What is Milk Paint – How Do You Use It Correctly?

what is milk paint

Do you have a painting project coming up at your house? If so, then you need to prepare for your painting project accordingly.

First, you must take into consideration the surfaces that you will paint, such as furniture, flooring, walls, or ceiling.

Each particular surface requires paint that can look good and last a long time.

Out of all the base paints available, the one best is milk paint.

The fact is humans have painted surfaces with milk paint for thousands of years.

It gives your surfaces a vintage appearance that can last for many years.

And for this reason, I love experimenting with these paints all the time when I need to redo the furniture and other surfaces!

What is Milk Paint?

Milk paint is a kind of non-toxic, biodegradable paint that’s basically designed to be used on furniture made up of wood – like your kitchen cabinets.

Milk paint is comprised of all-natural ingredients, such as casein milk protein, clay, lime, and water.

Unlike other paints, it doesn’t come as liquid paint in a bucket.

Instead, milk paint comes sold as a powdery substance that you have to liquefy by mixing water with it. That is how you turn it into liquid paint.

With these paints, you don’t even need to wait 24 hours for the paint to dry as you do with oil-based paints – milk paint takes under 30 minutes to dry.

Plus, there are no toxic chemicals, VOCs, or ingredients in milk paint, which means there are no dangerous fumes that emit from it while painting.

This also means that the paint is safe for small children and pets.

The major benefit of using milk paint for painting furniture and other items is it requires no sanding of the surface, mainly if you mix the paint with an equal part of a bonding agent.

What to Use Milk Paint For?

You can use milk paint to change the color and feel of almost any indoor or outdoor surface that you want.

It doesn’t require you to sand the surfaces or add a coat of primer beforehand.

You can apply milk paint straight onto any surface for the most part. Some of which include the following surfaces:

  • Drywall
  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Plaster
  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Laminate
  • Masonry
  • Wooden kid’s toys

With a quart of milk paint, you can easily cover around 50-70 square feet or about 280 square feet per gallon.

Basic oil paints require a special type of paint to be used for each particular surface.

For instance, if you were to paint a concrete surface, you must apply a sealant before applying the oil paint.

If you use latex paint, then it cannot be applied to any existing oil-painted surfaces.

On the other hand, milk paint can be applied to almost any type of surface (including concrete, brick, and terra cotta), even if it’s been painted previously, waxed, or sealed.

How to Use Milk Paint for Refinishing Furniture?

If you love the idea of using milk paint on your furniture and are ready to start painting with milk paint, there are a few things you will need to keep in mind…

First of all, you will need to wear gloves (if you have sensitive skin) and protect your eyes.

Although non-toxic, if it gets into the eyes, it may cause a burning sensation due to its lime content.

Step 1 – Preparing the paint

When you purchase milk paint, it will appear as a powdery substance.

You just need to mix one part of water with one part of powder to create a thick liquid substance.

Keep stirring the mixture to make it thicker. You can use a mini whisk, milk frother, or your old kitchen blender to dissolve the paint and create great smooth mixes.

Make sure you give the mixture about 20 to 30 minutes to thicken like a pancake batter.

If you have too much thickness in your paint, then you can decrease the thickness by adding more water. Try to create a balance between the two.

Once you’re done, I would recommend waiting 24 hours because the paint color always looks a bit smoother on the surface if you do.

But if you see foam starting to form because the two parts are not mixing properly, then you can add some anti-foam solution to smooth out the mixture.

You don’t need to add more than a couple of drops for every pint of paint.

If you make the paint too smooth, then it won’t have that old-fashioned texture appearance to it.

So, be careful with how much anti-foam you add to the mixture.

Step 2 – Applying the milk paint

Everything about applying milk paint is fast and straightforward. It is easy to apply milk paint and fast for milk paint to dry.

Since there is no priming or sanding required, you can save a few hours of your time right from the beginning.

After you apply the milk paint, you only have to wait 30 minutes before you can use your painted surface again.

No toxic fumes or odors will be emitted from the paint, so you don’t need to leave the room for 24 hours or anything like that.

You can have lots of fun with the finishing too!

A finish is not required if you want your furniture to appear like a vintage piece.

Some people call it a “farmhouse-style” look. If that’s what you want, then leave the paint as-is.

But if you don’t want the furniture to look so chippy, worn, and old-fashioned, apply a finishing agent to smooth out the surface more.

Step 2 – Sealing the milk paint on furniture

Sealing the applied milk paint using a tough milk paint sealer is important if you want to get a soft, smooth finish that can last for a long.

From my personal experiences, using wood furniture wax works best to seal your milk paint.

