Milk paint naturally wants to absorb into a porous surface. When there is a previous “shiny” finish present like poly or latex, the paint may “resist” it causing flaking paint and the chippy look. I love a good ol’ chippy finish but it is not for everyone and every piece. If you want to avoid chipping, you should mix bonding agent right into your mixed milk paint.
Every once in a while you get a curve ball though…
For example, this dresser seemed quite porous. The surface wasn’t very slick and there wasn’t evidence of poly. I was working on this with a friend and we made the executive decision to apply milk paint without bonding agent expecting absorption and subtle chipping. (Dry time is much faster without bonding agent added which requires 12-24 hours between coats.)
About 30 minutes after application we got chipping. Major chipping. Paint flaking right off of the top in large patches. It certainly wasn’t a good look.
We lightly sanded before applying the 2nd coat to smooth out the texture a bit. The next coat was applied with bonding agent in the paint mixture so we’d get the adhesion we wanted. Ultimately we overcame the flaky issue, however an explanation was still needed.
Alas, the urban legend of milk paint! You’ll never believe what it is…
Raise your hands if you’ve ever used furniture spray like pledge to dust. The chemicals left behind on your furniture will resist milk paint when you try to apply it.
Can you believe that? Really, it makes perfect sense. It also explains why we saw so much more chipping on the top of the dresser versus the drawer fronts and sides. When dusting, aren’t you more likely to put more effort into cleaning the horizontal surfaces?
When buying used furniture you have no idea how the piece was maintained. How can you avoid the above scenario when trying to achieve a near perfect finish? Again, you can use bonding agent for best adhesion. Additionally when prepping your furniture for milk paint, you can degrease it to eliminate any oil build up.
If that sounds like too much prep work, you can always roll the dice and see how the milk paint reacts! This piece, painted in Linen, ended up really pretty with a primitive texture to it.