Of the many painting jobs, I’ve performed over my career, working with chalk was certainly one of the most interesting.
Chalk is not like most other paints and the first time I used it was to paint over furniture.
I wax to seal the paint and the results were unusual to say the least.
I’m not sure if the look of the finished chair or the look on my face was more surprising, but eventually, I fell in love with how the chalk paint makes certain items look unique.
But I also learned that wax is not the only sealant for chalk.
Chalk paint is a change of pace for most old painters like me. But it is also an opportunity for anyone to create a new, interesting look for their furniture.
The key is finding the right type of sealant that keeps the chalk in place without distorting the color or appearance.
Why You Should Seal Chalk Paint?
Chalk paint is known for its antique-style look that it delivers when applied to wood furniture.
To make sure that the paint lasts for years, it’s essential to seal the painted wood with a good sealer.
In most cases, you will need to seal chalk paint for protecting the color that is vulnerable to the elements, and natural distressing.
Simply leaving the chalk-painted surface bare (with no topcoat sealer) will also mean that the unfinished surface is not capable enough to withstand day-to-day wear and tear.
5 Sealants for Your Chalk Paint Project
Before I get into what sealants are the best and how to use them, I want to tell you about a method that helps bring out a soft sheen to the chalk paint without applying any product.
It is called buffing and while you might think that buffing paint would simply remove it, chalk paint will look good with a nice buff.
Buffing is simple to do, provides a nice sheen, and works well for items that will sit outdoors.
But the biggest advantage is that buffing will not change the color of your paint like most sealants.
However, buffing does not last as long in protecting the paint like a good sealant.
Plus, if you are using the item every day, then the sheen will quickly fade.
What follows are a few tips that I’ve learned over the years that will help you find the right sealant for chalk.
The glaze is quite popular as a sealant, especially for chalk paint.
It does seem to compliment chalk quite well.
You can choose from a wide variety of colors for your glaze.
Plus, you can paint over it with confidence if you want to change the color.
Glaze can be applied with a brush, but you can use an old cloth as well assuming it is clean.
And glaze adds an interesting, unique touch to the paint.
The biggest downside is that glaze is not as durable as most other sealants.
Plus, the color of the glaze you use will affect the color of the chalk paint.
If you do not want that, then you might want to try another sealant.
Most people associate oil sealants with milk paint, not chalk paint.
However, the right type of oils can be used to seal chalk paint.
Being easy to apply is a big plus for oil.
Also, most oils contain fewer toxic properties compared to some other sealants.
And if you want a sheen similar to wax without using wax, then oil may be the way to go.
Good luck in painting over an oil finish as it can be problematic.
Plus, you do not get the same smooth feel as polyacrylic or wax.
But the bigger issue is that the oil will change the color of the chalk paint which is something you may not want. And, it will yellow over time.
This is the water-based version as the oil-based tends to yellow rather quickly.
You can choose either the liquid or spray forms of this sealant.
Polyacrylic is quite durable, can be applied quickly, and you can paint over it if you want with paints other than chalk.
There is a wide variety of finish options from glossy to matte and many in-between. It helps that it takes less time to apply than most other sealants.
A minor issue is applying the polyacrylic with a brush as you might see the brush strokes, but that can be avoided by using a spray.
However, the biggest issue is that it will eventually yellow over time, even if it takes longer than the oil-based version.
Plus, you might need to apply a second or even third coat for full coverage.
4- Rustoleum Matte Finish
While this is a brand name and not necessarily a separate type of sealant, it does offer some attributes worth noting.
Probably the biggest plus is that this matte finish is easy to apply.
Just spray it on, make sure you cover all of the chalk paint, and you are done.
It is durable and leaves behind a sheen just like wax without having to strain yourself in applying the product.
It is durable, but not quite as much as polyacrylic.
And if you want a shiny finish as opposed to a matte one, then this isn’t the product for you.
You may need to apply additional coats, although given the fast application time this really isn’t an issue.
But whether it yellows over time is a question I have yet to answer.
5- Clear Wax
While I have given the impression that wax is not the best sealer for chalk paint, it is not without its attributes.
There are good reasons why you should use wax (like Kilz sealing wax, Briwax, or Annie Sloan wax) as a chalky paint sealer in certain instances.
Wax is inexpensive due to its availability. But it does provide a smooth feel to the surface.
Plus, you can paint over the wax if you want to experiment with other colors.
Wax provides a remarkable luster and sheen that few sealants can match. And finally, it is durable and water-resistant.
As I found out the hard way, it takes considerably more effort to apply wax compared to most other sealants.
It took up a considerable amount of time to fully apply the wax.
And while it is water-resistant, the same cannot be said about the heat.
You will need to touch up the wax over time which means it requires more maintenance.
Can You Seal Chalk Paint with Polyurethane?
IMO, water-based polycrylic sealant works better than oil-based polyurethane as a sealer on chalky painted wood pieces.
Unlike polyurethane, polycrylics are less tricky to apply and are much less likely to yellow over time.
These top coats are also less smelly and are easy to clean with just warm water.
Mod Podge is also a good alternative to poly and wax sealers.
Particularly it’s a decoupage medium that can be applied on top of a chalk-painted piece of furniture, craft, or art project made of glass or metal.
All these sealants for chalk paint are easily available at online stores like Amazon, Home Depot, Bunnings, and others for you to buy.
The Bottom Line
No matter it’s your kitchen cabinets, table, chair, hardwood floors, or other outdoor furniture, if you have applied chalk paint on them it’s good to put a good sealer over it to preserve the color better and last longer.
Choosing the right seal for your chalk paint means going over the five main sealants and finding the one that works best for your needs.
While clear wax is among the most popular, its also costlier and will require regular maintenance.
Clear chalk paint sealers (like polyurethane and others) on the other hand are known to be cheaper and durable.
These can however darken the color on your furniture a bit more than wax.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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