Today I am going to show you how to white wax dark furniture! This is the perfect way to lighten and brighten dark furniture without painting! Let’s jump into the white wax!
where we left off
Let’s pick up where we left off. The last time we saw this little beauty, we had scuff-sanded the sides and framing plus we had sanded the two doors and the drawer front down to bare wood.
Sanding the surface down to bare wood is essential when learning how to white wax furniture! It is important to remove as much of the old finish and stain as possible. The white wax will need to soak in and any remaining old finish would prevent that.
Be sure to read my previous post about sanding. I have some tips that will be helpful to you!
You can see below some of the old finish before I completely sanded the doors down to bare wood. The door on the left has been sanded with my orbital sander and 150 grit sandpaper on all the flat surfaces that the sander could reach. The remaining areas were sanded with a sanding block.
prep for paint
When all the sanding was finished, I completely vacuumed the washstand. I also ran the vacuum over the whole piece – inside the drawer, inside the cabinet, underneath the washstand and the back of the piece.
This is the time to get the piece completely dust free. I also wiped down the whole piece with a microfiber cloth.
My client wanted the drawer and two doors to be white waxed and the frame and sides of the washstand to be painted. So I had to further prep the areas that would be painted. If you want the white wax look on the whole piece, then just skip this step!
The next step in prepping for the paint is to seal with Shellac. I like to use Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac. It is a natural based product that seals in any old stain or wood tannins that could bleed through. I have used this shellac for several years now and haven’t had any bleed-through issues.
Zinsser Shellac comes highly recommended by Barkly too!
The shellac is easy to apply. I use a chip brush and just brush it on going with the grain. It is a good idea to move fairly quickly when painting on shellac because it dries quickly. If you are outside on a hot day, it will dry even quicker.
Two coats will seal in the old finish perfectly!
Shellac will help the paint to adhere to the surface really welll. I wanted to be able to add some distressing to this washstand so I used a chunk of beeswax and rubbed it on the areas where I wanted the chipping to happen. Beeswax is a resist and the paint won’t adhere to it.
Can you tell Barkly is enjoying the prepping and painting process??
The next step is to paint the washstand. On this piece, that is the two sides and the framing in the front. I used my favorite Zibra Paint Brush. It’s called the Palm Pro and it fits beautifully in my hand. It really is an extension of my hand and I love this paintbrush!
My client loved the first piece that we refinished for her and wanted this washstand to match. So we mixed us some Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Marzipan.
I also want to say that I wrote about how to mix Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint. In that post, I share a video I recorded for you! Be sure to check out that post — it will help you with your next milk paint project, I promise!
The first coat of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint always looks a bit scary! This is absolutely normal so stay calm!! The second coat will be drastically improved!
how to white wax
While the first coat of paint dried, I started on the waxing. Miss Mustard Seed White Wax is the perfect wax to use when you want to lighten dark antique furniture. It glides on smooth because it has the consistency of room temperature butter.
I like to use a small chip brush to apply the white wax. It is easy to hold, the bristles get into the nooks and crannies and when it is worn out, I can toss it into the trash knowing that the little brush served its purpose in life!
I apply the white wax in a circular motion to get the wax into the grain…..
….and then I lay it off in the direction of the grain. By doing this, I am able to get the wax deep into the grain and I illuminate any brush marks from the circular motion.
all the crackles
Onto the second coat of paint! While the wax is drying, I apply the second coat of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint.
Look at the difference the second coat made! There were a few spots in the end that had to have a third coat. That’s just how it is with milk paint. Especially the light colors – they may need more than two coats to cover the dark wood.
Take a look at how the paint reacts to the shellac. The shellac causes the milk paint to crackle as you see in the image below. I love this! It’s just bonus aging if you ask me!
Shellac for the vintage win!!
I used a flat edge dull knife on the areas that I had applied beeswax. The knife gently scrapes away the paint because the beeswax prevents the paint from adhering well. I plan on doing a whole blog post on distressing methods so stay tuned! In fact, subscribe below so you don’t miss out!
