To Wax or Not To Wax?

To wax or not to wax?

Ah… The age old question: “To wax or not to wax over chalk paint?”

OK, so maybe it isn’t the question that’s been around for as long as chalk paint itself, but it is definitely a dilemma I’ve been facing more and more…

Nothing compares to the soft luster and rich glow of a freshly waxed piece of reLoved furniture!! However, applying wax over chalk paint is the most challenging, labor intensive and time consuming aspect of painting furniture with chalk and chalk-style paint.

Wax over chalk paint

Granted, not all waxes are created equal. Some waxes are downright difficult to work with and even require you to take a special class on proper application techniques.

Then there’s the durability issue.

Yes, I have an issue… Wax only offers minimal protection and wax is NOT permanent. Nor is it even semi-permanent. In fact, if it was a hair dye, it would be temporary!!

You see, wax wears off over time with use, leaving your beautiful chalk painted furniture all porous and exposed; a magnet for chocolaty little fingers and cheese puff smudges!

In order to maintain continued protection, wax needs to be reapplied every few months!

Re-apply paste wax every few months?? Ain't nobody got time for that!!

Re-apply paste wax over chalk paint every few months??


But wax isn’t THE ONLY option!

Why not go with a water-based polyurethane sealer, such as Varethane or Polycrylic over chalk paint?

These products are an excellent alternative, and offer far superior protection than a wax. A few coats of polycrylic will last YEARS beyond a few coats of wax, and can be much easier to work with.

Plus, polycrylics are more chemical resistant and are not heat sensitive like wax.

And unlike wax, if you ever chose to repaint your furniture, the polycrylic does not need to be 100% completely removed.

Waterbased polycrylic over chalk paint

Don’t get me wrong, polycrylics are not without drawbacks.

Although they can have a yellowing effect over white and light colors, I personally have had good success with Varethane staying clear. Some waxes will yellow also, so that can still be an issue if you went that route. (I have also used clear spray-on sealers for smaller projects, with no issues what-so-ever!)

With the ease of application, I am finding water-based polyurethanes to be my go-to finish of choice over chalk painted furniture.

And if you are looking for a good alternative to do-it-yourself chalk-style paint, read my post on an Not So DIY Chalk Paint Recipe.

I’d love to hear your feedback! What is your sealer of choice over chalk paint and chalk-style paint on your reLoved furniture, and what, if any, challenges do you face?


Still have questions?? I posted an update with answers to all the most commonly asked questions I’ve received.
You can read it here:  “Wax or Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint?”



  1. Michelle

    Do you need to put anything over chalk paint? If I do the wax won’t it just shine it where I actually want that flat look? Thanks in advanced I’m new at painting and wanna get it right!

  2. Thank you!!!!! Wax is great but I did not want to use it as the finish for my furniture!! Kids, dogs and cats would destroy my work before it was in place for 5 minutes! I’ve used polycrylic on several non-chalk paint projects and needed to know it would work on chalk paint. I like all my equipment ready and in place before starting anything. Now to get my colors together…Cheryl

  3. Lindsey

    I have recently chalk painted several peices. I’m concerned they won’t hold up I used annie sloan paint clear and dark wax. Can I use a sealer over the top of the wax if not how do you remove the wax and what else can I use for the antiquing aspect

  4. lauren

    Hi i am using Farrow and ball to paint my kitchen cupboards, do I need to use a wax or varnish afterwards to protect it? If so please could you recommend what way is best

    Thank you

  5. Maidy

    Hi everyone,
    I need help!!! I’ve Annie Sloaned a small table. I live in the Uk, what varnish should I use? Oh, and where can I buy it?

  6. melissa

    I’ve just repainted a table and applied wax, thinking that I was doing the right thing. Now I am regretting that decision. Is it too late to go back. Will mineral spirits remove the chalk paint?

  7. Elizabeth

    Thinking about using poly instead of wax as well but still want to have the distressed look. I guess I could still use chalk paint, distress with sand paper and then use poly to seal the entire piece? Thank you!

  8. Sherri, Thanks so much for your information and WONDERFUL website. You show a photo of the Varathane blue can in the Satin but you also mention in your narrative “matte finish” … Our local Menards here in Minnesota carries the blue can–Varathane crystal clear poly in the Satin finish…( and of course semi gloss and Gloss) AND they also have a Varathane Polyurethane “Soft-Touch” Matte Finish. The words “Soft Touch” on the lab
    eMate located where the other can has the words “Heavy Use Formula” . (photos of both available at your request) which of these do you use – or if you use both, which applications do you recommend for each. I am just starting out and plan to paint some night tables and dressers in the guest room.

    … ( By the way, this technique reminds me of the antiquing my mother used to do in the late 60′s and early 70′s — base color of paint, then rub and highlight with a glaze made – I think, of an oil based dark stain. No wax problems but I still remember the smell. It was durable though — Her furniture is STILL in pristine condition all these decades later!)

    • Hi Linda, my first choice is always the Crystal Clear formula. I use the other Varathane formula when I cannot find the Crystal Clear. And you’re right :) I often use oil-based stain for antiquing / glaze.

  9. Hi. Love the article. I’m very new to revamping furniture & iv just discovered chalk paint. I was wondering firstly so I need to wax or poly at all? And secondly if I do how long after painting do I have to do it? Can I paint over a day or so then wax/poly it? Or must it be done straight away? Thank you. Fabulous info

    • Hi there & Thank you :) You don’t need to coat it immediately, you can wait a day or two. Just keep in mind, the chalk paint is very porous and will therefore hold on to dirt, dust, fingerprints, and will stain easily.

