How to Paint a Shipping Container

By Michelle Hogan ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Mild detergent
  • Rag
  • Sandpaper
  • Oil-based primer for steel
  • High-gloss enamel paint
  • Paint brush (optional)
Shipping containers can be large enough to hold a truck.

Most shipping containers are made of steel and are available in many shapes and sizes. Some containers are large enough to carry cars and trucks, while others are the size of a shoe box. Painting a shipping container to identify it or with a logo requires preparation. When painting steel, it is important to remember that the surface must not be so smooth that the paint won't stick to it.

Take the container apart, if you can. With a large container, this may not be possible, but smaller containers may be easily taken apart.

Clean the container inside and out with a rag dipped in a mixture of water and mild detergent. Remove all debris and dirt. Rinse the container and dry it thoroughly.

Sand the container down over every part you wish to paint with a 120- or 150-grit sandpaper or sanding sponge. Use firm pressure and rub with the grain of the steel.

Wipe down the sanded container with a tack cloth to remove sanded dust.

Paint the steel with a coat of an oil-based, rust-resistant primer made for steel. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and allow it to dry accordingly.

Paint a final coat of high-gloss, rust-resistant enamel according to the manufacturer's instructions. Let the final coat cure for at least 12 hours or the time recommended by the manufacturer.

Reassemble the container after the paint is dry.

About the Author

Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.