When the paint is completely dry, I used a worn-out sanding block over the painted areas to smooth out the chalky and gritty finish that milk paint has. It was just a light sanding and is needed to smooth the finish.
how to buff wax
While the second coat of milk paint dried, I moved over to the waxing part of this project. The wax is ready for buffing once it is dry. You’ll know when it is dry because it won’t feel tacky. The drying time can vary due to weather conditions.
Let me talk about a couple of ways to buff the wax.
My favorite way to buff wax is with a piece of upholstery weight batting. Let me tell you how I found this stuff!
I was out yard sale and saw a stack of outdoor furniture cushions. The fabric was in really bad shape but the padding was still very full – not flattened at all! The stack came home with me for about $1.
I ripped off the fabric and washed the batting on the hot water cyle and bleach. It took several loads because the batting was thick.
My intention was to resue the batting in an upholstery project (which I did – several footstools) but as I was handling the batting I realized it would be a great buffing tool. The next time I had to wax a project I used a small piece of it. And it worked great!
So I still use it. I am running out so I will have to look for more cushions at yard sales this fall!
The batting has just enough abrasive qualities to add a bit of a sheen to the waxed surface.
I understand that not everyone has pieces of upholstery weight batting lying around so the next best thing is a lint-free cloth. Mine is an old and worn-out cotton tablecloth that I have cut into sections. I buff the wax and change to a new area of the cloth when needed. The cloth (and the batting) can be tossed into the trash when I am finished.
Here’s a close-up of the waxed and buffed door on this cherry wood washstand. See how the white wax settles into the grain of the wood? The beauty of lightening up furniture using white wax is that you still can see and enjoy the natural grain!
When the paint was completely dry, I used Miss Mustard Seed Wax to seal it. I could have used the White Wax but there was no need for that. The regular wax was applied in the same way. I also buffed the dried wax with the upholstery weight batting.
clean the casters
Last but certainly not least, let’s deal with the brass casters. I cleaned the flat side of the casters with an orbital sander. I demonstrated how I do this technique on Instagram. Basically, turn the power sander on and allow the caster to spin while gently moving the sander side to side to take away all of the grime and dirt that has built up over the years.
Then I used a wire brush on the rest of the caster.
The next step is to apply Rub-n-Buff. I used Antique Gold. This stuff is amazing! I use a small artist brush to apply a little bit at a time to the remaining parts of the caster. I make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies with the brush.
That’s it for today! Barkly and I have to finish photographing the finished washstand. Here’s a little sneaky peek for you that Barkly approved of!
I hope this tutorial was helpful to you! I can’t wait to show you the finished project! If you want to glimpse what it will look like be sure to pop over to the gentlemen’s dresser post!
Thanks for stopping by! I invite you to join our reinventing journey over on Instagram and Facebook! We love to share behind the scenes of many of our projects! Feel free to pin any of the images you see in this post to your project Pinterest boards for future reference!
- bare wood furniture
- white wax
- chip brush (or wax brush)
- soft lint free cloth
- optional: upholstery weight poly batting or blue shop towel
- Using a chip brush (or a wax brush) and work a small amount of the white wax into the surface of the wood furniture. Use a circular motion then go back over the wax in the direction of the grain.
- Allow the wax to dry for about an hour until it is no longer tacky. Weather and humidity levels in the air can affect this stage of the furniture waxing process.
- Once the wax is no longer tacky to the touch, use a soft, lint-free cloth to buff the wax to a slight sheen. I like to use a scrap of upholstery weight poly batting for this. If you do not have that, a soft lint-free cloth will be perfect! You can also use a blue shop towel.
- The wax will be smooth to the touch when you are finished. Allow the wax to cure for 30 days before using the piece.
Using a circular motion to apply the white wax will ensure the wax gets deep into the grain of the dark wood furniture. This will create swirl marks.
To fix this, simply go back over the wax with the chip brush in the direction of the grain. This will smooth out the finish perfectly!