milk paint topcoats.

Welcome back for day 2 of milk paint madness week!

Today I’m going to share a bit of information about the various topcoats you can choose for your milk painted furniture, but I gotta say one could write an entire book about this stuff.  There are so many options out there!  I haven’t tried them all though, so I’m just going to scratch the surface on this topic (pardon the pun).  You may want to go grab a cup of coffee first, this is going to be a long one.  I’m going to list the finish options starting with least amount of protection/added durability and ending with the most durable finish.

going topless.

Before we get into the topcoats, what about not using a topcoat at all?  This is an option with milk paint.  It’s definitely not the most durable option and your milk paint won’t be especially water resistant or scrub-able, but if those factors aren’t important to you, you can go topless!  Without a top coat milk paint has a very matte finish.  I would probably never go without a topcoat on the darker colors, but I do like the look with white or other pale shades.

I didn’t use a topcoat on my Belgian bench.

I painted this piece back in July 2016.  We sit on it to put out shoes on, so it gets a fair amount of use.  The finish has definitely worn a bit more since I first painted it.  But if you’re a fan of the distressed, chippy look that’s a bonus.  The paint itself cures rock hard and won’t rub off on your skin or clothing.

hemp oil.

Hemp oil is one of my favorite topcoats over dark milk paint colors, especially black.  It’s all natural, has zero VOC’s and is solvent free.  Remember what I said yesterday about milk paint having similar qualities?  If you work with these things frequently, it’s important to think about not only the environment, but also your own health.  Homestead House, Miss Mustard Seed and The Real Milk Paint Co all sell an all natural hemp oil in their milk paint lines.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a topcoat is that all topcoats may change up the color of milk paint to varying degrees.  Hemp oil will deepen the color quite a bit, that’s why it’s perfect for use over dark colors.  It works equally well over mid-tone or lighter colors, but you may want to experiment a bit to see how you like the color with the hemp oil topcoat.  Here you can see how much it changes up Sweet Pickins’ In a Pickle

I like to apply hemp oil with a cheap chip brush that I reserve especially for that purpose.  Once applied, I wipe off the excess with a clean cloth.  There is no buffing required with hemp oil.  Hemp oil dries to a matte finish with no sheen.

Your hemp oiled finish will be somewhat more water resistant and durable than if you went topless, but not as much so as the rest of the topcoat options.  Also, the hemp oil will wear away over time.  If you want to maintain that deep rich color you will have to reapply the hemp oil every year or two.

Here’s a q tip for you that’s just good to know, don’t use hemp oil on your leather goods.  According to The Real Milk Paint Co’s website:  ‘Because Hemp Oil is a drying oil it will soak into leather and dry. This will cause the leather to crack and prematurely destroy your leather goods. Repeated applications of Hemp Oil to leather will just speed of the destruction. Use oil products made to treat leather. These will protect your leather goods for the long term.’


Wax is another great topcoat for milk paint.  There are so many waxes on the market these days, I could probably write a week’s worth of posts just about wax.  I did write a post about how all waxes are not created equal back in January 2017 (read that here).  Based on the research that I did for that post there are some brands of wax that I won’t use anymore because of their harmful ingredients so be sure to read it for more info on that.

Wax comes in quite a few different colors these days too.  You can get clear, white, brown, grey and black.  Fusion even has some metallic furniture waxes available.

Clear wax will darken the color of your paint somewhat, but not as much as hemp oil.  Brown, grey and black waxes will deepen your paint color and add a tint of their own color to it, while white wax will lighten your color and add a bit of a whitewashed sort of look.

Here’s a great tip;  if you’ve never used colored wax, I highly recommend doing some experimenting with it before you apply it to a piece of furniture.  Paint an old board with your milk paint color, and then try the colored wax over it.  If the look is too dramatic for you, you can try applying clear wax first, then adding a colored wax over it.

I like to apply my wax with a wax brush.  I find it easier to get into the nooks & crannies with the wax.  Since I do a lot of waxing, I keep a separate wax brush for each color I use regularly.  That way I don’t have to clean them after every use.  I only clean them a couple of times a year (I probably shouldn’t admit that out loud).

  Once you’ve applied the wax using a circular motion, wipe away the excess with clean cloth in the direction of the grain.  After the wax dries for about 5 – 10 minutes you can go back and buff it with a clean cloth to get more shine if you want it, but I have to admit I rarely do that.

If you’ve struggled in the past with a waxed finish that ends up feeling tacky, you’ve likely used too much wax.  Keep switching to a section of clean cloth to wipe away excess wax until your surface feels smooth.  Once cured (after about 30 days) a properly waxed surface will feel smooth and silky.

Personally I love the look of a waxed finish.  It has a patina that appeals to me, not super shiny but not completely flat either.  A waxed finish is more durable than hemp oil, but still not really scrub-able.  It will resist liquids though, sort of like a freshly waxed car.  In addition, a waxed surface is pretty easy to ‘fix’ if it does get dinged up.  Just simply sand very lightly and re-wax that spot.  No need to touch up the entire surface.

Much like hemp oil, wax will wear away over time and to maintain water resistance you’ll want to reapply every year or two.  I’m not gonna lie though, I’ve yet to re-wax a single one of my waxed pieces.  But then durability is not something I really worry about in my household.  If you have small children it might be more important to you.

finishing cream.

