When it comes to sealing furniture, there are a lot of different products on the market. How do you know which one is right for your needs? And more importantly, how do you know which one will give your furniture the best protection against wear and tear? We’ll take a look at some of the most popular sealants available and discuss their pros and cons. This will help you decide which product is right for your next project!
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All furniture needs some type of sealer. There are new paint products on the market that claim not to need a sealer because they have a sealer in the paint. Although, if your furniture is heavily used like a table or kitchen cabinets, I recommend taking the extra step and applying a sealer to these paints as well.
It never hurts to have an extra layer of protection. If you are doing all of the prep and painting, you want your painted furniture piece to last.
With so many types and brands of sealers to use to seal your furniture, so many people find it very confusing and have the question of what products to use. So let’s go over the different types and the benefits of each to determine the best and worst sealers for painted furniture.
Different types of furniture sealers
When it comes to protecting your furniture from wear and tear, you’ll need to invest in a good sealer. But with so many different types on the market, it can be tough to know which one is right for your needs. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular furniture sealers:
- Wax Sealer: Wax is a natural product that has been used to protect furniture for centuries. It’s easy to apply and provides a nice, natural shine. However, wax needs to be reapplied regularly to maintain its effectiveness.
- Polyurethane Sealer: Polyurethane is an oil-based synthetic sealer that provides excellent protection against wear and tear. It’s also very durable, making it ideal for high-traffic areas. Polyurethane can yellow over time and can be difficult to clean up.
- Polyacrylic Sealer: Polyacrylic is a water-based synthetic sealer that offers good protection against wear and tear. It’s also easy to apply and dries quickly. Polyacrylic is very thin and can be harder to apply to cause drips.
Using wax to seal painted furniture
Wax comes in liquid, paste, and solid stick forms, and is made in different colors. Some waxes are softer, some are harder, but even the hardest waxes offer less protection than lacquers and varnishes. As a finish, most waxes don’t penetrate wood, but rather sit on top of the finish. A furniture wax offers light protection from scratches and water.
Applying wax over any finish will give the surface a soft sheen and smooth feel. You need to reapply wax over time depending on the conditions and use of the furniture and wax is not the best protection in hot or humid areas.
How to apply furniture wax
You can apply furniture wax using a lint-free soft cloth, wax brushes, chip brushes, and sponges. The wax needs applied, with one of the applicators mentioned above, blended in, and wipe off the excess wax. Buff the wax after drying if you want more sheen.
My recommendation is to apply wax to furniture pieces that are decorative and not used every day or on heavily distressed pieces. Heavily distressed pieces only need light protection, since the furniture is already distressed, and adding more wear would not be an issue. Since most waxes sit on top of a finish, the wax will need to be removed completely before painting over a piece.
The best furniture wax brands
I have tried many different brands of furniture wax and hands down my favorite wax is Maison Blanche Antique Wax. It is my favorite because it spreads like oil and not a paste. It is easy to apply and it is a penetrating wax and not one that sits on top of your finish. You don’t need to apply the clear wax before applying the dark wax, which means less waxing, less product, and easier to use. My favorite way to apply is by using a round natural bristle wax brush and wiping it away with lint-free towels.
Using an oil finish to seal painted furniture
There are many types of oil sealers from Linseed Oil, Hemp Oil, Danish Oil, and Tung oil. Oil finishes are mostly used on unpainted wood surfaces with a few exceptions that can be used over painted wood.
Danish oil is a mix of oil and varnish. The oil helps bring out the wood’s beauty, while the varnish offers somewhat more protection against chemicals, heat, scratches, and stains than either oil or wax.
Hemp Oil can be used over raw wood, stained wood, milk paint, flat-finish paints (acrylic, latex, etc), stone, and metal. It also revives dried-out, antique wood furniture to bring out the beautiful warmth of the wood.
Linseed oil is one of the most popular wood finishes. It saturates deep into the wood grain to protect against scratches. Best for wood furniture as it really brings out the color and grain of the wood underneath.
Tung oil is a plant-based oil used as a wood finish. It doesn’t yellow as much overtime as common finishes like linseed oil, lacquer, or varnishes like polyurethane.
How to apply finishing oils on painted furniture
Apply the oil finish onto a lint-free cloth, and apply light even strokes until the entire surface is covered. No worrying about streaks, brushstrokes, or buffing. Just wipe away any excess oil sitting on the surface. Finishing oils need 30 days to fully cure, so it may feel slightly oily to the touch during that time.
The best finishing oil for painted furniture
A favorite is Hemp Oil. I have used it to restore old dried-out antique furniture pieces. If you are looking to restore dried-out drawers I recommend using General Finishes orange oil, it is cheaper than hemp oil and is great to use on the inside of drawers.
Using topcoats and sealers for painted furniture
There are many types of liquid furniture sealers like Shellac, Polyurethane, Polyacrylic, Varnish, and Lacquer. These terms for a finish or topcoat are often used interchangeably, but there is a big difference.
Shellac is actually a natural product that is very safe once dried and hardened. In addition to adding a protective coat, it also can add a warm amber color to wood. The biggest drawback is it can yellow over time, especially when applied over light-painted furniture.
Varnish is a generic term for finish or topcoat. It’s very durable because it contains a higher ratio of solids. Varnish is typically used to seal wood furniture pieces.
Lacquer provides an extremely intense gloss finish. It is extremely durable and resistant to damage; however, over time it can begin to discolor and become scratched.
Polyurethane/Polyacrylic is the most popular sealer and is available in both water- and oil-based options and comes in varieties from satin to glossy. Both oil- and water-based polyurethane can be applied to latex, acrylic, and chalk-based paint. An oil-based polyurethane will create a yellow tint over time, especially when using light colors.
To add durability without affecting the paint color, use a water-based finish.
How to apply sealers on painted furniture
Wipe-on polyurethane is used primarily over stained finishes and creates a brush stroke-free finish since it is applied with a soft lint-free cloth. Pour the polyurethane onto a lint free cloth and lightly apply in light even stokes. You can also apply using a natural bristle brush or sponge brush, making sure to apply with light even strokes. All oil-based sealers need to be cleaned with painter thinners or other chemicals.
Water-based polyacrylic is easier to apply than the oil-based types, and the clean up only needs soap and water. Apply using a quality synthetic brush and use light even coats, making sure to look for drips.
I prefer to use a water-based sealer over all my painted furniture pieces for its durability and ease of use. I typically use a paint sprayer to apply a water-based sealer. Using a paint sprayer provides a smoother finish and it is much quicker than applying by hand.
The best sealers for painted furniture
My favorite product to use for sealing painted furniture is General Finishes High-Performance sealer. I have tired many different brands and always come back to using this one.
If you are doing a few furniture pieces for your own home it is so easier to use chalk paint and seal with wax. However, if you paint a lot and sell furniture pieces, you may want to use a liquid sealer and invest in a paint sprayer. The one I use and love is Wagner Flexio.
The best method for sealing painted furniture is using a water-based polyacrylic for high traffic pieces and using wax for decorative pieces that will not receive a lot of wear and tear.
I hope this answers all the questions you have about how to seal furniture after painting, what sealer to use, and what products I recommend. Remember, all furniture pieces need a sealer.
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