much ado about waxing

Hola!  So I’ve been getting many questions about wax lately.  I so often mention how I finish a piece of furniture with wax after painting it.  I’ve mentioned clear wax and dark wax and aging and protecting.  Today I’m going to break down what that means and tell you my chosen waxes and techniques.

Mmm kay?

I’d like to put a waiver on this post and tell you that I am certainly no expert but I have learned a thing or two.  You may learn something or you may disagree.  Either way, I hope this inspires.

Let’s get started.

I almost exclusively use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on all of my furniture revivals.  And on about half of my painted signs. The paint feels very, well, chalky when it dries and I wouldn’t call it finished at that point.

Have you ever walked into a resale store and touched the painted furniture?  I am always compelled to do this because I want to feel the texture and finish.  Is it chalky or dry?  Is it too waxy?  Or is it just right?  Call me Goldilocks but I like a cohesive feel meaning the paint and furniture have become one.  When it feels like paint ON furniture, it doesn’t work for me.  Am I making any sense?

This is where wax comes in.  Not only does it “finish” the furniture but it protects it.  There are 3 brands I use…

#1 Minwax Paste Finishing Wax

I tend to just use this on stained surfaces but you can use it on paint.  Two coats over stain usually does the trick.  This can be applied with a cloth or dry brush.  I usually use a brush.  Minwax is readily available in your hardware store.

#2 Johnson Paste Wax

I started using this one by accident.  I found it in the cleaning section at the hardware store and it was very inexpensive at $6-8.  I used it to seal and protect painted furniture.  I’ve used it again and again because I loved the results although this one is stinky so use it in a ventilated area.  Again, you can use a cloth or dry brush to apply it.  I choose the brush for ease.  I like Johnson’s because it seems to cure quickly with a nice hard finish.

#3 Annie Sloan Clear Wax

No shocker here that Annie’s wax is my favorite and most used wax.  The consistency is much smoother than the others.  Like buttah I tell ya.  I use an Annie Sloan wax brush for applying although, in full disclosure, I find the handle to be a little bulky.  The large brush covers a lot of area though and the bristles really get into the paint.  I use a cloth to wipe off excess in a buffing motion.

Clear wax, in general, helps the colors to pop and also highlights any texture in the paint.  I love that about it but sometimes you do not like to see paint strokes.  If that is the case, I advise sanding the paint with a fine grit prior to waxing.

For those of you that don’t know, Annie Sloan products are not available in your local hardware store.  Only at special retailers.

#4 Annie Sloan Dark Wax

I think this is where most of the questions are stemming from.  When applied lightly with clear wax, dark wax can give a slight aged appearance to furniture.  Sometimes you just want to highlight certain areas.  I typically use a small brush that I have reserved for dark waxing.  I also mix the clear and dark waxes together to get the desired “aged” look.

Ever wonder what it would look like if you used all dark wax?  Yeah, me too so I tried it…

Regardless of my choice of wax and application, I always buff it with an electric buffer and pad.  Just like you’d buff a car after waxing it.  Wax on, wax off.  This helps to give the finished product shine and luster.  You will not “feel” the paint once you get to this point in the process.  It all becomes cohesive.

Wax can be reapplied throughout the life of the furniture.

Oh and for cleaning wax brushes, I dip them in Canola oil or something similar and then wash them out with soap and water.

That’s my waxing M.O.  There are other brands of wax out there and a variety of ways to finish your furniture but these are my current go-to’s for indoor furniture.

For my 2014 update on topcoats, check out this post.

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56 thoughts on “much ado about waxing

  1. thank u so much i havent got to the waxing part, cause i have just started painting furniture, but i was so happy to see this. this was a big help to me and very much appreciated that women like u help women like me who is just getting started. : ) Thank u!

  2. I appreciate you sharing about waxes. I have a question about when you buff. Do you wait until the wax and paint has set to buff? Even in my air conditioned studio (with a dehumidifier on 24/7) it is taking my ASCP 30 to 90 DAYS to cure – and for the “stickiness” to go away. I am very discouradged with ASCP dark….I love this look but it’s very difficult to work with and taking that long to deliver furniture to my consignment shops is very inconvient. I use the proper AS wax brush and wax with a light hand. I live in humid Michigan!! I read about bloggers who finish painting one day and deliver the next. I can hardly believe that! Thank you!!
    Small House / Big Sky Donna

  3. I have run out of AS wax and I don’t have a retailer close by so I have to order online. I have a deadline on a piece of furniture that has part of the top sealed with AS clear wax. Can I use Johnson’s wax (that I can purchase today) and use it on the surface along with the AS wax? Thanks for any advice.