The Real Milk Paint Co’s Finishing Cream is rapidly becoming one of my favorite topcoats for milk paint, especially for the lighter colors.  I’ve used the low sheen and the dead flat versions and I like them both.  This topcoat won’t change the color of your milk paint by much, if at all.  The low sheen adds just a minimal amount of shine and the dead flat is more matte.

You can apply this product with a rag, brush or damp sponge.  I usually go with a brush.  What I love about the finishing cream is that it’s very thick.  Sort of like the consistency of a body cream rather than a lotion.  Because of that you really don’t have to worry about runs (which seem to be a problem for me).  So far I have found this stuff to be pretty fool proof.  It also takes less effort and time than a hemp oil or waxed finish.  You just brush it on, no need to wipe away excess or buff.

After drying for 24 hours, a piece with this topcoat will be fully washable and more durable than hemp oil or wax.  You shouldn’t have to reapply the product unless your piece gets a lot of wear, in which case you can re-apply if necessary.  I used a finishing cream top coat on the nightstands in our bedroom to protect them from glasses of water left overnight.

One thing to note here, the Dead Flat version is not recommended for use over black or other dark colors.

tough coat.

Tough Coat Sealer is a non-yellowing, clear topcoat that is available under both the Miss Mustard Seed brand and the Fusion brand.  This product also will have a minimal effect on the color of your milk paint, although it may darken it just slightly.  It is considered a matte finish, but it gives a little bit more sheen than hemp oil or wax.  Please note, this topcoat is also not recommended for use over dark colors as it may look cloudy.

You can also apply the Tough Coat with a brush or sponge applicator, or just wipe it on with a lint free cloth.  The Tough Coat Sealer is more of a liquid than the finishing creams.  For that reason you want to be careful to watch for drips, especially on vertical surfaces like the sides of a dresser.  For more info on how to apply this product click here.

Tough Coat is very durable, and even more so if you apply two coats.  It’s a great choice for tabletops or other areas that will get a lot of wear.

stain and finishing oil.

Homestead House Stain & Finishing Oil All is made from safflower oil, tung oil, linseed oil, vegetable wax, safe odourless mineral solvent and cobalt free siccative which means effective drying without toxic cobalt dryers.  Initially I assumed this product was just meant for use over bare wood as a stain and sealer in one.  I never would have thought to use it over milk paint until I saw it done by someone else.

You might have noticed that both of the more durable topcoats I’ve mentioned so far, Finishing Cream and Tough Coat Sealer, are not recommended for use over dark colors.  There is some sort of science-y reason for that and it has to do with the matte finish which can look cloudy or spotty over dark colors.  For that reason I tend to use either hemp oil or one of the dark colored waxes over dark colors.  However, if you are looking for a more durable option that works great over dark colors, the Stain & Finishing oil is perfect for that.

This product comes in a selection of colors (see them here), the natural option will have the least impact on your milk paint color while the Cappucino will darken up your color quite a bit.  Multiple coats of SFO will increase durability, but also increase the color it adds to your piece.

I used one coat of the Cappucino SFO over black milk paint on this desk and got great results.

Refer back to that post for much more detail on how to use SFO over milk paint.

And that brings us to the fun part, today’s prize!

Includes: four colors of milk paint, Homestead House Stain & Finishing Oil in Cappucino, The Real Milk Paint Co’s Dead Flat Finishing Cream, Miss Mustard Seed’s Antiquing Wax, a Miss Mustard Seed waxing brush and a paint brush.  Thank you to Homestead House, Miss Mustard Seed and The Real Milk Paint Co for providing items for today’s giveaway. 

The basic rules:  to be eligible to win today’s prize leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite topcoat is (or maybe you prefer topless!).  Your comment must be left on the blog, not on Facebook.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

Normally I make a point of answering every comment left on my blog.  If someone takes the time to leave a comment, I like to acknowledge that.  But I usually only get 10 to 20 comments so it’s easy to fulfill that promise.  But I’m guessing that I’ll get many more comments on these posts so I’m going to warn you up front that I won’t be answering each one.  That helps make it easier for me when it’s time to pick a winner too, so I hope you guys will cut me some slack on that this week.

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Saturday, April 7, 2018 at the stroke of midnight.  You are eligible to win each day, so if you leave a comment on each day’s post, your name is eligible to be drawn for each prize.

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $150, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, April 13, another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the next segment of milk paint madness, and in the meantime remember to pin today’s post for future reference.

142 thoughts on “milk paint topcoats.

  1. I have not used any of these top coats, but based on your great information, I’m guessing that I would most prefer the finishing creams or the stain and finishing oil would be my favorite.


  2. I really want to order the SFO finish now. Have you tried it over a gray milk paint yet?
    I love how much easier hemp oil is than waxing, but I feel like waxing is a better protectant.


  3. I’m loving these posts! I’m catching up today because I’ve been swamped all week but I love all this info! Well, I’ve tried Waxes and I’ve tried hemp oil. I haven’t tried any of the other options over Milk Paint as of yet, but I do favor wax over the hemp oil. I’d really love to try the finishing cream and see what that’s like. :))


  4. I mostly use soft wax on my pieces ,but am now going to check out some of the other products you’ve mentioned.


  5. I have only used wax and then oil years ago on a piece, which I really liked…although it wasn’t/t painted with milk paint. I was thinking, after reading all your info, tough coat might be the one to use for my piece in the bathroom.


  6. The last two milk paint pieces I did I used Sweet Pickins oil wax. Similar to hemp oil but supposed to be more durable I think.


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