Chalk paint has become increasingly popular, giving furniture and home décor a unique, vintage look. But chalk paint’s finish is only as good as the wax you use to seal and protect it. Finding the right wax to suit your project and preferences can be confusing with so many options on the market. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about waxes for chalk paint.
Why Use Wax with Chalk Paint?
Wax serves several important purposes when used with chalk paint:
- Seals and protects the finish. Wax creates a protective layer over chalk paint, making it more durable and resistant to chipping, scratching, and other damage. Without wax, chalk paint is more vulnerable.
- Enhances the look. Wax can give chalk paint an antiqued, distressed appearance. It also provides a subtle sheen.
- Allows proper curing. Chalk paint needs to cure correctly after application. Wax controls the curing process. Using the wrong type of wax can cause issues like flaking.
In short, wax is crucial for achieving optimal look and resilience with a chalk-painted surface.
Types of Wax for Chalk Paint
There are a few main categories of wax to consider for use with chalk paint:
Soft Paste Wax
- Description: Creamy, paste-like wax specifically formulated for use with chalk paint. Often provides a matte finish.
- Benefits: Allows chalk paint to cure properly without defects like flaking. Easy to apply.
- Examples: Annie Sloan Soft Wax, Dixy Wax, Amy Howard Mineral Wax
Hard Wax or Polyurethane
- Description: Thick waxes that dry hard. Polyurethane is a water-based sealant.
- Issues: Can cause chalk paint to crack or flake. It alters the look.
- Avoid for chalk paint: Briwax, polyurethane
- Description: Waxes tinted with pigments to add color.
- Benefits: Can create antique-looking effects. Adds depth.
- Examples: Annie Sloan Dark and Clear Wax
- Description: All-purpose waxes for conditioning wood.
- Benefits: Often more affordable. Readily available.
- Considerations: Test first to ensure compatibility with paint.
- Examples: Howard Feed-N-Wax, Minwax Paste Wax
Popular Brands of Wax for Chalk Paint
There are many options when it comes to brand. Some popular choices include:
- Annie Sloan: Offers a range of waxes designed for their chalk paints. Known for quality.
- Modern Masters: Specialty paint brand with corresponding waxes.
- Rust-Oleum: Trusted brand with chalk paint and wax kits for beginners. Affordable.
- FolkArt: Budget-friendly waxes from this craft paint brand.
- Amy Howard: Higher-end mineral waxes with a smooth finish.
Always check that the wax is recommended for specifically for use with chalk paint, regardless of brand.
Boutique Brands vs. Hardware Store Waxes
Waxes fall into two main categories:
Boutique Chalk Paint Brand Waxes
- Specially formulated for use with chalk paint
- Often contain beeswax, providing a smooth application
- More environmentally-friendly ingredients
- Can be more expensive
Examples: Annie Sloan, Rust-Oleum Chalk Paint Wax, Amy Howard
Hardware Store Waxes
- General purpose waxes for wood care and polish
- Usually contain solvents like naphtha or mineral spirits
- Often harder to apply evenly without streaks
- More affordable option
Examples: Briwax, Johnson’s Paste Wax, Minwax
Test hardware store waxes first before using with chalk paint. They can work but may require more effort to apply.
How to Apply Wax to Chalk Paint
Applying wax properly ensures you get optimal results from your chalk painted finish. Follow these tips:
- Wax in your choice of finish and color
- Soft lint-free cloths
- Wax brush or cheap chip brush
- Optional: 220 grit sandpaper to lightly scuff before waxing
Step 1: Lightly Sand (Optional)
- Lightly sand the dried chalk painted surface with 220 grit sandpaper.
- This helps the wax adhere and accentuates any distressing.
- Remove dust with a tack cloth.
Step 2: Apply a Thin Coat of Wax
- Use a wax brush or lint-free cloth to apply a THIN coat.
- Too much wax will lead to a sticky finish.
- Work in sections and maintain even coverage.
Step 3: Allow Wax to Dry
- Let wax dry completely before buffing. This usually takes 30-60 minutes.
- Drying time depends on humidity, ventilation, and wax thickness.
- Test a small area first to judge dryness before buffing entire surface.
Step 4: Buff Off Excess Wax
- Once dry, use a clean lint-free cloth to buff off any excess wax.
- Buff in a circular motion.
- Remove all residue for a smooth finish.
Step 5: Apply Additional Coats (Optional)
- For more protection, apply 1-2 extra thin coats of wax.
- Or use colored wax to antique the finish.
- Always buff between coats.
How Many Coats of Wax for Chalk Paint?
One thin coat of clear wax is usually all that’s needed seal chalk paint. But more coats can be added:
- 1 coat: Sufficient to seal and protect paint.
- 2 coats: Better durability and sheen.
- 3+ coats: Maximum toughness. Can get too shiny.
Colored waxes like dark or black are often applied last to antique the paint. Use these very lightly—a little goes a long way!
Alternatives to Wax for Chalk Paint
Wax is the most common top coat for chalk paint, but not the only option:
- Polycrylic: Water-based protective sealant. Dries hard and clear. It provides more durability than wax but alters the finish.
- Polycrylic + Wax: Apply 1-2 coats polycrylic followed by a thin wax coat. Combines protection with wax’s aesthetics.
- Oil: Tung or boiled linseed oil offer some protection. Requires many coats for equal durability to wax or polycrylic.
Always test alternatives first before using on a large project. They can react differently with paints.
