Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Paint buckets - how to 'unstick'

Let me admit that this post does not exactly fit in to this blog, but I thought this is the best place, considering the nature of the project.

Soon after a paint job at home, we stack up the empty paint buckets [without lids] in some corner.  We do not find time to clean/scrape residue paint in the buckets.  We do not like to give all of them away as they are items of great use.  Several weeks or months later when we want one of them for use, we find the stacked buckets are stuck firmly to one another. 

Has anyone tried single-handed, separating two esp. two such 20-litre [5-gallon] paint buckets that are stacked and stored for more than a year? You will only know how  tricky it is only if you have had such an opportunity to do that yourself.   That is why many people have shared on the web how to unstick such buckets. Just type "how to unstick 2 plastic buckets" in the Google box and you will see several links! 

I took these pictures for this post after they were taken apart.... how, I will tell.

Little discoveries often happen either due to a desperate situation or sudden flashes of rare brilliance. It was the former combined with the latter that resulted from this puzzle project which was shelved for a year.  

I tried the most obvious thing - trying to pull them apart by hand.  Futile effort, because there will be no proper hold anywhere except the handles. Like a fool, I tried the same thing several times! *Smile*  It took me quite a while to realize something else needed to be done. So I turned to the web.

Idea No.1.   Fail.
Idea No.2. No effect on my buckets.

Frustration.  I was as determined as I was desperate to take them apart.  There had to be some way out.

I tried heating the buckets in hot sun hoping that the air in the bottom bucket will warm and expand and pop the 'intruder' out more easily. But no.  I  poured some hot soapy water to the 'joint' and hung the top handle from a long hook and tried to push the bottom bucket down gripping whatever I could on the bucket brim and edges, but it wont budge and slide even a hair's breadth.  

I felt like 'kicking the bucket' [only in the virtual sense].  

Suddenly, in a genius-like flash, an old mason's trowel popped up as my answer instead of kicking the bucket in frustration.  I realized that the stuck portion will be only about an inch wide, just below the brim and not the whole of the stuck portion down, because of the slight taper.  I took out this trowel from the garden shed wasting no time.  I had already wasted enough valuable holiday time. [Buckets you are seeing are cleaned ones after they were successfully taken apart.]

I pushed it in all around the perimeter where the top bucket had 'stuck in'. I did two rounds and then hung it again for pulling. 

Pulling them apart needed good gripping places which was out of question.  So I took two wooden pieces, used one as a mallet and the other 'like' a chisel hitting the brim of the bottom bucket   Lo and behold!  There was some sliding.  I could see the printed matter on the bucket slowly showing up letter by letter a I banged lightly. Joy!  The soapy water might have helped, but surely the trowel was a great solution in pushing the paint off to release the adhesion. See the bucket to the right and see the paint marks around where the handle rests.  That was where it had stuck.

Once the first pair was released thus, it was like drinking water on the second one, instead of kicking the bucket. 

The trowel also came in as a very handy tool to scrape the paint from the insides before using a steel-scrubber.


  1. Dinu, With the earlier experience, we have instructed the painter this time to clean the buckets on the same day evening once it gets emptied. But if the buckets are stored for a longer time without cleaning, just fill with water and leave it for one or two days. Next day morning it will come out like a plastic sheet.

  2. '...sudden flashes of rare brilliance' - I love that!
    Note: I don't think that kicking the bucket solves anything!
    What a hoot!
    And, now, are you planning, in the future, to clean them BEFORE you store them?!
    Oh, and, yes, I have had to do this pulling-apart of buckets many times. Someone needs to invent a bucket with some sort of grip on its bottom!
    In the meantime, I enjoyed your post. I was thinking 'Grab a trowel!' the whole time I was reading, I have to admit. You know what they say about great minds!

  3. Enjoyed reading it Dinu. You make such simple, mundane activities so interesting to read and humorous too. Your writing reminds me of R. K. Narayan's "Vendor of Sweets" , "Swamy & Friends" etc. which is characteristic of the Great Late Author. That 'Late' and your more-than-once usage of 'Kicking the Bucket' brings me also to the comments already made by Good Friend Susan. I agree with everything else she says - but this one! While she says that KTB does not solve anything, I differ and say "It solves Everything"! But I am not suggesting this for anybody to try to adopt - God will do it for us -when He thinks it is Time. Let us not do the KTB act when we are alive, though as you say, 'Time & Tide wait for None'.


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