Antique Farm Sink Makeover {Tips for Restoring an Old Sink on a Budget}

Antique Farm Sink Makeover {Tips for Restoring an Old Sink on a Budget}featured

When I shared a shot of my farm sink on Instagram I had several questions and requests to write a post detailing how I refreshed an antique sink. Here is a step-by-step tutorial for anyone trying to do this on a super-tight budget. I am going to show you what did and didn’t work. Hopefully you will be encouraged  to take on a similar restoration project that will give an authentic farmhouse feel to your home.

These high-back cast iron sinks are the essence of the early 1900s American farmhouse kitchen (the apron style farm sink finds its roots in Europe). They practically ooze farm charm! I think this sink was oozing some other stuff too, but I my heart skipped a beat when I found it on a visit to my local ReStore at Habitat for Humanity. It was love at first sight and I practically stole this beautiful rusty-crusty 1929 farm sink for only $75!


The first thing I tackled when we brought the sink home was the outside. It looked the worst, but I later found out it was the easiest to restore. I set up a work table in my front yard utilizing two sawhorses and a sheet of plywood. My poor husband had to carry the 200+ pound cast iron sink and hoist it up onto my makeshift table. Using a tough wire brush from his toolbox, I scrubbed the flaking layers of paint and much of the rust off. I really put a lot of pressure on the brush because I knew the cleaner the surface, the better the paint would stick.


Next, I got out my garden hose and gave my filthy sink a good spray down, making sure to wash away all the rust dust and debris. Then I let it air dry for a couple of hours. One of the wonderful things about these antique cast iron sinks and tubs is that the craftsman always stamped the birthdate on the bottom of each piece, so I could pinpoint the exact date my farm sink was cast. It was cast by the Crane company on April 19th, 1929.


Once the sink bottom was completely dry, I applied a very thick coat of oil based Rust-oleum protective enamel paint in semi-gloss white. I purchased 1 quart from Walmart for around $11 and only used 1/3 of the contents. Knowing that it is almost impossible to clean your brush after this type of paint, I was careful to use a beat up old brush that I could throw away after this project.


This paint is designed to adhere to metal and claims to stop rust, so I felt it would be perfect for the job. {I actually used this same paint in my antique bathtub makeover. You can check that post out by clicking HERE} I let that dry over night before moving on to restoring the inside of my farm sink.

The inside of my sink was—to put it lightly—disgusting! I knew that was why it had been so cheap at ReStore and why no one else had bought the poor thing, but I also knew that on our super-tight budget we could not afford to have it professionally refinished. So I resolved to do the best I could and see whatever damage was left as “character” or as Joanna Gaines says, let the piece “tell a story” of its nearly 100 year life. I am going to be honest though—I didn’t really like the story this sink was telling. The brown, yellow, and grayish mystery stains kinda gave me the shivers if I looked at them too long.


I asked a girlfriend’s advice and Googled ideas for getting the stains out. First, I tried the natural remedies, because I was wary of being too harsh on the antique finish. I made a paste of water and Borax (an all natural detergent), covered the whole bottom of the sink, and let it set over night. There’s no doubt that my sink was cleaner the next morning, but those stains didn’t budge.


The next night I tried a paste several people on YouTube swore was the miracle sink stain remover: baking soda and white vinegar. That did absolutely nothing! I was getting frustrated. Could I really live with such gross stains in my farmhouse kitchen? I also tried Magic Eraser with no success. I scrubbed and scrubbed till my hands felt raw, but those ugly stains hung on! I admit I felt like crying. We had worked so hard on this kitchen for three years now. I just wanted my sink to be clean and white! I prayed for the answer.


One night my husband told me he remembered hearing the elderly local guy we bought our cast iron bathtub from mention that a product called Lime-A-Way was good for getting rust stains out of antique tubs. I was thrilled when my husband easily found the product for $1 at Dollar General, but it was a bit disconcerting to find that the only one at the store was made for toilet cleaning (they make spray bottle versions too). At this point I was willing to try anything!


I hoped it would work, but I was afraid to get my hopes up too much. I followed the instructions and let the green gel set on my sink for ten minutes, then I cautiously scrubbed the whole inside of the sink. To my relief it totally brought back my farm sink to its original beautiful shade of white!


Not a trace of the awful stains was left after I gave it a final rinse!


Paired with this stunning Ebay faucet my parents gave me for Christmas, my farm sink looks like a farmhouse dream from 1929! I love it so much and I am so thankful that there was an inexpensive alternative to refinishing this antique sink. There are still a few dings and nicks in the ceramic finish, but that is a part of the farm sink’s story I am willing to tell. I feel so blessed to have this authentic farm sink in my kitchen. It’s the perfect sink for our 1893 farmhouse!

If you are interested in finding out more about the reproduction vintage style faucet I added to my sink, here is all the Ebay information you would need to search and purchase an identical piece. Because my particular farm sink is on the shallow side we did end up having to contact the manufacturer Kingston Brass to purchase a shorter head at additional cost. However they were kind enough to give us a discount through a cheaper supplier, who were very helpful.

Stay tuned to see the beautiful base my husband built for the sink and to see it installed in our DIY farmhouse kitchen. If you have any questions regarding my sink makeover or my faucet, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below. I would also love to hear what you think of my new/old sink and what farmhouse style additions you have added to your own kitchen…

Want more Bryarton Farm in your life?

If you are enjoying following our continuing story and want to see more, please Subscribe! You can also see additional pictures of our little fixer upper farm on the prairie, by following us on InstagramYouTubeFacebook, & Pinterest. Help support our “forgotten farm restoration project” by visiting our Etsy Shop!


Add comment