Oh wow – i think i just did a post like a week ago, i must really be on a roll now ;) Except that maybe this post is LONG overdue, like months, maybe even a year!
Well, im here now and im gonna tell you all about the final steps to milk paint. This one, we will be talking about clear waxing – i think this is definitely one of the easiest steps, yet i think its the one that so many people get intimidated by. We will also go over dark waxing, but im going to save that for another post.
Now – i would LOVE to post a video that would accompany this written post and i will soon, but i haven’t done one yet (i know that many of you would love videos and it helps to see the process in action). My plan is to get some videos up and going this month. My goal is to start from the beginning with milk paint and show a few different pieces of furniture and all the steps involved throughout the whole process from painting, to distressing, to waxing and then some more technique oriented videos. But until then, i wanted to get this written tutorial out.
Now – we have already gone over the basics of applying the milk paint, when to add the Extra Bond, how to mix your milk paint and then the final step before clear coating (sanding to smooth out the milk paint), refer to previous posts to go over those steps.
Its important that after your final sand and before you get ready to finish the piece up, that you seal the milk paint with something. Milk paint is extremely flat and very porous, it will absorb dirt and oils and will be hard to clean if not top coated with something (it will also water spot very easily). I have left milk paint unprotected before, such as on this piece, but i understand that it will be hard to clean if it gets dirty. I also have left pieces unsealed before that wont be getting dirty hands on such as a picture frame, clocks, etc.
Milk paint is amazing and unlike so many other paints out there, that it will take any clear coat that’s on the market. You can seal up milk paint with oil based polyurethanes (be careful and do a test spot as it may greatly change the color), water based poly or poly acrylics (be aware that some water based poly acrylics may yellow, especially over whites), shellac (also yellowing over whites), tung oil, lacquer (one of my faves) and of course waxes. You can use anything from brush on, to wipe on and of course spray on topcoats.
Wax is extremely popular right now. Its super easy to use and it creates the most amazing luster over the milk paint. The wax will brighten and intensify the color – it brings out all the amazingness that is milk paint, such as the crackling and the natural color variation within the paint. The wax really takes milk paint to another level by adding so much depth to the piece.
Lets go over the waxing process with this pink dresser i painted. I’ve painted the piece with a couple coats of milk paint and you can see in this pic below that the piece has chipped as it was drying (i LOVE this about milk paint!!)
I talked about the next step in this post, but basically all you do to remove the chips and smooth out the paint is to sand. Milk paint, besides the fact that it may chip and crackle, also dries with a chalky, somewhat textured feel to the paint (and this will depend on how well you have mixed your paint and your technique for painting). You want to get the paint completely smooth and velvety before applying your top coat. If you don’t completely remove all the chips before you seal up the paint, you are going to have problems later. You definitely don’t want to apply your clear coat to a piece that is flaking or doesn’t have a super smooth finish – it wont look or feel good. And as i said before, once you remove all these chips and flakes, the paint wont continue to chip off UNLESS you don’t completely remove them and the clear coat gets in and gets under the chipping milk paint and causes adhesion problems down the road.
To sand the piece i just use a combination of my orbital sander for flat parts, and then a sanding block for more detailed areas.
After the piece is completely smooth and you are happy with the distressing, then its time to seal up that paint.
The wax i use and sell in my online shop, is manufactured by Fiddes & Sons. I tested a ton of waxes to carry with our paint line and was most impressed by this manufacturer. The wax is soft which makes it extremely easy to use (i have used a hard paste wax in the past and the soft waxes are so much easier!). I also tested the “lasting power” of all the waxes i tried and this one kept the luster and dried the hardest. Im really impressed with the quality of this wax and the protection that it provides.
The easiest way to apply wax is with a wax brush. The brushes are large and have a lot of bristle area to make the waxing go quick and easy. Now, a lot of people like to apply the wax with a rag, but i find it really hard to apply the wax and get into all the nooks and crannies and get an even coat when using a rag. The rags also seem to absorb some of the wax and waste it, as where a brush holds the wax in the bristles so all of that wax eventually gets on your furniture.
