Before & After: Cosco Bar Cart

There are some days when the project pieces I purchase leave others scratching their head. Enter Cosco bar cart from Salvation Army purchased for $3.99.

Seriously, why is this still here? Oh that’s right: it’s covered in rust, dust, and who knows what else.

I knew with a thorough scrubdown and a new paint job this little guy would look amazing. The black detail on the handles was what drew me in and I could immediately see it with a fresh color combination instead of faux wood grain. And even though the main tool was elbow grease, this is an extremely easy piece anyone can do.

Supplies Needed:
Steel wool, grade 1 for sanding rust, grade 00 for light sanding
Dish soap
Spray primer
3 cans of spray paint in coordinating colors

1.聽I started off aggressively sanding with grade 1 wherever there was rust, then sanding聽聽with steel wool grade 00 over all the shelves. Make sure to remove ALL the rust, because even if you buy primer to cover rust, there’s still a chance the rust will continue to eat away at the metal and you will be back to step one in a few years. I don’t care if the spray paint says it will suffocate the rust until 500 years after the apocalypse.

Bar Cart: Rust Detail

Make sure to wear gloves or the steel wool will remove rust AND your skin.

2. Wash the entire cart with a rag and water with a few drops of dish soap. Then let it sit out in the sun and completely dry.

3. Mask off all of the handles with newspaper. Unless you want to paint them. Mine were in pretty great condition and I wanted to leave them as-is. If you can get your bar cart to come apart, by all means do so. My bolts were incredibly difficult to losen and masking it off was easier.

4. Paint all of the shelves with primer. I used Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer Spray.

5. Mask off two shelves, and paint the remaining exposed shelf in light, even coats. Follow the directions on the can for recoating and drying times. I used Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch. It gave me really even coats, better than when I have used Krylon spray paints. Don’t get me started.

Bar Cart: In Progress

6. Wait for the painted shelf to dry, then cover with newspaper. Remove the newspaper from your next shelf, paint, and so on.

The key here is to paint with light, even coats and allow plenty of drying time. Once everything has dried and you remove the newspaper, do a happy dance while drinking a Zima. It will be so rewarding after your two hours of hard work. That’s how I celebrated.

Bar Cart: After

The bar cart after. About $20 in supplies and two hours work for a custom vintage feel.

It’s great for storing barware and serving platters, and handy because if there’s a large dining party it can be rolled to another room. I just love the contrasting colors with a vintage feel. So much better than rusty woodgrain. Be on the lookout for Cosco bar carts at thrift stores and don’t be intimidated by their ugliness.

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  1. Susie
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Wow! It turned out wonderfully. I really enjoy reading about Snags great finds and how to’s!


    • Angela
      Posted February 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Susie!

  2. Posted February 11, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful job!

  3. kristin
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I have one of these that I use for a night stand. I have always wanted to refinish it, so seeing this post is inspiring me. It turned out great. I look forward to working on mine now.

  4. Posted February 11, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Oh, this is a great diy! Just perfect for me because I just picked up an old rusty cart from the trash room of my apt building and I was wondering how to get the rust off and re-paint it. Thanks!

  5. Posted February 11, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    So cute. I have a cart just like that one and I painted the whole thing white. Love the three colors you chose, it makes it so fun.

  6. Posted February 11, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    You couldn’t go out and buy something this fab. All you need is the eye to see it and the will to do it and blammo, you’ve got the coolest bar cart in town.

  7. Posted February 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    VERY cute!

  8. Angela
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much everyone! Can’t wait to see how your bar carts turn out. Be sure to share 馃檪

    • Ale
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      Hi Angela, I’ve been looking for a bar cart and found a very cool but in really bad shape Costco mid-century in red. It’s in worst condition than the one you worded on. I have to restore the parts in chrome because they’re rusted too any advise for restoring chrome?
      I’d share a pic but don’t see an option for attaching one.
      Thanks an stake care.

      • Angela
        Posted November 20, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        Hi Ale,
        So sorry this is a million years late. Hopefully your bar cart is either still waiting for improvement or already done! If so, please email to share! To polish chrome, I’ve found using aluminum foil works well to clean up general wear and tear. However, yours sounds pretty rusted. You can either have it re-plated, which sometimes gets expensive, or sand it down and paint it with spray paint. Honestly, that’s what I would recommend. There are some sprays that look like metal, or you could go with a neutral color as well. Hope this helps!

  9. Katie Murphy
    Posted December 28, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I have one of these carts that I got for a wedding present 56 years ago. Now I think I will spruce it up.

    • Marti Bowland
      Posted January 6, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Katie, thank you for helping me date my cart! We were wondering when these were sold! Marti

  10. Pauline
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    I think it is a great idea for inside or out!!!

    • Angela
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Pauline!

  11. Karen S
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I just bought the exact same cart at an estate sale this past weekend for $6. It’s in pretty good shape with a little rust on the undersides of the shelves and light scratches on the shelves. I plan on painting it when the weather warms up so I love that I found your re-do on pinterest. Great job. Love the colors you used. I’m going to keep mine in the kitchen and wasn’t sure yet how to decorate it. I don’t want it piled with stuff just because. I like how you have your cart styled. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Angela
      Posted February 12, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment Karen! I hope your redo goes great. Shoot us a picture when it’s finished if you get the time, we’d love to see it!

  12. Lorelei
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Going to do this with my cart.

    • Angela
      Posted April 19, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      Hope it turns out great! It’s such a quick and easy update.

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  14. Patsy
    Posted October 2, 2019 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Great job! Can you share the colors you used please?

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