I had a few questions about using paste wax vs. water-based polyacrylic sealers after my post yesterday, so I thought I would explain why a little bit, how to seal painted furniture, and give you a chart with the pro’s and cons of both. While I have been painting furniture for over a decade; I am not an expert by any means and while there are many other applications for both sealers, but I am talking specifically in relation to painted furniture. There are also other sealers such as Tung oil,Varnish,Lacquer or even Shellac. I wanted to talk about how to seal painted furniture and the differences between Paste wax vs.Polyacrylic. *Also if you have a direct question about what is the best sealer for your project, please refer to the comments section first. Your question may have already been answered.* You can also refer to this secondary post here.
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I know paste wax is hot right now; and white wax is slowly becoming even more trendy, but I still prefer using a glaze and polyacrylic “poly” (you can use the glaze technique I talked about in yesterday’s post with chalk paint, In fact,on the chairs I showed you the blue was a flat paint and the grey was chalk paint.) and my biggest reason is at the very end.
Here are some pros and cons of both:
When we are talking about how to seal painted furniture, Paste wax is a beautiful product and gives a lovely finish. However, in high use areas it can scratch, and easily wears. It is really meant to enhance the finish, with minimal protection the wood.
Wax is better at enhancing bare wood grain than protecting painted surfaces. With this side table project, I removed the paint and used a white wax to create a cerused look.
I know if I put wax on a table top with my kids, the little monsters would put a fork mark right across the top two seconds after I was done. Polyacrylic is really the stuff you need to keep a table top or chair from scratching and hold up to everyday wear and tear. In fact, I have found by using a base on my furniture with poly and then using paste wax over the top is the best of both worlds. And It makes marker and other stains easily removable
–Poly needs to be reapplied every few years, where in a high use area, you have to reapply wax every few months. In a piece that is not high use, not as much.
–Paste wax will deepen colors and really enrich them like poly can’t. Though Poly will intensify them. Brown paste wax can add a nice patina if you don’t want to go through the trouble of waiting for a glaze to dry. However, brown antiquing wax generally comes in one shade where glaze can come in any shade.
– I do think that wax allows wood to breath better. Whether that makes a difference in painted furniture as opposed to stained or natural wood, I don’t know.
–Polyacrylic dries in a few hours where wax can take over a day to cure. In a very warm room or really sunny window,if you put on too much, it might not cure at all and brown wax can actually rub off and stain fabric textiles.
–Even though chalk paint itself can be environmentally friendly and lower VOC, as are many flat paints, Wax and Poly are both generally not, both have solvents (even though Polyacrylic/Varnish is a water-based product), and need to be applied in really well ventilated areas.
–Both poly and paste wax can be applied over chalk or flat paint.
–Though wax will always give you a beautiful, smooth,deep finish, and really enhance color or grain,water-based poly can be streaky and temperamental to put on with a brush (I prefer the spray).
It’s also good to know if you’ve even painted your furniture correctly in the first place.You can check out this post for some tips.
-The one point that alters my decision the most on how to seal painted furniture and what to use, is when you go to repaint a piece of furniture. With wax, you have to remove every last bit, or your paint will come right off. This can involve extensive sanding or stripping, where with Poly, you can give it a light sand to give it some tooth and paint away. Since I am a frequent furniture re-painter, this would be way too time consuming for me. You can also use poly to seal a piece against “bleed through” such as when you are trying to paint over that finicky red mahogany. People say you can paint over wax, yes you can, but the paint does not adhere as well especially is you aren’t using chalk paint the second time. For instance, you cannot paint milk paint over a paste wax.
Here’s also a quick chart to help you make a decision which one you might want to use.
I hope this helps you make a decision which sealer is the best one for your painted project.
If you are looking for furniture supplies, these is my favorites (affiliate links) for painting (and care.).
You can also refer here and click below for other furniture painting techniques like:
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