Eco-Friendly Soft Wax Versus Polyurethane Over Chalk Painted Furniture: Does it Really Hold Up? My Dining Chairs, Two Ways & Two Years Later

DSC 0001 Eco Friendly Soft Wax Versus Polyurethane Over Chalk Painted Furniture: Does it Really Hold Up? My Dining Chairs, Two Ways & Two Years Later

I often receive questions about refinishing furniture with Chalk Paint and how to seal it. What do I use? Do my kids destroy it? Does it really work? The two most common options for a protective layer? Soft Wax and Poly.

Screen shot 2013 12 07 at 7.31.03 PM Eco Friendly Soft Wax Versus Polyurethane Over Chalk Painted Furniture: Does it Really Hold Up? My Dining Chairs, Two Ways & Two Years Later Soft Wax is eco-friendly and has the consistency of soft margerine, easy to apply, is completely colourless and has a little odour. It is water-repellent so can be used on dining room tables and kitchens. Contains a solvent but it’s fine to wax inside and you don’t need to worry about getting a raging headache.

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Polyurethane is a varnish; a synthetic resin (plastic material) that is durable and flexible. Oil based and water-based oil-modified poly will yellow. Water-based poly is better for lighter painted/stained pieces. Look for names such as Polycrylic, Wipe-on Poly, Polyurethane, Polyshades, etc.

When I was refinishing my dining set with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint I had no idea what type of protective coating to use. I was nervous about using the Annie Sloan Soft Wax because I was a little skeptical that it wouldn’t work on such “high traffic” furniture. My dining table is wiped down at least 3-5 times per day, my children do crafts on it, they jump on top of it, we do homework on it and it just gets a ton of wear and tear. My dining chairs are constantly pushed up against the counter for my children to bake with me, they’re used for forts, they’re jumped on, tipped over, knawed on…they’re completely used and abused!

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So I went with what I thought would work best and picked up a can of clear coat or “polyurethane”.  I chose Minwax water-based Polycrylic in Satin because it doesn’t smell and I knew it wouldn’t turn my freshly painted grey furniture yellow. It’s not as durable as oil-based but oil-based WILL most definitely yellow your piece if it’s painted in a light shade. After two coats of Paris Grey Chalk Paint, I followed the directions my can of Polycrylic and gave my table and chairs 4 protective coats. Or was it 5? I lost track.

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Once the polycrylic dried the chalk paint underneath started to separate or “crack” a little bit. I didn’t mind the the look since they were old chairs and it gave them a bit more character. But once I brought everything into the house and we starting using the furniture, the downside to water-based poly over chalk paint was that it actually didn’t seal or protect against stains. Greasy fingerprints would “sink” through the layer of polycrylic and set into the chalk paint beneath. My table and chairs were that were uniformly painted in a beautiful shade of grey were now splotchy with grease stains all over. It wasn’t pretty. Almost a year later I ended up having to repaint my entire dining set in chalk paint again because the stains looked awful. But the second time around I chose to seal everything with Soft Wax and it made a tremendous difference.

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I left one chair as it was (chalk paint + polycrylic) so I could show the difference. The painted and waxed chair has been used for about 1 year and does have a few spots that need to be touched up but that’s the beauty of chalk paint. It’s just a quick fix that’s dry in a matter of minutes.

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Check out the difference! The poly seems to really pull out the grain; something I suppose you’d want if you were sealing raw or stained wood. It almost went right through the chalk paint to the wood, leaving the chalk paint unprotected.

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They are similar in sheen and the paint color is nearly identical, but again, the poly pulled out the grain and made the chalk paint crack.

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Now there is a place for water-based poly (every floor board in my farmhouse has a coat of it) but for chalk paint? It’s not my favorite. I would never do a piece in poly again knowing now how perfect soft wax works with chalk paint. It’s part of the system for a reason! It’s actually must easier to apply wax than it is poly. To wax you simply rub on 1-2 coats, leave it to cure for a few hours or overnight then do a quick buff in the morning. With poly you end up worrying about bubbles, drips, and brush strokes and have to put on a ton of coats if you’re using water-based poly.