  4. Thanks for the info on waxing furniture!!! I have read where Johnson’s wax can be substituted for the AS wax. Because I am new to furniture painting, I have read and read blog after blog, only to be turning around in circles! It is very confusing – but your explanation seemed to clear things up!
    I can get Johnson’s paste wax locally, but I cannot find tinted wax. Does anyone know if you can tint wax? Thanks for any help anyone can offer.

    1. Hi Mimi! Glad I could help. Yes, you can tint wax. You can tint it with stain or you can simply add dark wax to the clear and mix it. I have not used the stain tint method but it seems to be pretty straight forward. I have, however, clear waxed and then applied a dark stain on the piece in some areas for a similar effect.

      1. Dana, thank you so much for responding to my question! Actually, I forgot I posted it and just found it by accident! I’ve thought about this for quite a while and the easiest way I can think of to tint the wax is to melt a small amount in a tin can on a candle warmer. Once it melts, I’m going to add a drop of stain. I’m trying it on a piece of scrap wood to see if it works. I’ve asked people in Lowe’s and Home Depot about my wax tinting idea but they look at me like I’ve lost my mind. I figure it’s worth a shot.

          1. The tinting with stain turned out fine. I melted Minwax paste wax and added the stain and it was perfect. I used the tinted wax over a crackle paint layer and it turned out really well, settling in the cracks. Yesterday I pinned a pin about tinting wax with chalk paint, so that’s my next experiment.
            Thanks so much for asking! This was the first blog I had ever replied to & I’m glad I did. I’ve enjoyed learning along with everyone else!

    2. Was told you can tint wax by putting in some of your wax in a small glass container place in a double boiler method to liquify then add stain stirring in completely. Test on samples to get the desire darkness. Let cool back into a paste and store in an airtight container.

  5. Dana, couldn’t help but notice you are in the Phila area: Phantastic Phinds, a favorite shop of mine! looks like Cape May sweats in your photo. I just finished cleaning up a hoosier purchased on Phila CL which had original paint. I’m using it in my laundry room. I would like to protect it without changing the surface colors( ie polyurethane). Would the clear wax be the way to go? I don’t really want it to look shiny, or look like I did anything to it. Also do you have a shop somewhere? Thanks in advance for any info you can provide. Karen

  6. Hi there, Thanks for doing this post. I am almost out of my AS clear wax and have been trying to find a replacement that is more affordable for my current budget. Do the Minwax and Johnson’s wax tint the painted surface? I use a lot of AS Old White around my home and I’m hesitant to use a wax that does not look clear in the can. Any info would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much,
    Katie 🙂

    1. Hi Katie – they both dry clear. I am due for an update on this post though as I’ve since started using Miss Mustard Seed furniture wax and LOVE it. It is my new fave – reminds me of body cream but for your furniture. It goes on so smooth and doesn’t smell like some of the others.

      1. I didn’t know that Miss Mustard Seed created a wax! I will have to check and see if my local supplier carries it. It is probably a bit too much $$ for me right now but I’d love to try it in the future. I think I will try the Johnson’s Wax in the meantime. Thanks so much for the reply!

        1. Katie, FYI: IF you use milk paint and ASCP clear wax you may get a mild white sheen on your surface. I used Real Milk Paint in blue and got a slight hazy white look on parts of my dresser. RMP sells a special waxing product for their paint but I didn’t have any on hand and really didn’t want to place an order just for the wax product. Luckily this was on the side of my dresser and it really doesn’t show that much, but it is good to know, esp. if painting a custom order that we want perfect.

          Donna Allgaier-Lamberti / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
          Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
          Facebook: (To see a portfolio of painted pieces for sale)

          1. Just found your blog from MMS. So this is why I have a white haze over my typewriter wardrobe! I had no idea that ASCP clear wax would do this with milk paint. So before I do my next project with MMS Typewriter, I need to get some of her wax and see if that does the trick. Thank you!

