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How to Seal Painted or Unpainted Furniture for a High Traffic Surface

Do you paint furniture? Maybe I should ask, do you SEAL your furniture after you paint it? Painting furniture is the bread and butter of this blog. It’s the basis for why this website was started. I love to paint furniture, but I have learned that it’s all for none if you don’t know how to seal furniture correctly. Certain paints like chalky style paint practically disintegrate to dust without it (hence why it’s called “chalk paint”). I want to share my thoughts on how to seal painted and unpainted furniture.

how to seal painted or unpainted furniture for high traffic use

First and foremost I believe that you need to follow the manufacturers recommendation for a sealer.

That being said, I’ve experienced times when the “recommended sealer” hasn’t been tough enough for a high traffic area.

You followed the directions and the paint didn’t hold up, now what?

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How do you seal chalk painted furniture that get’s a lot of use?

Like I said earlier, it’s best to follow the manufacturers recommendations. Most chalk paint products recommend a chalk paint wax to go with it.

That being said, I do believe there are some sealer product that will hold up better than wax for a high traffic surface.

There are other chalky paint products (Rust-Oleum) that have a clear sealer that you wipe or paint on.

Chalk paint is known for its velvety ultra matte finish. The clear coats that go with chalk paint are made to seal the paint and keep that ultra matte finish.

These work well, but just like with the wax, they don’t seem to hold up well to a high traffic area.

As a matter of fact, if you read the fine print on most wax cans, it says to reapply it every year! Ugh, who has time for that!

Is there a top coat that seals chalk painted furniture that will withstand a higher traffic area?

In my experience, I’ve found a few. The key is finding a sealer that protects against water without losing too much of the ultra matte finish.

I recently chalk painted my moms antique table top and gave it a good top coat for a high traffic finish.

chalk painted dining table

So far it’s held up really well!

Want to see my YouTube video recap?

One of my go-to favorites for sealing any sort of paint is a Minwax product called Polycrylic.

polycrylic

I love this product because it’s water based, doesn’t yellow over time like polyurethanes, and it comes in a matte finish!

I use this sealer for practically all table tops, bathroom and kitchen surfaces. It seals and protects against water very well.

How does Polycrylic seal unfinished wood?

Here is what it looks like on raw wood. This was an old cherry desk that I stripped down to the natural wood, so it did bring out a few of the red undertones.

sealer vs. no sealer on wood
stripping furniture the easy way

I’ve also found that General Finishes (they manufacture milk paint) makes a really good top coat too.

I used this sealer when I painted our old laminate cabinets. Years later (and a lot of wiping the surface down with Clorox wipes) the paint is still holding strong!

General Finishes also makes a sealer called Flat Out Flat, which is a good alternative if you want a totally matte finish but a little more durability than wax.

Side note; I have heard from other furniture painters that it doesn’t hold up quite as well as the High Performance Top Coat.

Like I said before, the higher the gloss, the better the durability and protection against elements.

I’m sure there are other good top coats and sealers for painted or unpainted furniture, and if you’ve tried one and like it let me know!

I guess I’m the type of person that doesn’t branch out much when I find something I like 🙂

The key is finding a good clear coat that not only protects against all the elements (and kids and pets and life!) AND still maintains the beautiful look of the wood (or paint).

How to seal furniture

I made a little handy chart for another post that you might find helpful. You can see more of how to choose the right type of paint below.

choosing the right type of paint for any surface

Interested in knowing more about Chalk paint and how to use it?

how to use chalk paint

As always, thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions on other top coats!

Lindsey**

Maria

Saturday 13th of February 2021

I want to repaint my kitchen cabinets. They are painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint and sealed with Minwax Polyacrylic. Do you know if I can use a water base paint on top of the poly? I am hopping I don’t have to sand it. Thanks so much for your post. María

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Sunday 14th of February 2021

You need to use a good bonding primer first. I've got a good post on repainting laminate cabinets (the steps I discussed will also apply to most cabinet surfaces, not just laminate); https://repurposeandupcycle.com/how-to-repaint-laminate-cabinets/. Hope this helps and good luck!

moi

Friday 30th of October 2020

well I've attempted using ordinary wall paint to water wash a buffet sideboard, it looks lovely, two sanding downs and now I'm about to use non yellowing poly whatever it is spray, to seal the paint. lets hope it works.

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Saturday 31st of October 2020

good luck!

Lisa

Tuesday 13th of October 2020

I recently chalk painted a dresser but it’s too blue for my liking. Can I mix a darker chalk paint into my polycrylic to darken the blue? I can not find answers to this anywhere so I’m very hopeful you receive this. Thank you:)

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Tuesday 13th of October 2020

Hmmmm no I wouldn't recommend that. Polycrylic isn't meant to be mixed with chalk paint I don't believe. That being said, I have seen it where someone has mixed general finishes water based wood stain with their water based top coat. You can see more of that here: https://generalfinishes.com/faq/what-toning-finishes You MIGHT be able to mix a water based stain into it. I would test a little first.

Martha Epting

Sunday 26th of July 2020

I just had my kitchen cabinets painted and they are not seeming to dry properly and wiping with wet towel pulls paint off. Do I need to seal it?

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Monday 27th of July 2020

Yes I would definitely suggest sealing them. You can see where I painted my kitchen cabinets here; https://repurposeandupcycle.com/painting-laminate-cabinets-with-no-prep-work/

Linda Ketcham

Saturday 23rd of May 2020

I have always loved the minwax poly and have used it for years but it will yellow. My blue chalk paint furniture I painted 15 years ago have held up well but they are now more green than blue (blue and yellow=green). So I've recently repainted the pieces and am not sure what to use to seal them. Right now they are not sealed

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Saturday 23rd of May 2020

Polycrylic doesn't yellow! Try it! I rarely use the urethane's anymore because of their yellow effect.