comparing topcoats: then & now

The most pinned and visited post here is one I wrote a couple of years ago about my preference in furniture topcoats.  There has been consistent conversation on that post.  I’d like to continue that conversation over here with an update.

While the products I was using then are certainly fine products, tastes & trends change and new choices become available.  Let’s check in and compare what I was using in 2012 vs. what I’m using now and why…

2012 #1 Minwax Paste Finishing Wax – I was using paste wax primarily over stripped and stained surfaces.

hemp oil

Current #1 Hemp Oil – This is my current go-to topcoat for stained surfaces and raw wood.  Basically it can be applied to revive and treat any porous surface including flat paint leaving a rich finish.  Hemp oil is 100% natural, no VOCs and food safe.  I even use hemp oil on my cutting boards and cast iron pots.  It has no harsh odor so I use it indoors.  Hemp oil has a multitude of other DIY uses but we’re just talking about topcoats today so I will limit it to that.  Hemp oil can be applied with a cloth or brush.  I typically use a brush.  I love the addition of oil to my repertoire.

drop leaf table with hemp oil finish on raw wood and paint

2012 #2 Johnson Paste Wax – I always liked the finish this wax provided over painted surfaces but the chemical odor is just so strong that I never use it anymore.

furniture wax

Current #2 Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Wax – When I want a wax finish over painted furniture, I always go for this one regardless of the brand of paint.  It is made of beeswax and therefore has no odor.  It is incredibly easy to apply and leaves a nice even finish.  I apply with a wax brush.  MMS furniture wax dries very quickly, in about 5 minutes, and lightly buffs out with a lint free cotton rag.

mustard seed yellow milk paint nightstand with furniture wax

2012 #3 & #4 Annie Sloan Clear & Dark Wax – These waxes are nice and thick which is why I liked them back then.  At the time I was using a lot of chalk paint so it complemented well.  A thick wax over a full body paint made sense to me then.  However, there has been a lot of conversation around the clear wax leaving a haze and fingerprints while the dark wax was mostly just too dark and hard to work with on its own.  The dark wax is very pigmented because it is meant to be more of a stain from what I understand.  I have experienced both of those issues and pushed through until…

antiquing wax

2014 #3 & #4 Miss Mustard Seed’s Antiquing & White Wax – No surprise here but I’ve fully converted to all MMS waxes.  The antiquing wax creates such a subtle warm patina with no fear of being too dark as referenced before. The pigment is easy to spread.

lucketts green over trophy milk paint with antiquing wax #mmsmp

On the other hand, white wax creates a washed out look to the painted finish that I’ve been raving about this summer.  The white wax also has a very light scent that is pleasant and not chemically at all.

Mustard Seed Yellow + White Wax #mmsmp

I use brushes to apply these waxes as it helps gets the pigmentation to settle into the paint creating an aged look.  I reserve one wax brush exclusively for each color wax for easier clean up.  It is fun to use both antiquing and white wax on one piece to create depth and the illusion of years of wear.  I like to think of it as highlighting and low-lighting.

white wax

In 2012, I also indicated that I was using a buffer and still receive many questions about my buffer today.  Well, I can’t remember the last time I used it!  I power buffed because all of the waxes I was using were thick and it was the best way to get an even, shiny finish.  My current choice in waxes are much lighter.  When needed, a cotton rag and elbow grease buffs them out in minutes.  Although the beeswax is thinner, it gives a very solid, durable finish when cured.

Of course, this is just my opinion and perhaps, no surprise.  I wouldn’t sell a line of products that I don’t truly love.  There are many, many new topcoat choices on the market including a range of tinted waxes and ones with low or no VOCs.  It is important to find what suits your style best.  Please share in the comments what your go-to products for topcoats are.  I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered!

6 thoughts on “comparing topcoats: then & now

  1. no top coats used yet — but I’m itching to start playing with all my goodies that I bought at West End from you! Great explanations of it all…..guess my only item of concern yet is a top coat that will hold up to mega use on chair rungs and bar stool rungs…..grandkids galore who don’t think about the time it took gmommy to put it on, let alone them worrying about scuffing it off! Hoping these top coats do it ! A testing we will go…….Jean from South Jersey!

  2. Thank you for your great posts. In your discussion about the white MMS wax, I was intrigued by your small green table pictured. What paint combo did you use to achieve this shade before the white wax?

    Thank you for sharing! Margaret madhamilton99@gmail.com

    1. Hi Margaret. That table was painted with a coat of MMSMP Trophy and then Lucketts Green. The result is a silvery green. It actually has mostly antiquing wax over it.

  3. Ok so I used some minwax in a table and I can’t seam to get rid of the chemical smell! I thought after using it and it being in my very ventilated garage for weeks the smell would have gone away… but I was wrong… any tips on getting rid of this smell!?!? Thanks!!!

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