    1. A reader asked, can you wax on satin paint finish? In my experience you can wax a wooden piece painted in a satin finish latex, but it doesn’t look the same completed, and doesn’t go on anywhere the same as wax on chalk paint. When I was just starting out I painted a vintage desk in traditional latex paint. I had the green latex paint on hand, it coordinated with the specific room it would eventually end up in and I didn’t know any better. It was VERY difficult to get the wax on the latex, it clumped up funny and I didn’t care for the final result. This is kind of a “buyer beware” situation – you can make it happen but you may not like the final results.

      Small House / Big Sky Donna / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
      Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
      Facebook: (for portfolio of chalk painted work)

        1. Dana, You used paste wax, right? I used Annie Sloan dark wax on the latex paint. That might be the difference huh? Sorry I wasn’t a bit more clear in my previous post. Made an assumption we were talking about wax created for chalk paint. Should not have!

          Small House / Big Sky Donna / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
          Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
          Facebook: (for portfolio of chalk painted work)

  7. Wonderful tutorial and good input from readers! I found your site searching on ASCP Wax and I am actually working on a 1930’s Clarks ONT Painted Metal Sewing thread cabinet. It’s pretty distressed, but that is it’s beauty as well. My goal is to gently clean and apply a protective surface to it without harming the painted surface and lithography. Other sites I have gone to all talk about turtle wax, some talk about Briwax . . . I have both, but I also am a huge AS fan and happen to have this wax as well. So, the question I am throwing in the ring is: would you use the AS wax, or one of the other 2 which do contain cleaning agents? I realize you may not have any experience in this, but thought I would give it shot. thanks!

    1. Hi Ann – I am not familiar with turtle wax and haven’t worked with Briwax but I’ve heard good things! Since you are trying to clean the piece, I think I’d start there rather then with clear wax. The clear wax will seal in the dirt essentially. I’d definitley clean it and then decide if you need to clear wax it. Hope this helps!

  8. Thanks for the info, I’ve been using SC Johnson paste wax. Dries fast, last a long time. Just grabbed one this morning at Lowes, it was only 5.00, minwax was 10.00 :).

  9. i just painted some end tables with annie sloan graphite paint and then just used the dark wax because i wanted for it to look as dark as possible. the tables look great and don’t feel tacky at all. the problem i am having is that only after a week, they are getting scratched. the end tables do get a lot of use…between coasters and cups, magazines, the laptop and remotes constantly being placed on it and drug off of it.. but i really expected better durability after reading so many reviews. my plan was to do the same thing to my dining room table next–but now i’m scared because it will have even more wear and tear than the end tables. did i do something wrong? any suggestions?

    1. Jessi, I’m am a dark wax right over paint buff myself. I use this technique probably 75% of the time, even through the rule of thumb is clear was first, dry/set then dark wax. I do find that the dark wax will “scratch” a bit more than the clear, I am assuming the dark just shows scratches more. Another issue, is that I think you mentioned using your pieces after about a week. It takes a full month for the wax to “cure” and set so that could be it as well. Sometimes depending on the paint underneath the wax, the humidity and the amount of scratching, I have been successful with dipping my finer in the clear, soft wax and going over the scratch and it is hidden. If that doesn’t work, you could, re-wax the entire top and then let it set fully. Good luck!

      Small House / Big Sky Donna
      White Oak Studio Design, Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations

  10. Would you use wax over Annie Sloan for outdoor pieces?? We are going to paint our front door with Annie’s provence but I don’t know what to do for the outside portion of the door?? Do we use her wax? One of those other waxes? Nothing at all? I”m super confused…please help!

    1. Hi Rebekah,

      I think you need something heavier duty than furniture wax for outside – something waterproof. I’d use polyurethane or polycrylic.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise w/the rest of us! I’m wondering about using wax over a wine box that I’ve done for a friend. Here’s the story – I used the vinegar solution first to age the top and it was great. I didn’t like the end result after trying a method using mod podge and a design so sanded it down to practically bare wood -there were a few darker spots, probably vinegar soaked down in. So, plan B, I drew a design w/Sharpie and then used some wood stain over to make it look aged and it looks great (if I do say so myself;) I’m just a little worried about the Sharpie bleeding some if by chance it got wet at all and was thinking of options to prevent. Do you think wax would do the trick? I don’t have anywhere to get AS stuff close to me and think I probably have some SCJohnson around. What do you think? Thanks for the help!!!

