So, Your Home Has a Milk Door? Read This Before You Close It

published Dec 7, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Light purple exterior brick with vintage milk delivery door
Credit: Wandering Introvert / Shutterstock

Home design trends often come and go over the years. Depending on the age of a home, however, some features have a way of sticking around — whether you like it or not. Case in point? A milk door.

Apologies to vegan and dairy-free readers; I’ll be quick in my explanation. A milk door is a two-way storage box inserted into the exterior wall of a home for the express purpose of milk bottle delivery. The milkman would unlatch the exterior door, place the bottles (and often butter) in the box and latch it again, and then someone at home would retrieve the bottles by unlatching the interior door.

Sounds quaint, right? Actually, there are plenty of towns where milk delivery service still happens, and not just in rural spots straight out of a Hallmark movie, either. In fact, I just learned of a company that delivers fresh milk in glass bottles where I live in Staten Island, New York. (Alas, we are an almond milk household.) 

Alternative Uses for a Milk Door

If you have a milk door but aren’t a milk delivery customer, your first inclination might be to close up shop. But before you do, consider some alternative uses for this unique home feature.

While the OG milk doors are indeed sized for milk, you might be thinking, “Can’t I get packages delivered to mine instead?” It’s an idea you can bring up with your parcel delivery drivers, provided the packages are able to fit. Those who get medications delivered might consider using it, although there is the issue of needing to retrieve it quickly on a hot or cold day.

There’s one company that’s offering a more modern-day solution to perishable deliveries. Fresh Portal installs temperature-controlled, stainless-steel cabinets large enough to contain four paper grocery bags. The delivery person has a one-time access code to open the compartment and, upon closing the door, the contents are sterilized via a Far-UVC disinfection light. You can monitor delivery status via an app — a tad different from the milk doors of yesteryear, wouldn’t you say?

Erin Hybart didn’t know milk doors existed until she started her career as a real estate agent in Zachary, Louisiana. She says the ones she happened to encounter with buyers “were appreciated for their nostalgia,” although she adds some of them were already closed up on the inside. One buyer noted the milk door could be good for package deliveries, while another one considered keeping the exterior side of the milk door open to create a small fairy garden for their grandkids. (Bonus points for creativity!)

Brooke Withers, a public relations professional in Richmond, Virginia, had a milk door in her old apartment. It was sealed off from the outside, but she was still able to access the compartment through the interior door, so she gladly commandeered it as extra storage space. 

“Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what the purpose of this door was at first, but I loved the history behind it once I did more research,” Withers says. “It was the perfect little nook to stow away my extra toiletries and was a great conversation piece when family and friends visited.”

That’s the beauty of older homes. They often have unique features like milk doors that might no longer be practical or functional, but they’re a charming conversation starter. 

“My grandparents had something like that,” a friend of mine told me when I mentioned my milk door research. “They just left it there so we could ask what it was.”