      • Gary

        I sound like a salesman but I’m not, just look at this Rustins chalky paint , it’s from the same company as Briwax and Antiquax , this chalky paint contains wax and on their website it says , does not finger mark !,

  10. RoseAnn Smith

    I painted a chair with chaulk paint then applied a walnut wax which is darker than I like. Can I repaint with chaulk paint then apply a lighter wax?

  11. Why not just skip chalk paint altogether and use good old latex…then you can completely skip the need for any topcoat. I’ve been painting with latex for 30 years…have done over a thousand pieces of furniture and cabinets. I don’t really understand why chalk paint is so popular when you can get the same, if not better finish with latex eggshell paint. It is durable, washable and so easy to work with, without extra steps and cost. The only time I use any kind of topcoat would be with cabinets, but all you need is a clear, easy to apply clear glaze that is used in many faux finishes. It is water based, so easy clean up and does not yellow like many polys. I don’t usually have to use a primer on most pieces but when I do, I will use a quality paint+primer in one. I also like the fact that many paints now have no/low voc’s. I do believe and respect the fact that all painters/artists are different and should use what works for them but latex has done well for me and my clients over the past thirty years and with the amount of custom work I have, I try to keep cost down while still providing quality workmanship to my clients.
    If you’d like to see some of my work, I will be happy to provide my business facebook page info upon request. I don’t like to just add it to someone’s page without permission as I always try to be respectful.
    Love, Light & Blessings~Patty

      • Vinet

        Hi Sherri, I think I read every post and comment. I have to say that I am amused by the repeat questions and how your repeat answer gets shorter each time. What I seemed to get out of all of this is I should have painted with latex paint! LOL too late I painted my dresser with white chalk paint. My question is can I paint over the white chalk paint with latex paint? Will the latex paint be durable for a piece that will be used a lot?
        Thank You, Vinet

        • Hello There! I try not to be short with my answers… but, yeah. Sometimes that happens :) I think you understand! LoL!!
          But to answer your question, latex is perfectly fine. If you get a good quality latex paint with a high acrylic content, it is plenty durable. You don’t even need to apply any type of clear sealer over it (as long as it’s not flat) I have pieces that I have painted several years ago and they are holding up just fine. I would just caution not to use any harsh chemicals for cleaning (like Fantastic or 409 type stuff)

          • I totally agree…I’ve been painting many years and I really don’t understand why so many people want to complicate things by using expensive chalk paint and wax…not needed at all. It’s one of those things that just took off because someone basically said it was a miracle for furniture…guess what? So is good old latex..cheaper and no need most of the time for for primer and no need ever for wax. Light sanding, latex eggshell finish paint, distress if you choose, use Valspar mocha latex glaze to antique if you want and DONE! No need for poly or anything else. If you want a topcoat I just use the clear glaze used for faux finishes. Like Sherri, I’ve done thousands of pieces, most of them with no topcoat and have never had a client complaint and I’ve have many pieces in my home for years with no problems. In fact, I still have my very first piece that I painted 30 years ago. It’s a little white telephone table that sits near the back door by the kitchen. If I can still own a piece I did thirty years ago with just latex eggshell paint and no topcoat, that to me is a testimony to the durability of latex. Oh also, to those that are afraid of smell and toxicity, many paints from Benjamin Moore to Valspar make no & low voc paints and if you feel you need primer there are paint+ primer in one products also. Why make things more difficult for yourself by using chalk paints and waxes when latex is just as durable and beautiful, if not more

          • Samantha

            I am super new to furniture painting so forgive me if I’m wrong, but don’t you need to sand prior to painting with latex for it to look professional? As a novice with no special sanding equipment, even light sanding is a project deal breaker for me. I think the “no sanding” aspect is the big draw to chalk paints. Please lmk if this is incorrect though as I would love an easier alternative.

  12. Heather Hayes

    So Glad to find your site and didn’t just spend $$$ on wax! I’m working on my first 2 chalk paint pieces although I have refinished things other than with chalk paint in the past. I read your comment about being able to spray the finishing coat… I recently purchased a spray gun for staining our fence and wondering if maybe that would be suitable? I looked up the sprayer you mentioned and they are about $300- $400 on Amazon! Anyway, I thought it would be worth asking about…

    Thanks so much, Heather

  13. Vanessa Nieves

    I just used chalk paint and don’t like the result can i apply regular paint over chalk paint.

  14. Ben

    Hi Sherri,

    We’ve been painting the living room recently but have become stuck on what colour we should paint the skirting and the frames around the doors WITH etc. We’ve been looking for a pine or oak type of a look but no matter how hard you look or how many testers you buy, paint just does not give you that wood type of a look.

    So i tried using a pine varnish over the paint on the skirting, and whilst not perfect (does not spread evenly, tried the sponge technique but again decent but not good enough) it does end up closer to what i’m after than any of the paints i’ve tested. Anyway, long story short, if i use chalk paint over the skirting and the frames of the doors will i then be able to use a varnish with better results? Will it spread more evenly and easier? Sanding down the paint and then applying the varnish really is not an option ( way too tiring!!)

    All help would be much appreciated, I’m really tired of the boring old white skirting look.

    Look forward to your reply,


  15. PiantedPoly

    Have you ever experienced “hair like” particles to pop up once the poly has been applied as the seal for a chalk painted piece…if so, how did you handle that?


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