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How To Seal Painted Furniture for a High Traffic Surface

Sealing Painted Furniture for a High Traffic Surface is key in maintaining the life of the piece. I’ve shared a few examples with products.

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’ve 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.

sealing painted furniture for high traffic use

First and foremost I believe that you need to follow the manufacturer’s 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?

Updated 2022 with Related posts:

Protect your Furniture! Best Clear Coat for Wood for a Lasting finish

Disclosure; this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect the price you pay. This disclosure statement refers to the rest of the amazon links and other affiliate links in this post.

Sealing chalk painted furniture that gets 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!

One of the major draws to chalk paint was that ultra matte finish. The wax coat to protect chalk paint maintained that matte finish. But does it hold up well over time?

The key in finding a good sealer for chalk paint 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. You can see all about the awesome sealer (not wax) that I used on it! Make sure to watch my YouTube video recap or the video below.

chalk painted dining table

So far it’s held up really well!

Best Chalk Paint Sealer for a high traffic surface

If you are wondering how to seal chalk paint, I’ve created a list of my three favorite products below.

Minwax Polycrylic

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

polycrylic sealer

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.

Of all three sealers I’ve listed, this one is my favorite mainly because it still gives that clear matte finish without yellowing over time.

Rust-Oleum Chalked clear matte finish

This is also a great product that I’ve used a handful of times, especially if I’m using the Rust-Oleum Chalked paint line.

General Finishes Flat Out Flat

If you are looking for a finish that comes as close to feeling like wax, this is it! In my opinion, you won’t even know it has a top coat on it! That being said, it has some downfalls.

On the label of the product it clearly states “Do not apply clear top coats over bright white paint, as yellowing may occur due to a reaction to the substrate. Light color paints may also experience yellowing due to topcoat application, but it will less noticeable.”

Because of this, you might want to reserve this sealer for colored paint only.

General Finishes High Performance Top Coat

I’ve also found that General Finishes High Performance top coat is a great sealer for chalk paint too (and milk paint too). This is their hardest, most durable consumer polyurethane top coat. It does come with a “flat” or “matte” option, it still doesn’t seem to be as “matte like” as the Flat out Flat product.

Unfortunately, like with the Flat out Flat, it does come with the warning to be aware of possible yellowing.

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! And yes, I did paint over white with it. Has it yellowed over time? A little.

How does Polycrylic seal unfinished wood?

Polycrylic is also a great sealer product to use on unfinished wood. Full disclosure though, it might bring out some of the wood undertones.

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

Polycrylic sealer on cherry wood
stripping furniture the easy way

Note: the higher the gloss finish, 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!


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  1. Maria says:

    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.

  2. moi says:

    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.

  3. Lisa says:

    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:)

  4. Martha Epting says:

    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?

  5. Linda Ketcham says:

    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

  6. Jennifer says:

    I am so glad I found your post! I recently found a wooden dresser that was painted but not sealed. Being a dresser with high usage, I knew it needed to be sealed and thanks to your post, I now know multiple coats are needed. Between coats of Polycrylic, do you recommend sanding down prior to putting on a second and third coat? Thank you so much! Also, any recommendations on brushes that do not show brush marks as much?

  7. Caitlin says:

    Do you not use a top coat after a stain? Just wondering after looking at your flow chart.

  8. Shelly says:

    I have an oak dining table that I am painting white. I lightly sanded and primed with Zinsser Cover Stain oil based primer (spray on the base and roll/brush on on the top). Our local hardware store recommended a semi gloss acrylic latex enamel for the paint. Do you recommend the Minwax polycrylic over that? And if so, would the spray can version be just as good as the paint on?

    • Yes the Polycrylic would work great. As far as the spray vs. paint on; I feel like the paint on would be better for your situation because you can get a thicker coat (or two coats). Especially if it’s for a table top, I would paint it on. Also the spray doesn’t last as long as the can. I hope this helps!

  9. LeeAnn says:

    I have a beautiful Queen Anne Dining table that I painstakingly stripped and sanded from a dark cherry finish. I love the raw wood look it it now, but not sure how to seal it? Water based poly? I don’t want to darken it any so I’m stuck on a protective top coat?

  10. Brytney says:

    I use Polycrylic for crafts and home decor items but since it’s somewhat water soluble… how does it hold up with moisture from cup rings or cleaning on tabletops?

  11. Benita Santini says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just stripped a beautiful antique French parquet wood dining table & couldn’t finish because I was perplexed as to how to seal it! I was going to use Danish oil for an old world look(not shiny) but had serious concerns about the top. Finding your article made my day because I think this sealer might just be the answer…hope so!

  12. This looks great! I have had trouble with my refinishing projects not keeping well…thanks for sharing!
    I would love to have you share this post on Farm Fresh Tuesdays! Hope to see you there!