If working with raw wood, you can use the wood wax in combination with a soapstone sealer that dries and protect the surface very well.

When applied, it soaks down into the pores of the painted surface, which hardens over time to create a smooth finish.

Using a quality wax brush, you can easily apply it over the milk paint. Once you have applied the wax, simply wipe off any extra wax using a clean rag.

A few other Eco-friendly products you can put over milk paint to seal it are:

  • Hemp Oil
  • Brown wax
  • Pure tung oil
  • Zero VOC wax
  • Myland’s wax
  • Clear Carnauba wax
  • Water-Based Polyurethane

Disposing of the left-out milk paint is easy.

Since it’s environmentally friendly in nature, you can simply throw the old paint in your backyard garden or into the compost pile without any issues.

Can You Use Milk Paint for Outdoor Furniture?

Yes, milk paint can be used unlimitedly to paint your exterior objects, including outdoor garden furniture, deck, or patio.

Due to the pigments and ingredients included in the paint, the color and effect it creates won’t fade away fast, even when exposed to the UV rays of the sun.

While porous surfaces like raw wood can be painted as such, you will need to use a product like UltraBond adhesion promoter and outdoor additives if you are painting over nonporous surfaces like plastic, metal, etc.

This will allow the paint to bond well and provide extra surface protection from outdoor mold, mildew, humidity, and temperature.   

What Type of Paintbrush to Use for Milk Paint

What Kind of Paint Brush to Use for Applying Milk Paint?

Milk paint is a versatile substance that is easy to apply with different paint brushes and even a paint sprayer.

It mainly comes down to your budget and personal preference.

IMO, a natural bristle paintbrush works best to get that excellent finish of milk paint on the surface.

After the application, you can use a dampened foam brush to smoothen the surface and get the perfect finish without any brush lines.

Although ​​​​​​bristle brushes work great, they can add subtle texture to the surface, particularly if it’s a detailed vertical surface you are working on.

A few other varieties of paintbrushes you can use for applying milk paint are:

  • Standard chip brush: Economical, versatile, and durable
  • Oval paint and glazing brush: High-quality premium brushes for an extra-smooth look

While the foam brush and bristle paintbrush are the most economical option, the oval and glazing brushes are higher-end specialty brushes you can use for projects that need premium finishes.

Although these brushes will cost extra, the money spent is well worth the extra investment as, with proper care, you can use them for more than one paint project.  

Can You Use a Sprayer for Milk Paint Application?

If you want to use a sprayer machine (instead of brushing) for milk paint application, ensure you have the right consistency that can flow freely.

For spraying milk paint, you will need a 35-psi paint sprayer that comes with about 2 millimeters sprayer tip.

This type of paint sprayer will work well with most milk paint brands.

Since milk paint comes in a powdered form, you will need to mix it with water for thinning down and getting the right consistency based on your paint sprayer’s pressure, tip size, and other settings.

While you can use a bit thicker paint with a paintbrush, it’s a different story when you plan to use a paint spray gun.

As a general rule, you will need to thin the paint up to 30% to get flawless results.

Try adding water to the paint slowly unless you reach the desired level of consistency.

Test the thin-out paint and add more water if needed. Avoid making it too thin.

Once you have achieved the consistency of the milk paint, you want to work with, strain, or filter out the paint.

Filtering your milk paint before spraying is important to remove the chunks in the paint that could potentially clog your sprayer tip.

To get the clumps and lumpiness out, you can use a Strainer Cone Funnel that comes with a mesh filter that works pretty well.

Is Chalk Paint and Milk Paint the Same or Different?

Do not confuse chalk paint with powdered milk paint because they are two different things.

The basic difference between milk paint and chalk paint lies in the ingredients they are made up of.

Milk Paint is made from 100% natural ingredients and is not as thick as chalk paint.

The ingredients of chalk paint include pigment, calcium carbonate, and talc. Its look resembles a white acrylic matte color.

Although chalk paint is more expensive to purchase than milk paint, at least you don’t need to mix it with water first.

It comes liquified for you to use immediately.

Chalk paint can be a good choice if you want to avoid having a chippy appearance on your wooden surface.

It’ll still look like a distressed vintage surface, but without the chippy appearance.

Since chalk paint is thicker, it will cover more of the grainy surface of the wood, like your wooden mirror frame.

You don’t need to apply a bonding agent to surfaces that were finished previously, either. The same cannot be said for milk paint.

Can you use milk paint over chalk paint?

Yes, you can absolutely use milk paint over chalk paint. And also, chalk paint over milk without any problem.

It has been seen that paints like latex can only adhere well if you haven’t sealed or waxed the chalk paint. But this is not the case with milk paint.

