How to pretty up plastic?
October 28, 2011 3:57 PM   Subscribe

What materials can I use to decorate (i.e. completely cover and disguise) the outside of a plastic container? I have made some self-watering planters from storage containers, but they’re very ugly as-is and I want to decorate them. Looking for methods that are durable and weather-resistant, and (if known) won’t leech into the plastic and the soil.

I have made some self-watering planters for the garden from 10 gallon plastic storage bins. I would like to make them more attractive, so painting or adhering other materials to the outside of the bins would be nice. Ideally, I would like to make it less obvious that they aren’t plastic storage bins, so I have toyed with the idea of using textured paint (like that spray paint that has rock flecks in it), flat stones or shells, clay, wicker, or something to create a ceramic effect, to cover the containers.

In other words, I want to make them look more like normal planters. I cannot nest them in normal planters because the water reservoir must be filled from near the bottom. Plus nice-looking pots are expensive.

Problem is, I know NOTHING about what materials are plastic-appropriate, reasonably weather-resistant, and won’t leech bad materials through to the plastic and soil. The plastic is probably already leeching enough awful stuff, I figure. What are some things I could use?

Possibly relevant:

* I have no clue what kind of plastic the container is made of. It has a recycling icon on it with no number inside. I’ve looked it up online and everywhere says it’s simply “plastic.” I intend to use other containers too, so I am interested in things that work on a wide range of plastic.

* I am not going to be doing anything to the inside of the containers, just the outside, so when I say I don’t want stuff to leech through it would have to be pretty powerful.

* The plastic has some give to it, i.e. you can twist the container slightly and it pops back. It’s reasonably sturdy, but I don’t want to, say, paint it with something and then huge chips break off when the container bends a little.

* It will need to endure heat and rain. I don’t mind if it fades over the years (although stuff that avoids that is cool), I’m just concerned that if I like, decoupage it, it’ll degrade and shred off, or if I glue something to the outside it'll fall off, etc.
posted by Nattie to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Rustoleum makes spray paint specifically for plastics (examples: regular, textured, and hammered finishes).
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:11 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yep, that paint is great and there is even some specifically for outdoor plastics, like lawn furniture. It takes a while to set up and lose the tackiness, but once it does it's a nice durable finish. The one I used was glossy, on outdoor trashcans, and it's maintained its gloss through a couple of years of weathering.

There is texture coat stuff for outdoor plastics too. My fave is granite because it coats evenly and doesn't look fake. I texturized a beer cooler once to hide it while camping and among granite rocks it was invisible. It's good durable stuff.

Hot glue guns are awesome too and inexpensive enough to experiment with. Should work very well with small stones, shells, etc.

If you're thinking about using those bamboo mats it would probably suffice to just drill a few tiny holes around the tops of your containers to wire the mats in place.

Have fun, this sounds like a great project!
posted by snsranch at 5:55 PM on October 28, 2011

Best answer: Could you get some bamboo runners or matting along the lines of this and wrap it around the boxes and tie them together, Bam instant bamboo planter.
posted by wwax at 6:05 PM on October 28, 2011

Best answer: I think bamboo or other sticks attached to the visible outside is the way to go.

If it was me, I'd use floral wire or metal twist ties to attach the material to the top of the planters via little holes and then either wrap each one or line them up and wrap the visible side.

My trepidation with rustoleum and other spray paints is that your tubs will still look like plastic tubs, just painted. Though snsrach's endorsement is a good sign.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:25 AM on October 29, 2011

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