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DIY Milk Crate Wall Shelves

Milk Crate Shelf painted silver

Okay, you got me. These are mini milk crates but you could also do this with larger crates and file crates 🙂 I purchased 8 clear/opaque storage crates from the dollar store. All told this project was under $20.00. If you’ve ever looked for multiple stacking shelving or storage options such as this you know what a bargain this is. With a little elbow grease, these turned out better than I imagined they would.

Plastic Crates for Storage

Plastic Milk Crate with plastic canvas attached

These plastic storage crates can be found in-store or online. Though I got mine at the local dollar store so you may look into that. If they don’t have them in stock you can try their online store and order in bulk which is also great!

We moved into a 2 bedroom ranch home several years ago and storage is always at a premium. Bathroom storage is very tight, especially with our galley bathroom. So I had to come up with a plan. After many hours spent online and looking for options, I finally ended up coming to a conclusion. None of those ideas would work for our space, not to mention the expense…so I began taking all those ideas I’d seen online and formulating my own plan. This is what I ended up doing with simple dollar store crates, spray paint, hot glue, and plastic mesh.

How to Decorate Plastic Crates

lining a milkcrate with cabinet liner

So you may be wondering, can you spray paint plastic crates? The answer is a definite YES! Many spray paints in fact are created to adhere to most plastics and metals now. If you find one that is not they do make a plastic or metal primer you can apply beforehand. Or if you are really strapped and got a lot of energy you can lightly sand them all down to give them ‘teeth’ as they say, so the paint will stick.

If you want the vintage feel, which I just love, I suggest the metallic paints. I was going for Industrial Rustic here and decided on a color that looked galvanized but with some shimmer to match our brushed nickel hardware in our bathroom and it worked out perfectly!

The trick on how to paint plastic crates is actually easier than you think. Simply choose a hardy paint like the Rustoleum I used. It pretty much didn’t need anything, not even roughing up the surface of the plastic of the crates in order to stick. So very happy I didn’t have to do that step! Here I will show you how I decorated the crates to make them useable for our purposes and to have the look I wanted without the excessive cost.

Materials needed to make milk crate shelves

What you need:

  • scissors
  • marker, sharpie, or another permanent marker
  • hot glue and a hot glue gun
  • 101/2″ x 13 1/2″ 7 count plastic mesh canvas sheets
  • spray paint
  • mini plastic crates
  • razor blade or scraper
  • rough sandpaper
  • flat as you can get hangers, must hold a lot of weight if you choose this step.

Steps:

  • First, make sure all labels are off the crates. If you forget you can still do this before you spray paint them, ensure all glue is removed. I used goo gone but wd40 works great as well.
  • Next measure your plastic canvas, I used the eyeball method though you can use a measuring tape. Cut the plastic canvas mesh to sizes needed for the inside bottoms of the crates. Some may need to be trimmed to fit more with each crate, as all the crates were not exactly the same dimensions inside. (This step is absolutely necessary if you plan to use them as storage so that items do not drop out the bottom and they help to sturdy up the bottoms to hold the weight of the items you will be putting inside).
  • Starting in the back lay down some hot glue (you can also use epoxy for this if you prefer) in the corners and back edge and place the plastic canvas inserts inside pressing down firmly. You can also use a sharpie or other object for this if you prefer, I did in the back. Repeat this step for the front portion.

TIP: I first made the templates then used those to cut out all the rest for the fronts, bottoms, and even the liners, it made the whole process much quicker. In fact, if your scissors are sharp enough you can do more than one layer at a time, especially with the liners which is exactly how I did it 🙂

  • Using the leftover plastic canvas measure out how tall you want the fronts to be, I again used the eyeball method and cut my mesh to sizes I wanted for the fronts, I wanted mine to have a good depth to them…but found I was a little short so made two of them a little less deep for smaller items and it worked really well.
  • Next, you will lay down some hot glue around the edges of the front (do this section at a time) and apply the fronts of the crates, using an object or tip of your glue gun press down over the top and move along quickly, can melt the plastic. I started on one side, laying down the glue and adding the plastic canvas to the area, lining it up with the edge so it was even as possible, then I did the same around the bottom and the last side.
  • be sure to go around the edges and fill in any gaps, especially on the underside.
  • Carefully trim excess glue with a razor or sharp knife and then lightly sand down and round off edges so any big lumps and bumps from the glue won’t be so obvious when painted.
  • Roll out your liner and use a bottom from one of the crates you have not hot glued to measure it out. You will cut as shown leaving at least one to 2 inches on either side.
  • You will then lay the liner pieces inside allowing them to hang out the front, and cut as shown, this will be turned around and be the back later.
  • Ensure liners will fit as expected and then cut the rest to shape and glue tabs as shown to create a boxed back.
  • Add hot glue and fold over tabs onto sides of liner and press into place.
  • You can trim any excess on the liners to make them even if you want, as I did.
  • Once you are satisfied with the crates and liners it is time to spray paint!
  • Using cardboard in a well-ventilated area outdoors is best (weather permitting). Use a mask if you have allergies or breathing issues. Also, goggles and gloves if you don’t want to get messy…I don’t mind though (note hands in the pics LOL). Spray paint your crates using short burst sweeping motions until covered and let dry. This will take 2-3 coats. Look over each crate ensuring they are well covered especially on all sides and inside back and sides as they will be seen.
  • Let dry, insert liners, and place in the area needing storage.

A tip for those pesky glue guns that don’t like to stand upright when you are working: I discovered that standing them across my scissors helps a lot with that issue 🙂 You can also skip the hot glue and use epoxy instead. I would recommend doing it for the fronts if you want a stronger hold.

How to Hang Plastic Crates on the Wall?

Milk Crate Shelf painted silver

We ended up avoiding hanging ours on the wall due to the fact we didnt’ want to create holes or have to worry that hooks wouldn’t hold if we added more weight than they would be suggested for and with the added idea that we were in a tight area with water and steam and condensation would affect the adhesive so we chose to just sit them on the counter. If however, you are braver than we were, You can purchase the hooks as flat as possible so that the holes just barely fit over the hook and hang them on two hooks at the back. The other option is obviously to screw them into the wall but that’s a lot of holes. One more option could be to do mounting tape or velcro. But you would again need to be sure about the ability to hold weight. The nice thing about these crates is they have fitted legs/holes where the legs meet so they can be stacked. I have also thought about adding dowel rods possibly so we can expand the storage space the tops of the crates would provide for toiletries or rags and hand towels…maybe something to do for later, but for now I am super happy with how they turned out and just as important so is my husband!

They look awesome in our bathroom! So happy. Thinking I may make a couple more if I can find the crates again. 🙂

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