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Should You Use Furniture Wax for Painted Furniture?

What is furniture wax made of?

Furniture wax for painted furniture is a product made of, well, wax. This can be bees wax, carnauba wax (from the carnauba palm tree), paraffin wax (petroleum product) and the list goes on. In the furniture painting industry many waxes will be bees wax based, or carnauba based. We like Carnauba for its sheen while beeswax can tend to be more soft and pliable. Solvents are also added to make the wax harden for added hardness and protection.

When we apply furniture wax over a porous paint, it provides a seal by filling those pores and potentially hardening over the surface depending on the type of wax we use. This prevents other things from entering those pores like oils and dirt from our hands.

should I wax my painted furniture

Painted furniture that has been waxed, often has this buttery feel that is just lovely. There really isn’t anything else quite like it. But, as painted that often sell or gift our work we have to ask our selves how durable it truly is. We of course know what the sales representatives tell us, however we need to KNOW for ourselves. Sending out a piece of furniture that may not stand the test of time and well, life, can make us feel incredibly insecure about our work! Or we may even find that we are overly confident in a product than we should be. Upon doing research I found Amy from Canary Street Crafts apparently feels the same way.

Should we wax our painted furniture?

As I began unfolding this world of furniture refinishing, a local lady came to me with questions about my process. We began talking and I found out she had a beautiful table painted in a very well known, well loved brand and then subsequently waxed with the same brand of products. (What brand is not the point here!) After much time had passed since she had the table she had her grandchildren over and one of them ate at the table.

Part of her meal was buttered toast! While cleaning up after the tot she noticed the paint seemed to be different. No longer was the paint finish glistening and smooth but, rough as if something had eaten away at the finish. This began making my mind whirl and soon I had to find out for myself just what may have happened. She no longer trusted wax and had hopes of the table being refinished without it. I began to wonder the same..

Testing out my waxed furniture

I happened to have a piece of furniture in my home that I had personally painted and then waxed around 9 months prior. As you can see in the photo below, there is a decent glare from the wax sheen. Now please be kind, I know its somewhat hard to see but this is from my really early blogging days!

I took a marker and made a squiggly box around the test area. Hopefully those squiggles are just SO irreplaceable that you will know Im not faking this haha!

wax on painted furniture

The next thing I did was take some butter and just swiped the area. No scrubbing or anything, literally just took my finger and smudged it! I then left it there for about an hour

testing wax on painted furniture

When I came back to it, I simply wiped it up with a napkin. No scrubbing or otherwise altering the surface. I really just wanted to see what, if anything, the butter did to the wax.

Wax on painted furniture-tested

What I was left with was an area of raw paint. The wax was no longer there. You can also see where the marker is more faded in those areas because the wax up under the marker lifted up.

Wax tested on painted furniture

Here you can see it even better! By running my fingers across the area, I could feel the paint was no longer sealed and instead was raw and exposed. So what does this mean?

While wax can harden and even cure, it will only cure to a certain degree. In its natural state its pliable. That wont change and when oils, grease, and apparently butter make their content with the wax, it will basically reactivate the product back to being movable again.

Wax tested on painted furniture

Should You Use Furniture Wax for Painted Furniture?

Whether you use wax for your paint furniture is completely up to you! Heres the thing. Chances are we aren’t lathering the sides of our armoires with butter right? The most our furniture pieces will tend to get are the oils from our hands across the edges and around the hardware or areas we push/pull.

But what about the tops? You know where we may set down our buttered bagel… Well my friend, thats your call. Is this your dresser that you can re-apply wax to or is it going to a client that just might look at you bewildered if you hand her a pot of wax with her piece?

Really my goal is just to inform you. This way you can make the best decision you can with your situation and your products! Want to know where you can find my favorites? You can find them in my Painting Products Buying Guide where I have linked up all my most trusted sources for products!

Remember you can always opt to use a varnish or top coat. Many paint companies also manufacture a tested and compatible top coat. If in doubt, I always recommend sticking to the manufacturers products at least until you learn enough to know what rules you can break! If you want to learn a whole lot more about painting furniture be sure to check out Learn How to Paint Furniture!

15 Comments

  • Pili Gomez

    I never use wax as a protective coat on table tops or anything that can be involved with stains. I once painted a garbage tin and sealed it with wax, and the second day it was horrible, it showed grease stains everywhere. So I painted it again and sealed it with poly, it lasted until it broke.

  • kostas kostadinou

    hello there…i ve just discovered the polyvine wax finish and it seems very a promissing product.but i have a question.can u use it over a waxed surface?and if i want to use a glaze should i do it between the varnishe's coats or after the final coat?thanks in advance ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thea Osborne

    Yes! Polyvine has a "Wax Varnish" that adheres to wax. You can wax, and decorative wax then protect with their "Wax Varnish" If you glaze (rather than using decorative wax) I would personally do that over a coat of your choice of polyvine then protect with a second coat/ ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jessica Wilson

    Hi Kostas, you shouldn't apply polyvine wax finish varnish over wax BUT I have customers who do it all the time as long as the wax has cured. When I glaze I do one coat of satin Wax Finish Varnish over the painted surface so that the porous paint doesn't unintentionally soak up the glaze, then I apply glaze to get your desired look, let glaze dry fully (Polyvine Scumble glaze has a very long open time so it takes about 24 hours to fully dry), then apply 2 coats of Wax Finish Varnish. Hope this helps!!

  • Jessica Wilson

    When I glaze over chalk-type paint I seal the painted surface with one coat of a satin poly like Wax Finish Varnish. Then I apply my glaze and manipulate the glaze to achieve my desired antiquing finish, and let the glaze fully dry (usually 24 hours depending on climate and the glaze's open time). After the glaze fully dries I apply 2 coats of Polyvine Wax Finish Varnish in either dead flat or satin depending on my shine preference for the piece I'm painting. Hope this helps!!

  • Aleta

    Iโ€™m fairly sure the result would be the same, but it looks like you used a vegetable oil product, and not butter (a dairy product)?

    • Thea Osborne

      Great Point! But yes, my thinking was a “oily” substance would cause this, like many of our cooking products!

  • Annette

    Thanks for the information, I am not a fan of wax on the top of my pieces at home either. You mentioned the home right sprayer. I was just looking at ordering one last night, does yours work good, is there a product you think is better at that price point?

    • Thea Osborne

      I actually recommend the Homeright Finish max and super finish max hands down. I get beautiful finishes with it!

  • Kim

    Hi, I came across this blog post when looking for something to protect my freshly painted desk surface. It was oak until 3-4 weeks ago and painted with Sherwin Williams self leveling paint. Will this product be a good solution so that I donโ€™t get the scratches and nicks that come from everyday use, and which Iโ€™m fully expecting?? Thank you!

    • Thea Osborne

      Yes! and sorry for the delay. I use a similar paint and at least for the tops of dressers and high traffic areas, I will tend to use my varnish to protect it.

    • Erin

      Hello! I am paining the base of an oak dinner table white. Chalk paint (either name brand or homemade) is drawing me for the ability to skip sanding. My go-to thought is always sand and paint (with non chalk paint). In your opinion, what sort of paint and topcoat/sealer will give me the best protection on the white portion of the table? I am picturing people sitting at the table with shoes on and chipping paint off if it is chalk paint, we also have a toddler and two big dogs.. should I use paint from SW or a home improvement store and the clear varnish listed in this post? Thank you!!

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