In our online shop, we carry 2 different sizes of wax brushes. I prefer to use the large one for clear wax and the smaller one for dark waxing. Its nice to have 2 brushes, but you can for sure just use one for both clear and dark waxes and just clean them in between uses. I also love these wax brushes for the short, fat round handle. It fits perfectly in your hand and is really comfortable.
After the piece is sanded smooth and you have your clear wax and your brush ready its time to get started. You will also want to make sure that you have some type of white, lint free cloth as well – you will use this to buff your wax.
You need to apply very little wax to your brush. This 16oz can of wax should last you through several projects. Its very important not to over apply the wax. Less is more.
Just dip your brush in the wax and just coat the tips of the bristles with wax. The amount of wax that is on the pic below is plenty to cover almost the entire side of one dresser, you may need to reload it just once more. You definitely don’t want or need to get tons of wax on your brush.
After loading up your brush, all you do is just apply the wax in circular motions on the furniture. Just make sure to cover the entire surface area. By working in circular motions, your really pushing the wax into all the little cracks and crevices on the piece.
You will be able to tell which areas have been waxed and which havent as the wax will change and deepen the paint.
What i normally do is apply wax to the entire shell of the dresser, then go back and buff. Then wax the drawers and then buff. Ive found that it works best when the wax has dried for about 5 minutes before buffing. You can play around and see what works best for you. Temperature in your work space will also affect the drying time.
To buff the wax, all you do is take your lint free cloth and start wiping the piece, again in circular motions. At 1st, the wiping will be a little bit hard because the wax is still tacky, but then all of a sudden the wax will change and it will be really smooth and easy to get the towel around to buff the wax. Its like magic :)
I normally use the same cloth throughout the entire process. Once the wax is easy to wipe, i will flip the towel so i dont have any wet wax on my rag and buff with a clean dry side. Im constantly flipping my towel throughout the process so im always working with a dry cloth. (Now, the towel is never going to feel wet or damp with wax, you just want to make sure that any tacky wax thats on the towel isnt going to be wiped back onto the dry parts that have already been buffed, that will cause streaking, so thats why the constant flipping)
Now – its extremely important to buff out the wax. I have felt a few pieces that someone waxed, but then didnt buff and it just doesnt feel smooth and protected (it stays soft) and it stays somewhat tacky. The buffing is a very important final step and its what helps create the hard and durable surface.
And seriously – thats it!! Thats all there is to clear waxing – so easy!! I love waxing as its the final step – no further top coat is needed. And waxing creates the most awesome hand rubbed luster that just looks amazing. It also feels like no other topcoat – theres just something about a waxed piece. The two pics below show with and without wax. The 1st pic is just the milk paint alone and the 2nd pic has been waxed. See all the detail that the wax brings out, not to mention that shine!
Wax tips & info:
– The total cure time for wax is 30 days, but you can use your piece right away. Since you have buffed out the wax and its dry, you can begin using the furniture immediately and its just fine to set things on top of.
– Its not recommended to use wax on a black piece. As much as you may buff it, you may still see the circular pattern or streaks from the wax.
– Its not recommended to use wax on a dining table top. If a hot cup gets put on the table, it will melt the wax leaving a ring behind.
– Its not recommended to use wax on kitchen cabinets as certain cooking oils can still penetrate the wax.
– If you do get a wax ring or scratches in the wax, you can apply more wax and buff out the imperfections.
– Do not use wax on a piece that is going outdoors. The wax will melt. Use a recommended sealer for outdoor pieces such as Tung oil or one that has a UV topcoat.
– You can apply more than one coat of wax to build up the protection as well as the shine.
– You can reapply the wax as needed right over the old wax if you want to rejuvenate your piece.
– No need to thin out clear wax or dilute it in any way – use the clear wax at full strength.
– Wax in the tin will melt if left in the heat. Once wax has melted, it most likely wont return back to its solid state. But – a lot of times i prefer using my wax after its melted and sometimes even melt the wax in the microwave (make sure to put in a different container before melting).
– You can clean your wax brushes with lye soap or mineral spirits.
– The wax can be buffed to a high shine with buffing tools or even a car buffer. I carry a drill attachment in our online shop and love using it to bring up the shine on a waxed piece. You would use this attachment after hand buffing with a towel 1st.
I think that covers everything!! Any questions, please leave them in the comments.
Next up – dark waxing!!