So that’s that! Hope that helps give you a better idea of how these two compare for a “high traffic” piece of furniture!  I’ll be sharing a full before & after of my entire dining set shortly so if you’re curious about chalk paint and have questions please let me know below and I’ll be happy to answer them and include them in the next post.

And in case you missed it, here’s my latest gorgeous turquoise dresser before & after along with

7 Easy Steps to Refinishing Old Furniture Chalk Paint!

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About Amanda

Amanda Robinson is the eco-chic, green living, fitness loving mom behind Natural Mommie. Since early 2009, Amanda has been the source for moms to learn how to bring more balanced green beauty, eco-friendly, sustainable, organic products into their lives without being too “crunchy” or “granola”. Amanda is passionate about wellness and inspiring moms to make more eco-friendly and healthy choices without having to give up their hip mama selves and trade in their stilettos for Birkenstocks. She can often be found sipping green tea, behind her camera, diy’ing, instagramming, in the middle of a workout, chasing her two little boys around her farm or with her nose in an ingredients list in efforts to help other moms become more aware of what is really in the products they buy.

Comments

  1. Dear Amanda,
    I LOVE THIS POST!!!! I am a Stockist for Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan and own a shop in beautiful Old Town Warrenton, Va. Everyday I get this question and everyday I do my best to explain the pros and cons of wax vs poly. I will now be using your blogpost as an explanation to customers why they should trust Annie’s lovely wax.
    Many thanks and I hope you don’t mind if I share your post with the world ;->

    Your friend,
    Janet Metzger
    The Empty Nest

    PS….I shared your post to Annie Sloan, I thought she might enjoy reading it.
    janet metzger recently posted..~ The Empty Nest Winter Window Display ~

    • Hi Janet! Wow! Thank you so much for sharing with your customers!

      The reason I decided to write in detail about this was because I was so frustrated with not being able to find a good comparison out there. You can read tons of opinions about either option but I wasn’t finding any good comparison photos or furniture that had been truly used around kids. I wasted a lot of time and energy (and money!) only to find out poly just isn’t the best option so I hope this post will help others feel confident in using wax. Chalk paint is amazing, but when coupled with the wrong products it can look really REALLY bad as my photos have shown!

      Thanks again for sharing! :)

  2. I would love for you to try the same process with some of our Lacquer Couture. We have and it’s great on top of Annie Sloan Paint. Many Annie Sloan stockests buy it. It is a water based, non yellowing topcoat. It drys very fast and is extremely durable. There is no odor with this product and is very easy for anyone to use.

  3. That’s completely awesome. I can’t wait to try Chalk paint.

  4. I’m a decorative ainter of thirty plus years and I love all of the Annie Sloan products, you just can’t beat them! I have used polyacrylic over AS Chalk Paint, and have not had any problems at all. I have found that it works better if you sand the paint with 300 grit sandpaper before using poly. I only use poly on tops that wil get lots of wear or delicate faux finished tops. Loved reading your article!

  5. che vachon says:

    Wow! That’s kinda weird! I have done the same thing, comparing the two..but it’s the wax that looks blotchy and gross after a year, not the poly. I think it depends on the finish under the chalk paint, and whether you sanded or not. The items with the poly have lasted..the wax…not so much. I also wonder if climate makes a difference? I live on the coast..damp, salty sea air. Nothing seems to hold up for long….:)

  6. I just painted a couple glass bottles. Now I do not know what to use as a final coat to protect then. I really didn’t want to lose the chalk appearance but need something to protect against finger print ,oils etc . Any ideas?

Trackbacks

  1. […] usually seal my painted pieces with a polyurethane, but my friend Amanda of Natural Mommie and my friend Cheryl of Bella’s Boudoir of Jewelry both suggested to use a finishing wax […]

  2. […] this one can of wax, I’ve finished waxed my dining table (twice), dining chairs, a dresser turned media center, an end table and the dresser pictured here. I still have about a […]

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