Painting furniture is a great way to completely transform it, but painting isn’t enough. After you paint you need to seal the piece to keep it from getting scratched or damaged. This is especially true with chalk paint because the finish is, for lack of a better word, chalky feeling.
Chalk paint is made from combining regular latex paint with Plaster of Paris, calcium carbonate or baking soda. You can even make your own if you want to save a little money. This additional ingredient is what gives the paint its superior coverage. But it’s also what gives the paint a very matte finish.
If you don’t add something over chalk paint to seal it there are two problems. First, it can be more susceptible to scratches and blemishes. Second, without a seal your furniture will feel almost rough to the touch. Chalk paint without a seal has a very unfinished look. I tested two finishes on my chalk paint table and I’ll be sharing the pros and cons of each.
Sealing Chalk Paint With Wax
The original creator of chalk paint, Annie Sloan, uses wax over her paint. Wax has some advantages and disadvantages depending on how you will use your piece.
The advantage of the wax is that it really deepens the color of the paint. You might NOT love the color when you first apply it, but the wax can make the color so much richer. This works especially well for darker painted pieces. The darkest chalk paint you can buy is a graphite color. It doesn’t really look black unless you seal it with dark wax. Dark wax can also be used to give a lighter piece an “antique” finish.
The disadvantages of the wax outweigh the advantages in my experience. These include:
- More difficult to apply and goes on unevenly compared to a liquid sealant. You must also buff off any excess wax with a rag.
- Wax takes longer to cure.
- Wax is a soft finish that can scrape off. I painted this hutch below 2 years ago and I set some white dishes inside it. The wax came off on the plates that I stood up in the back.
- Wax has a very strong smell.
I have used wax on many pieces of furniture but it is not good for pieces that will be touched a lot, like a tabletop. It is best for things like a dresser or any accent piece.
Best Way To Apply Wax Sealant
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Wax can be applied using just a rag or a brush. I’ve done both and the brush is by far a smoother and quicker application. This is the brush I used. You WILL need a rag to buff of the excess. Be sure to apply the wax in a pretty well ventilated area, it has a strong odor.
The wax is very hard to rinse out of the brush, so don’t count on using the same brush for other painting projects. It almost feels like you are trying to rinse out vaseline. It feels very greasy. You can see how easy it is to apply in the video.
Sealing Chalk Paint With Acrylic
Chalk paint is acrylic paint, meaning it is water-soluble. It’s important to seal it to protect it from water damage if your piece will be in a bathroom or kitchen or if it’s something you will set a glass on. I used a water-based acrylic sealant with a low sheet. You can get a sealant that is high gloss if you want your piece to have a shiny finish.
The advantages of using an acrylic sealant are:
- It dries/cures more quickly than wax.
- It does not have to be buffed off.
- It has a smooth finish (assuming that’s what you want).
- It doesn’t have a strong smell.
As you can see, in my case the acrylic sealant was a clear winner in my book. The only case where I feel like wax would be better is if you are trying to darken the paint significantly or give your piece an antiqued finish.