Refurbish a Vintage Bread Box

Refurbish a vintage bread box into a modern accent for any room in your home.

The Spruce / Jami Delia

How to Refurbish a Vintage Bread Box

Bread boxes can be used for more than just storing bread; you can use them to store bills, keys, and medications so they are out of sight in your kitchen, office or another living area. If you pick up bread box at a thrift store or garage sale that's seen better days or is just not your style, refurbish it.

To refurbish a vintage bread box, you will need the following supplies:

  • Sandpaper and/or liquid sandpaper/deglosser
  • Primer (spray or jar/can)
  • Paint (spray or jar/can)
  • Paint or foam brush (if using a jar or can paint)
  • Wood putty/filler and putty knife
  • Drop cloth (use old sheets, plastic bags or tarp)

Before you begin cleaning and refurbishing the bread box, set up your work area in a well-ventilated area, such as a patio, porch or open garage. Lay down a drop cloth, such as an old sheet, plastic garbage bags or a tarp. Don't use newspapers for this project since painted edges may stick to the paper and create a mess.

Clean the Bread Box

Cleaning bread box parts
The Spruce / Jami Delia

Before you begin refurbishing the bread box, take it apart and clean it thoroughly. To take the bread box apart, look for the screws that are holding it together. Mine had two screws on each side of the door and three holding each of the knobs in place (one per knob). If your bread box has a top drawer for storage, also remove it and set aside.

Be sure to thoroughly clean each and all pieces to remove any dirt, grime, and odors.

  • If there is a musty smell or any other odor inside or on the box components, gently wipe the inside and outside with a solution of water and vinegar. Let all pieces of the bread box dry completely before you continue. This may take a few hours. If it is nice and sunny outside, set the pieces on a clean surface to dry.
  • Wipe the inside and outside of the bread box with a gentle cleaning solution or with a damp cloth.
  • If the knobs or any other hardware on the bread box are made of metal and need cleaning, place the pieces in a bowl with a solution of vinegar and water to remove any dirt or dust buildup.

Remove Decals and Repair

Remove decals
The Spruce / Jami Delia

The amount of work you'll need to put into refurbishing your bread box depends on the condition it's in.

Remove Decals

My breadbox included four (and one partial) retro mushroom decals. No worries, though. They were not too hard to remove. To remove old decals from wood:

  1. Pour about a cap full of rubbing alcohol onto a cloth rag.
  2. Place the wet part of the rag on top of the decal for about 30 seconds.
  3. Rub the decal with both the dry and wet part of the rag in a small circular motion until the decal starts to come off.
  4. Repeat until each decal is removed.

Depending on the decal and how long it's been on the wood, it may take a couple of minutes to remove each one. Try to remove as much of the decal as possible. If some of the decal remains, that is okay. The remainder of the decal will come off when you sand the bread box and/or will be covered up with primer and paint.

After you remove all of the decals, give the wood some time to dry. It may be a little soft from the alcohol.

Repair Wood Damage

If your bread box has any damage, such as a crack in the wood or a chunk missing from an end, apply wood putty/filler to the damaged areas with a putty knife.

Let the wood putty/filler completely dry. This can take up to 24 hours, so plan accordingly.

Sand the Bread Box

Sanding the bread box
The Spruce / Jami Delia

Sand all wooden pieces of the bread box with high grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface and remove any old shellac or gloss. This is an important step to help the primer and paint adhere to the wood.

Use liquid sandpaper/deglosser to prep any difficult edges or grooves. For example, my bread box has many grooves on the door, as well as difficult to sand edges on knobs. I applied a liquid sandpaper/deglosser to these areas with a rag.

Prime the Bread Box

Prime the Bread Box
The Spruce / Jami Delia

Apply multiple thin coats of primer to all pieces of the bread box before painting.

  • If you're painting the bread box a light color, such as yellow, white or tan, apply a white primer.
  • If you're painting the bread box a dark color, such as brown, black or navy, apply a gray primer.

You can use either a spray or jar primer. The choice is yours. No matter which type of primer you use, apply the coats very thinly to prevent any runs. This will require time and patience.

If using jar primer, use either a foam or paint brush to paint on the primer; you may need to use a small paint brush if your bread box has a lot of detailed etching or grooves.

If you notice any runs or the surface appears rough (usually happens when using spray paint) after the primer has dried, gently sand the area with very high grit sandpaper. This will help smooth the surface before painting.

After the entire bread box is primed and all pieces are completely dry (it no longer feels tacky or soft to the touch), it's time to paint.

Paint the Bread Box

Paint the Bread Box
The Spruce / Jami Delia

Pick out the color and kind of paint you want to use to paint your bread box. Remember, if you're going to store uncovered bread in the bread box, be sure to use a non-toxic paint that is safe to use around food.

Apply multiple thin coats of paint. Be sure to let each coat thoroughly dry before applying the next one to prevent running and longer dry times.

After the entire bread box is painted and you no longer see the primer or the original wood, let it dry overnight.

Tip: If you live in a humid climate, you may want to bring the bread box indoors to dry overnight. Excess moisture or dew in the air can cause the paint to become sticky and take longer to dry.

Put the bread box back together and place in a room of your choice.

Note: It is important to let the paint completely dry before putting the bread box back together. If the paint is still soft, the drawer and/or door may stick together and/or ruin the paint.