    1. I would say that wax is water resistant but not water proof. If you think it could get really wet, I’d use a poly over it. Wax will protect it but not from water.

      1. Ok, thanks. I really don’t expect it to get wet and I’m a little nervous to use poly because I used a vinegar solution on it in the beginning. I completely ruined another project at the very end by spraying poly to protect it – found out the hard way that the vinegar opens up the wood so the ink feathered out and I had to sand it down and start all over.
        I think I’ll try the wax and pray it doesn’t smear, etc. Thanks again!

        1. Lara………I do a lot of the vinegar solution too! I have many pieces around the house I redid. DO NOT use polyurethane.I actually told my husband polyurethane is banished from our house! That stuff ruins everything and turns wood a ghastly color.
          Always Use Wax, I use the minwax paste wax on ALL my pieces now. Learned the hard way not to use anything else. The Briwax I tried after reading many reviews online (had to get it at ACE hardware, very $$$) AND it doesn’t handle water at all! I have water stains on my dining table now.
          The minwax will repel water, I mean anything from normal everyday use of glasses. It allows you time to wipe up the water and doesn’t leave a stain behind. It does not turn the oxidized wood a different color. Hope this helps.

          1. Oh I’ve always wondered about Briwax as that’s a brand I’ve never tried yet always hear about. Thanks for the info Heather.

  12. Hi there! I just finished waxing a sanded down old dresser – I wanted to condition the wood, and then paint the drawers white… only now I’m noticing the wood would have benefited from a stain rather than just having AS clear wax… Am I stuck? Can I still stain the wood?

    1. Hi Amanda,

      You won’t be able to stain over wax without sanding it down. Stain will only take to raw wood. Perhaps another coat of wax will help? Or you could paint over cured wax. Good luck!

  13. So glad I found your post! Have you had any experience with water rings on Minwax Paste? I just finished a desk this morning, and now one of my kids left a jar of water on it- leaving a good water ring. Any suggestions on how to easily remove it without ruining the finish? Is it a bit like polycrylic where it will just go away after it dries again? I’ve refinished many things, but this is the first with paste wax, and I love it, but I will need to do something different on this desk if it can’t handle water. Thanks in advance for your reply! 🙂

    1. Yes, I had this same thing happen actually with minwax. It doesn’t seem to hold up to water rings that well. You can try buffing it out by putting more wax on a cloth and going over the spot. Good luck!

  14. I’m trying to put a protective clear coat on my painted metal dining room table. Can I use wax on this?? I’ve been searching high and low trying to figure out how to seal it.

      1. I had gotten that but I read on there that’s it was just for wood, so I returned it. I bought rustolium clear enamel spray. I’ve read that for some people it had bubbled up on them though. But I’m hoping since it’s just fairly small metal poles I’ll be painting that maybe it’ll work.

        1. Oh interesting…I just don’t think wax would cure probably, like it would stay waxy. You could always try on a small section or sample piece of metal.

  15. I just stained a dining room table with Minwax driftwood gray. I already have Annie Sloan clear wax, can I use this over stain?

  16. I’m chalk painting kitchen cabinets with flat paint mixed with calcium carbonate. (Really nice finish by the way). Then applying americana decor clear wax by Home Depot. I’m having problems with wax gumming up. I’ve tried cloth application and high end brush application. I find it’s impossible to apply a thin coat and when water hits it it turns white but then white dries and disappears. Going to try Minwax paste next. Frustrated that I can’t easily and smoothly apply wax. I read a lot about wax and watched AS tutorial but it’s not working for me. Maybe I should just purchase Annie Sloan wax. Or maybe try Minwax with cloth doing very small area at a time. Any application technique suggestions much appreciated.

  17. Hi I am actually wondering if you can use the minwax on stained concrete for a more protective finish ? Would you know if this is OK ? Also if so what cleaner should I use to keep its stating strong but disinfected?

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