyone’s welcome to join us, just read the directions on how to get started and jump in.  Thanks for stopping by!



  1. Your wagon turned out great!!! It looks brand new – great job! 🙂

  2. Spray paint is a wonderful invention. Love the wagon and good for you for recycling.

  3. Looks good as new!

  4. Thanks for all the encouragement! I’m a little tempted to spend my remaining years on this planet repairing red wagons and donating them to young families, but for now this blog post will have to do. Please make sure to check out the variety of great posts from everyone and leave a comment. We’re glad you joined us this week!

  5. Joy, that wagon turned out very well, especially considering its condition. How did they get it so rusty? If renovating wagons is your new passion, you’re welcome to spiff one up for Audrey!

    I really enjoyed reading everyone’s contributions this week. I can’t wait to find FREE apples (thanks, Abbi!), and I already made my own draft stopper thanks to Greeen Sheeep. Thanks, everyone!

  6. The wagon looks great! You’ve inspired me to fix up our old tricycle for a nephew and I want to transform Betsy’s old pink princess bike into a cool boy’s bike. Shoot me now for my gender bias, but it is soooo pink and actually says Disney Princess on the side. But the wheels do have lavender sidewalls….need a boyish theme to coordinate with purple…

  7. nice post, thanks for sharing!

  8. Elizabeth Reid Steere says

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve got a red wagon in much the same condition as yours was. I googled “fix rusty wagon” and your site was at the top of the list. Steel wool and elbow grease sounds a little healthier than the shelf full of rust and paint removing chemicals at the hardware store.

  9. Gasp! I’m in pretty much the same boat as Elizabeth. My wagon is in somewhat worse shape than yours, and it was my wagon when I was little (and my sister’s years before that!), so I really feel like I need to fix it up for my kids, and your directions are awesome! What really made me want to comment is that apparently you live near me! We visit BRING a lot too! Small world!

  10. I picked a similar one up at a garage sale for $2. My mission is to refinish it this weekend. Thanks so much for the tips!!!

  11. Thank you so much. I have two rusty old wagons to do. in is really rusty. this will help a lot!

  12. Thanks for posting! Going to update an old
    Red wagon I just got! By any chance do you remember the color of the paint you used? Thanks again for posting!

Speak Your Mind