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Some Tips and Tricks on How to Clean Chalk Paint Projects

Now that you have finished your chalk paint furniture, are you wondering how to keep it clean and free from dust and debris? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. In fact, given how popular chalked painted furniture is right now, you would think there would be more information available on how to clean chalk paint.

Sure, there are tons of articles on how to clean chalk paint from brushes or off upholstery. But what if you aren’t trying to remove the chalk paint, but instead clean the gorgeous new end table you just finished? Or that dresser in your bedroom? Or . . . or . . . or . . . you get the point.

The truth is, in some ways you clean chalk paint furniture just as you would regular furniture, and in some ways you clean chalk paint furniture a little differently than you would normal furniture. Huh? Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through exactly what we’re talking about and you’ll be cleaning your furniture like a pro in no time.

chalk painted dresser

Chalk Paint and Why It’s Different

Unlike acrylic or latex paints, chalk paint has a little something extra added to it to give it is chalky, matte finish. This, in many ways, alters the way in which the paint functions and adheres to the furniture. So, it stands to reason that, any in-depth cleaning of chalk paint should be handled a bit differently too.

Because of its texture and composition, there are a few things you should avoid using with chalk paint (especially sealed chalk paint) – I’m looking at you, vinegar. And other things that are perfectly safe to use on your chalk paint. We’ll walk you through the lists of dos and don’ts before getting into the nitty gritty – see what I did there – of how to clean chalk paint furniture.

What to Avoid Using

Lets start with the list of no-nos. These are things to avoid using when you go to clean your chalk painted furniture. The first of which we have already talked about.


For many who prefer to go a little more green with their cleaning products and avoid chemicals, vinegar is a staple in their cleaning routine. Hey, I use it on my kitchen and bathroom floors, so I am not knocking it. In fact I am very pro vinegar under normal circumstances.

But chalk paint isn’t normal circumstances, is it?

Vinegar is a harsh cleaning agent, even when concentrated, and isn’t designed to be used on certain surfaces. Anything that is covered or sealed with a wax should not come in contact with vinegar, unless you are intending to strip the sealant away.

In fact, the only time you want to use vinegar with chalk paint is if you are trying to distress the paint in some way. Otherwise, instead of cleaning your finished piece of furniture, you will be stripping away any sealant and damaging the paint. So, vinegar gets a big fat NO when it comes to cleaning chalk paint.

Hard Bristled Brushes and Scrubbers

Another item on our list of things to avoid when you go to clean chalk paint is anything with hard, scratch bristles. Chalk paint can flake or scratch easily on many surfaces. This is why it is a popular choice for those looking to create vintage or shabby chic looks with their furniture pieces.

So it stands to reason that any abrasive cleaning brush, like those with wire bristles, or scrubbers like Brill-O pads, should definitely be avoided when cleaning chalk paint. These harder brushes and scrubbers run the risk of stripping the wax and chipping away the paint if used on your furniture. So try to avoid letting your finished pieces come in contact with anything that would warrant the need for more aggressive cleanings.

hard bristled scrub brushes

Harsh and Abrasive Chemical Cleaners

In all honesty, many commercial cleaners out there are too abrasive to be used to clean chalk paint. Many of these cleaners contain agents that work similarly to vinegar and can do more damage to your furniture than good. Be sure to check the labels of your cleaners before using them on your furniture.

What Is Safe To Use

You are probably wondering what is left for you to use to clean chalk paint if none of the things mentioned above can be used. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of things that can be used to clean your latest DIY success.

In most instances, all you really need to do is give your furniture a light dusting once or twice a week with a soft dusting cloth. This, in most instances is sufficient for maintaining a clean piece of furniture.

But we aren’t all Susie Homemakers, and if you are anything like me, you have the best intentions until life happens and then you realize it has been almost a month since you dusted anything. Now you’re wondering when you last dusted. Me too . . . Yikes.

So, lets pretend it has been a while and you have a pretty hefty layer or dust on your furniture, and your little dusting cloth is feeling overwhelmed and incapable. Or say your favorite people on earth forget to use coasters or spill something on your chalk painted masterpiece and don’t clean up after themselves and it dries onto the furniture. Then what?

You have options

Mild Soap and Water

Let’s start with the most obvious. You can use a mild soap, like Castile, and warm water to clean chalk paint. If you are going with a company that uses more natural ingredients, you are free to use a castile soap with fragrance. In most instances, these soaps are scented using essential oils, which won’t damage your chalk paint in such small amounts.

how to clean chalk paint furniture with mild soap and water

Oil-Based Cleaners

You can also use many oil-based cleaners to clean chalk paint. Brands such as Murphy’s Oil are safe to use because they won’t strip away the wax sealant on your furniture. In fact, I’ve heard many people say it helps the longevity of the piece to use an oil-based cleaner.