Maintaining and Touching Up Waxed Chalk Paint
While durable, chalk paint with a wax finish still requires some regular care and maintenance:
- Dust frequently with a soft dry cloth to prevent buildup.
- Clean spills quickly to avoid stains. Use a damp rag with mild soap if needed.
- Reapply wax every 1-2 years or whenever the finish seems dull. This will maintain protection.
- Spot reapply wax immediately to touch up scratches or nicks for the best color match.
- Be gentle when cleaning waxed chalk paint. Harsh scrubbing can damage the finish.
Precautions When Using Wax with Chalk Paint
To avoid common problems:
- Always test products first on scrap wood or a hidden spot.
- Properly prep the surface by cleaning, sanding, and priming before painting and waxing.
- Apply thin coats of wax and don’t oversaturate the paint.
- Make sure wax is fully cured before adding top coats. Insufficient drying can lead to flaking.
- Avoid mixing waxes like paste and liquid wax together. Incompatible ingredients may react.
- Read and follow all manufacturer directions. Don’t assume all waxes can be used interchangeably.
Frequently Asked Questions about Wax for Chalk Paint
Do I need a special wax for chalk paint?
Soft paste waxes formulated specifically for chalk paint are best. Hardware store waxes work but may require more elbow grease to apply smoothly.
How long should I wait before waxing chalk paint?
Follow the paint manufacturer’s guidelines, usually 1-3 days. Test a small area to ensure paint is fully cured before waxing the entire surface.
What happens if you don’t wax chalk paint?
Chalk paint is more prone to chips, scratches, and staining if not sealed with a wax top coat. The paint may also not cure properly and develop defects like flaking.
How do I get a smooth wax finish on chalk paint?
Apply thin, even coats of wax and buff thoroughly between coats. Avoid over-saturating the paint. Maintain a consistent brush or rag motion. Use a high-quality soft wax formulated for chalk paint.
Can you use dark wax over chalk paint without sanding?
Lightly sanding before waxing allows the dark wax to penetrate better, but is not mandatory. Focus any sanding on edges or distressed areas you want to accentuate.
What sheen does wax give chalk paint?
Soft paste wax provides a matte, eggshell, or subtle satin finish. Avoid hard waxes and buffing excessively to maintain a flat look.
Can you use clear polyurethane over chalk paint wax?
Polyurethane is not recommended over wax; it can react with wax residues and turn gummy or cloudy. If you want a poly top coat, apply 1-2 coats before using wax for the final finish.
Does wax change the chalk paint color?
Clear wax maintains the integrity of the paint color. Aged or dark waxes add a subtle antique tint. Colored waxes like brown and black visibly alter the paint shade for a vintage look.
Best Practices for Waxing Chalk Painted Furniture
Furniture requires a bit more planning and preparation when using chalk paint and wax:
- Lightly sand glossy or finished furniture before painting to help adhesion.
- Use primer on wood pieces for better coverage and to limit bleed-through.
- Seal raw wood first with an oil-based primer so the paint doesn’t absorb unevenly.
- Distress edges and details with sandpaper before applying wax for a worn antique look.
- Ensure wax is fully cured before using furniture—typically at least 72 hours.
- Add felt pads to the bottom of painted furniture legs to prevent scratches.
What Are the Different Types of Wax for Chalk Paint?
The main wax varieties include:
- Clear: Leaves the paint color unchanged. Provides a matte finish.
- Aged: Contains brown/gray pigments for an antique appearance.
- Colored: Available in hues like black, brown, and brick red to alter paint effects.
- Blended: Mixes clear and colored waxes for a custom aged look.
- Hard: All-purpose waxes that dry solid. Not ideal for chalk paint.
- Soft: Specially formulated creamy waxes that dry pliable. Best for chalk paint.
How to Buff Wax on Chalk Painted Furniture
Buffing is key to achieving a smooth, professional wax finish:
- Wait the full drying time before buffing so wax is fully set.
- Use a soft lint-free cloth and apply moderate pressure in small circular motions.
- Begin gently to remove excess wax then buff vigorously to blend.
- Overlap buffed and unbuffed areas to maintain an even sheen.
- Check for streaks or residue and rebuff where needed.
- Take your time for best results. Insufficient buffing leaves a subpar finish.
What Do You Use to Buff Wax on Chalk Paint?
The best materials for buffing wax are:
- Lint-free cloths: Softer and more absorbent than rags. Won’t leave fibers behind.
- Microfiber cloths: Lightly abrasive texture helps buff wax smoothly.
- Muslin cloths: Lint-free cotton fabric that withstands rubbing.
- 0000 superfine steel wool: Finer than sandpaper for gently smoothing waxed surfaces.
Avoid buffing waxes with paper towels or rough cloths that could scratch the paint or wax finish. Change cloths frequently to prevent wax buildup.
- Wax is essential for sealing, protecting, and enhancing chalk painted furniture and décor.
- Soft paste wax designed for chalk paint provides the best results.
- Apply wax in thin, even coats and buff once fully dry for a smooth finish.
- Colored waxes can give a vintage, weathered look.
- Maintain waxed chalk paint by gently cleaning and applying fresh coats every year or two.
The wax you choose can make or break the final look of your chalk paint project. With so many options for clear, colored, dark, and specialty waxes, it’s important to use one formulated to work seamlessly with chalk paint. Understanding proper application and buffing methods also ensures your painted furniture gets a professional finish that will hold up beautifully over time. With the tips from this guide, you can confidently pick the perfect wax to complete your next chalk paint endeavor.