Sealing Milk Paint Challenge – Getting Creative with Milk Paint

I decided to put my love for milk paint to the test.  I was curious what products could be used for sealing milk paint and still create the look achieved with Hemp Oil.  Furthermore, I wanted to see the possibilities of using milk paint for design work.  After all, it’s fine and dandy that its an ancient paint, no VOC, non-toxic, quick drying, brush stroke free (check out all 8 reasons why you should try milk paint)….but if it can’t be used for design work, looks chalky and doesn’t pass a scratch test, what good is it?  Therefore I devised an experiment to test the limits of milk paint.  

I would see how it worked with tape design and how different sealers affected the overall look and durability.  I took one of the Pine boards I use for practicing designs and taped off half the board in diagonal stripes and the other sections I would leave as open sections. 

Now unfortunately the footage I have to share is not the best quality as over the past 7 months, I have lost a number of the videos I took.  I will try my best to illustrate the full experiments with what I have available and am definitely considering redoing this experiment.

Milk Paint and Design Work

Each side of the board (left and right) consisted of a diagonal striped section and a open space. This would allow me to try the first experiment.  Would milk paint work better with or without bonding agent for tape design.  

Milk paint is rather watery, so in theory, I was expecting a lot of bleed through and that the bonding agent would be the solution to  help minimize it. What occured was a total surprise, I had absolutely no bleed through! 

For full disclosure, I did seal the tape prior to painting with a clear top coat.  This is a step which should not be skipped for any type of paint.

Milk paint drying
Straight Milk Paint and Ultra Grip
Close up of the difference in colour (L) without bonding agent and (R) with.

Milk Paint and Bonding Agent

In the pictures above, you can see that the affect of Ultra Grip the Fusion Mineral Paint Bonding Agent has on the colour of the milk paint. 

The left side is milk paint straight and the right side is milk paint with bonding agent.  The bonding agent created a darker colour The colour closely matches to what the final colour of milk paint would be with a wax or oil on top. The milk paint was not fully dry, creating the splotchy affect which is later absent.

Bonding agent for milk paint is an important tool if you wish to avoid any chipping of the milk paint.  You can also opt to ensure your surface is porous which supports the bonding of the milk paint directly to the surface.   

Sealing Milk Paint - Top Coat Challenge

various top coats over milk paint

Hemp oil is the go to sealer for milk paint, but you know I love to experiment and verify products for myself.  Therefore, I created a a top coat challenge to test favourite sealers on milk paint. I divided the board in 4, so that each top coat would be tried over a section of milk paint with bonding agent and without. 

As you probably know by now that milk paint dries a few shades lighter and has a chalky appearance.  It’s the top coat which creates the darker, rich colour and smooth look. Easily understandable that hemp is the favourite for milk paint lovers as it darkens the milk paint and creates a smooth, silky sheen.  I wanted to know how other popular top coats would fair in comparison.  Could a varnish create the same look, or how would Polyvine matte wax varnish perform?  

adding clear furniture varnish to milk paint
Adding clear furniture varnish
using a key to scratch across milk paint.
Adding Hemp oil

In the original reel comparison you can see the differences between all the sealers. My personal preference still goes to hemp oil for ease of use and the depth it provides to the colour of milk paint.  Wise Owl Salve was a close second followed by the Hermadix Meubellak (furniture varnish) in satin over milk paint with bonding agent.  Without the bonding agent the colour itself fell flat.  The matte varnish from Polyvine was not a contender for me, as the matte colour did nothing for the milk paint and left the chalky look.  Not a surprise that it just isn’t the right choice for milk paint despite being one of my go to top coats for other paints.

Scratch Test Challenge

adding hemp oil to milk paint

Finally, I wanted to check how milk paint and the various top coats would perform in a scratch test.  I took my house key and just went crazy, scratching the surface.  I expect my sealer to provide durability to a piece of furniture. 

Firstly, I learned that pine is soft, really soft.  I know it is a soft wood, but the scratching dented the wood.  

Secondly, milk paint bonds with wood unlike other paints, which usually sit on top of the wood itself as a coating.  This makes a huge difference for a high traffic piece of furniture and something to consider. It also meant that the scratch test only seemed to damage the top coats themselves.  I had nowhere the paint flaking.

My immediate thoughts when examining the board, was that the furniture varnish performed the best in terms to resisting the scratching.  On the hemp and salve, I could see the scratch lines, but the Polyvine scratches were the most visible.  I believe this was due to the matte sheen over a very chalky paint.  The scratch lines just stood out more, but the damage itself to the topcoat wasn’t any worse then the others. 

Check out the test results in the original reel.

End of story?  You would think so, I would put this board away and that would be the end of it.  However, the next day when I looked at it again, I noticed that the scratches over the hemp oil and salve had started to fade, significantly.  The hemp oil was barely noticeable anymore and the salve had a huge improvement from the day before. 

milk paint with wise owl salve and polyvine

My final thoughts on which way I will finish milk paint in the future?  There, there is definitely a reason why milk paint and hemp oil is considered the winning combination. I will only be sealing milk paint with hemp oil moving forward.  


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Hey, I'm Sarah, the owner of Bold Wallflowers.

I'm on a self-taught journey through furniture refinishing and restoration, loving every experiment in my workshop.

Join me as I share my discoveries and gained knowledge with our vibrant community of fellow refinishers!

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