Soft Bristled or Silicone Scrubbers

If your chalk painted furniture requires a little extra elbow grease, reach for a soft bristled or silicone (preferred) scrubber. These are far less abrasive than their counterparts and with the smallest amount of pressure can be used to clean places that are a little more stubborn. But you can still run the risk of possibly damaging the wax or paint, so still try and use the gentlest of touches even with these brushes and scrubbers.

DIY Cleaners

If you are more of a DIY cleaner, or create your own to avoid using harsh chemicals, you can create your own cleaner using most mild cleaning agents. Or you can find your own cleaning recipe online. Just remember to avoid anything that calls for vinegar in the mix. And while it is less aggressive, you may want to avoid using anything with baking soda in it as well. Baking soda is great for making your own chalk paint (we’ll tell you all about that soon), but we have not tested its effects on cleaning chalk paint yet, so lets just be safe.

How to Clean Chalk Paint

Now that we have covered the list of what you can and can’t use, lets get down to it. How exactly do you clean chalk paint furniture.

Well, like I mentioned before, if you are great at dusting regularly, then you shouldn’t really have to do more than that – barring your family members doing something unspeakable to your furniture.

dusting furniture with a cloth

Soap and Water

The simplest method for cleaning caked on dust or dirt is with mild soap and water. We mentioned using Castile above, and that really is your best bet in general, but I have heard of people having success with mild dish soap and water. Just avoid anything with a degreasing agent in it.

You’ll want to wipe down your piece as best you can to remove any loose dirt or dust first. Then wet your cloth with warm water and apply your soap. Wring out the cloth as much as possible so it isn’t dripping, but you also don’t want it to be too dry. Find that happy medium.

From there, you will want to gently wipe down your piece to remove any stubborn dirt and dust. After you are satisfied with how it looks, rinse out your cloth to remove any soap, then wipe down your furniture with the damp towel to remove any excess soap.

After that, take a dry cloth and wipe dry your furniture as much as possible. You may notice a few water spots here and there, but don’t panic. Within a few hours those will vanish and your furniture will look as good as new.

Oil-Based Cleaner

A, seemingly, obvious choice to use to clean chalk paint would be an oil-based cleaner, such as Murphy’s Oil. Since these cleaners ARE oil-based, they would not damage the sealant used on your chalk paint, and would instead add to the longevity. You can find many natural oil-based products, if you prefer a greener style of cleaning.

You’ll first want to wipe away any loose dust with a soft cloth. Then mix your oil-based cleaner with warm water, and wipe your furniture down with the cloth. Once you are finished, take a dry cloth and wipe away any excessive moisture from the piece and you are finished.

A Little More Elbow Grease is Needed

On occasions you may need to put a little more elbow grease into it. In these instances, using a silicone scrubber with your soap and water should do the trick. A light scrubbing with the soft rubber bristles will remove most of the more stubborn dirt or dust or cup rings from your furniture. Just be ready to touch up the sealant once you are finished, if it appears to have worn away from your scrubbing.

But What if the Unspeakable Thing You Mentioned Above Has Happened?

The answer is, it depends. There are so many variables to consider, that it would be hard to give one answer that applies to all of the possibilities.

Some of the worst case scenarios would require sanding, repainting, and resealing the stained area.

I have found this list to be very helpful when I am looking at dealing with one of those . . . not so pleasant instances. Many of which, like I mentioned above, would require sanding, painting, and sealing the damaged area over again. And regretfully, there are times where it is unavoidable . . . like when your 4 year old spills nail polish on your furniture (Who gave that to her anyway?!?!?!), or your husband drops his keys on the end table and accidentally scratches the paint.

But hey, we are DIY-ers for a reason, and it can just become a new project for us in these instances.


When it comes to how you clean chalk paint, the list of dos and don’ts is pretty simple and straightforward. Just like everything, there are things to avoid and things that are safe. But when it is all said and done, you can keep your chalk painted furniture clean with relative ease. And if you have made it this far and finished cleaning, breath a sigh of relief and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

We hope you have found this how to clean chalk paint furniture tutorial very helpful. Have you tried any of these methods with success? Or have any suggestions on what not to use? Or maybe you have created your own DIY cleaner you want to rave about. Tell us about it in the comments below.

And happy creating!

relieved to be finished cleaning.