I get a lot of questions from readers and my online furniture paint students about how to seal furniture, what is the best way to seal furniture, and what is the best products to use. I am going to share with you all the information I have on sealers, my favorite products, and what I consider the best way to seal furniture.
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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. 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.
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.
Type: Wax Finish
Wax comes in liquid, paste, and solid stick forms, and are made in different colors. Some waxes are softer, some are harder, but even the hardest waxes are softer than lacquers and varnishes. As a finish, waxes don’t penetrate wood, but rather sit on top of the finish. Wax offers a 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.
You can apply wax using a lint-free soft cloth, wax brushes, chip brushes, and sponges. The wax needs applied, with one of the applicators mentioned, blended in, and wipe off the excess wax. If you want more sheen, buff the wax after drying.
I recommend applying wax to furniture pieces that are decorative and not used every day and 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.
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 an 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 away with lint-free towels.
Type: Oil Finish
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 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.
To apply an oil finish, pour oil onto the wood, adding extra to keep the surface wet in areas where the oil is quickly absorbed. After 10 minutes, wipe off everything that has not been absorbed. For a smoother, richer finish, repeat the process.
My favorite is Miss Mustard Seed 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.
Type: Liquid Sealers
There are many types of liquid furniture sealers like Shellac, Polyurethane, Polyacrylic, Varnish, and Lacquer.
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 to light colors. To add durability without affected color, use a water-based finish.
If you are doing a few furniture pieces for your own home it is so easy to use a chalk paint and seal with wax. I sell my furniture pieces so that is why I prefer to use the water-based sealer over wax.
I hope this answers all the questions you have about how to seal furniture, what sealer to use, and what products I recommend. Remember, all furniture pieces need a sealer.
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