This means you can use milk paint to paint over waxed finish chalk paint without any considerable adherence issues.

However, to get a good finish with your milk paint, it’s recommended that you apply the milk paint on the furniture after the wax has been cured (which usually takes about 30 days).

Also, consider scuffing the surface lightly with sandpaper before you paint.

Note: Applying milk paint over waxed chalk paint will tend to leave a distressed final finish.

So, if you want a super sleek, non-distressed final finish, it’s good to remove the wax using a bit of mineral spirit before applying the milk paint.

Milk Paint Benefits

Why Choose Milk Paint Over Regular Latex and Oil Paints?

Using latex paint on a furniture surface would require you to prime, sand, and clean the surface before you paint it.

Plus, it would take many hours for the latex paint to dry.

As for oil paint, the wait time is even worse because oil paint takes an entire day to dry. You would also have to do the same preparatory work on the surface.

The only thing that oil paint and latex paint have in common with milk paint is their ability to change the color of your furniture.

Aside from that, milk paint has completely different attributes than those other two paints.

The special qualities and its characteristics make milk paint so much easier to apply to the surface of your furniture.

You won’t be hurting the environment either because all the ingredients in the paint are 100% natural.

Just in case you want to paint latex over milk paint in the future – you can do that as well.

However, this would be possible if you haven’t sealed or waxed the surface.

Mixing milk paint with latex paint is also possible if you want to do so to achieve a soft, smooth, and creamy look.

With so many advantages, there is no reason not to use milk paint, regardless of the type of project you have.

Did I mention that milk paint is much cheaper than latex and oil paint?

That’s right; you can enjoy the extra benefits of milk paint for a much cheaper cost.

Other Related Questions

How long does milk paint last?

Powdered milk paint in its natural dry form can last for years as long as it’s kept in a cool, dry, and moisture-free place.

However, when opened and mixed, it will last for only a day or two because of the ingredients it has. If kept in a refrigerator, it may last up to a week or so.

Some milk paints that come with additives can be preserved for two weeks to a month if kept in a sealed, airtight container.

When applied on the surface, the milk paint finish will last for about 2 to 5 years depending on the factors like:

  • Whether the paint is sealed or not
  • How well the surface is cleaned & maintained
  • Whether the paint is applied on the interior or exterior surface

How easy is it to remove milk paint?

Removing milk paint is pretty easy and safe.

However, unlike other paint varieties that are resin-based, milk paint is made from ingredients that are Eco-friendly.

Therefore, the paint removers you use for standard latex or oil-based paints are not recommended for milk paint removal.

Instead, there are Milk Paint Removers available on the market that are specifically designed for stripping milk paints.

Mix two parts of this milk paint remover with one-part water to create a thick paste.

You can then use this non-toxic pasty substance for paint removal – if you have made a mistake while painting or simply if you want to change the color and feel of the painted object.  

Can you make your own DIY milk paint?

Yes, preparing homemade milk paint is pretty simple – just in case you don’t want to use store-bought paint to get that stunning aged look on your furniture.

Using the ingredients (like skim milk, lime juice, cheesecloth, and powdered pigments), you can follow the homemade recipe here to make the milk paint at home in a DIY way.

The major benefit of preparing homemade milk paint is it’s even more affordable and can be used whenever you want.

For example, if you are thinking of urgently painting and selling your old wood chair for cash, you can do it quickly within a few hours.

Where can I buy milk paint powder from?

There are various brand stores where you can find milk paint online.

Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Sweet Pickins
  • Miss Mustard Seed
  • Old Barn Milk Paint
  • The Real Milk Paint Co.

The Real Milk Paint Co. is my top favorite, as the paint you get here is available in 56 unique colors for everyone. (Enjoy 10% off your order by using coupon code: repaintnow).

Whether you prefer traditional, old-world tones or modern, vivid hues, their exclusive milk paint formulation consists of 100 percent organic, non-toxic ingredients, food contact safe, VOC free, and even biodegradable/compostable.

This powdered paint is combined with water just before use and remains active for up to two weeks when in liquid form.

If you want to buy milk paint locally near you, you can search for the “milk paint retailers near me” to find the list of local retailers that deal with these paint varieties.

The Bottom Line

Milk paints are versatile and are great to work with – regardless of the type of project you have in hand.

In fact, by using this forgiving formulation, you can easily transform any old surface in your house into a fresh and stylish object that blends beautifully with rustic décor.

Be aware that if you do not know the right application techniques, these paint formulations can go weird and messy too.

So, make sure you get all the information on how to use milk paint, how to seal it, and what brand to choose before you plan to go and repaint your next project.

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