Chalk paint is a highly popular type of paint that’s often used to upcycle furniture, mainly because it can be painted over any surface with minimal prepping required. In addition, it is non-toxic, easy to apply, and quick-drying.
While the beautiful matte finish of chalk paint is highly desirable, some DIYers recommend adding a top coat of wax to chalk paint to add a layer of protection to the coat of paint.
What happens if you don’t wax chalk paint? Chalk paint is durable on its own, so adding a layer of wax is optional. However, leaving the chalk paint to fend for itself also means the layer of paint will wear out faster, especially when it is exposed to natural elements and regular use.
In this article, let’s learn more about sealing chalk paint with wax, whether it is necessary, and how to decide if you will need to seal your chalk paint.
Do You Have To Seal Chalk Paint?
First, let’s talk about chalk paint, which is different from chalkboard paint (although the matte finish is very similar to that of a chalkboard). It was created in 1990 by Annie Sloan as a proprietary product line, although nowadays, you can also find chalk paint sold by other brands.
Unlike other types of paint, chalk paint doesn’t require any preparation. It can be used on almost any clean surface, regardless of the material. You can understand why that makes this type of paint popular – it’s an incredibly useful and convenient way to paint different surfaces.
But like other types of paints, chalk paint will wear out after some use. Repainting is required after a few years, especially if your item is regularly used.
That’s why applying a sealant is recommended to keep the paint fresh for longer by protecting it from the elements and wear and tear.
Do you have to seal chalk paint? Although it’s not required, it’s recommended, especially if you want to keep the paint fresh for longer.
If you’re nervous about applying it and need a visual aid, where’s a great tutorial from Vintage Makeovers With Melanie on YouTube that will explain the process.
Wax is the most recommended sealant for chalk paint, so let’s discuss why that’s the case.
Advantages Vs. Disadvantages Of Waxing Chalk Paint
Sealing your painted piece is an important step that can enhance the color and texture of your painted surface, protect against knocks, bumps, and scratches, and give your chalk paint surface a nice sheen.
When you’re sealing water-based paint like chalk paint, wax is a popular option for sealant. It is a non-toxic and easy-to-apply solution that is quite friendly to beginners (just like chalk paint).
The wax used to seal chalk paint comes in a semi-solid form, which can be applied to the furniture using a soft bristle brush or cloth.
Waxing a piece not only creates a lovely glossy finish but also enhances the color of your existing paint job by creating a protective layer on top of it. The wax also adds dimension, texture, and depth to your piece.
There are many benefits to sealing your chalk paint with wax. One advantage of waxing over a clear coat finish is that your finish will be more resistant to moisture. Moisture can be harmful to the longevity of your paint job, especially if the piece is wood, which is very prone to water damage.
Similarly, the sealant will also protect your paint job from other natural elements and prevent discoloration or chipping. A thin layer of wax will add an extra layer of protection for your piece and preserve its color for longer than just using chalk paint alone.
Finally, a layer of wax will also protect your paint job from the moderate wear and tear of daily use. If you have a painted chair or a cabinet that you regularly use, adding a layer of protection to the paint job will protect it from scratches and bumps, keeping the paint fresh for longer.
Since wax forms a smooth protective layer outside of the paint job, it also makes the surface much easier to clean since you can wipe down any water or dust on the surface which just a cloth.
There are some disadvantages to wax, of course. One thing that people don’t like about wax is that it is not a permanent solution. You will need to reapply wax regularly to maintain a decent layer of protection.
Applying wax is also an issue. While applying wax is a pretty straightforward matter, it can be quite labor-intensive since it requires some elbow grease to buff in the wax. If you have a large surface, it can take a long time to finish the job.
Another disadvantage of wax is that it can be sensitive to heat. Similar to candle wax, sealing wax also melts when it encounters high heat, so if you’re thinking about sealing a surface that frequently encounters high heat – like a kitchen table – wax is not a viable solution.
Wax can also be incredibly difficult to remove. If you don’t like your chalk-painted surface in a few years and want to paint over it – bad news: you can’t paint over the wax and will need to remove it completely before the surface can be repainted.
Given how difficult and labor-intensive it is to remove wax from any surface, you will have to think twice about whether it is wise to apply wax over your chalk paint project, especially if you want to repaint after a few years.
Given the various advantages and disadvantages of sealing chalk paint with wax, it can be difficult to decide whether to seal chalk paint. In the next section, let’s take a look at how you can decide whether to wax your painted project.
How To Decide If You Should Wax Chalk Paint
Here are some of the things to consider before choosing a sealant for chalk paint.
Do You Prefer The Vintage Look Of Chalk Paint?
While wax adds depth and a bit of shine to the chalk paint, that’s not the aesthetic of chalk paint. Many people love the distressed, matte look of chalk paint, and waxing the surface can really take away that matte appearance, which is why many people don’t like sealing chalk paint.
In addition, the worn-out look of chalk paint – how it looks after some wear and tear – can really add to the vintage aesthetic. If you prefer this look, you can leave the chalk paint unsealed and see the effects naturally over time.
Do You Have Time To Apply/Reapply Wax?
Many people like using wax because it is non-toxic and easy to apply. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to apply wax, and it’s hard to make any mistakes when applying wax. No matter what tool and how you apply it, you’ll still likely get a smooth surface.
However, it does require a lot of time and labor. Wax demands a lot of elbow grease to buff in, and when you have a large painted wall, it’s just not realistic. Depending on how big your project is, the time required to apply wax can be quite intimidating.
And that’s not everything. Remember that wax can wear out after a few months (up to a year), depending on how regularly used your piece is, so you’ll need to reapply the wax to enjoy the same level of protection.
If you can’t find the time to apply and reapply the wax every once in a while, it’s best to go with another type of sealant, like a varnish or polyurethane, which doesn’t require a lot of labor to apply and can last longer than wax.
Would You Like To Repaint Your Piece After A Few Years?
As we’ve mentioned, wax is not very friendly to a new coat of paint – your paint simply won’t stick unless you completely remove the wax layer.
Stripping wax is just as time and labor-intensive as applying wax, so this step can be quite painful if you find that you would like to repaint your piece in a few years.
If you want to save future you some time in case you want to repaint your piece, it’s best to avoid using wax as a sealant.
Do You Need A Durable Solution?
Durability can mean a lot of things: how water-resistant it is, how scratch-resistant it is, how heat-resistant it is, etc.
Wax is only moderately durable. While wax can resist moisture, it’s not strong enough to handle a large amount of water, so it’s out of the question if you want to protect outdoor furniture.
Similarly, it’s not very scratch resistant. You can easily scrape the wax off with just your fingernails. And as we’ve mentioned, it’s not heat resistant at all.
This means if you are using wax to seal any surfaces that demand these features, it’s not going to do well as a sealant. Things like your bathroom or kitchen cabinet and kitchen table will require a more durable and heat-resistant sealant, such as polyurethane.
If you have a painted item that doesn’t require a high level of durability, for example, decorative pieces of furniture that you don’t regularly use, like a decorative chair, bedroom cabinets, or shelves, wax would be a perfect solution.