What is Liming Wax and how to use it on furniture.

Liming wax is a furniture wax product that can create a weathered or raw look on wood pieces. It contains wax and pigments that settle into the grain of the wood and will highlight the natural grain pattern. It is popular option for the coastal, farmhouse, raw wood styles.

Table of Contents

What is Liming Wax Made of?

Liming wax is traditionally made by blending together beeswax (and/or other waxes like carnauba), mineral spirits, and pigments. The most common shade of shade is white and produces a white grained finish. However, liming waxes are available pre-coloured in other shades like grey, black, brown. these colours can help to create an antique or patina look,

There are liming waxes now available that are made without mineral spirits and are lower in VOC levels.  These versions are often made with paint pigments to mimic the original effect of liming wax. I believe it is a personal preference which option you choose for. 

Liming Wax from Fusion Mineral Paint

Using Liming Wax

For the full effect, this wax should be used on pieces of furniture with an open wood grain. Such as oak, ash, chestnut, and mahogany. The porous nature of open grain wood will permit the wax penetrating into the grain structure.  The coloured pigments will then highlight the natural patterns and textures of the wood. This will create the unique look that liming wax is known for. 

Preparing Furniture for Liming Wax

Before applying liming wax, it’s important to properly prepare the furniture surface. This helps ensure the liming wax adheres well and provides the desired effect.

The first step is to strip any previous finishes on the furniture. Liming wax works best on raw wood rather than over an existing stain or finish. You can remove the finish best with chemical stripper, or you could sand it off, but this will also remove any patina built up on the wood surface. 

paint removal tools; chemical stripper, heat gun, carbide scraper
Handy tools for removing finishes

After removing the previous finish, thoroughly clean the surface of any dust, wax or oils, which could prevent the liming wax from absorbing evenly.  I personally love using tack cloths for removing dust. For wax build up or oily surfaces, wipe down with mineral spirits. You can also use steel wool to scrub into the pores.  As mineral spirits can leave a residue on the wood, you will want to clean afterwards with a damp cloth. 

Finally, it’s a good idea to test the liming wax on a small area before applying to the whole surface area of the piece. This will give you a preview of the final liming effect and ensure you are satisfied with the results before moving onto the entire piece.

Raw wood surface, all finish removed
Raw wood, all previous finish removed

Applying Wax

Applying liming wax properly is key to achieving the desired aged look. Be sure to follow these tips when applying the wax:

  • Brush On Evenly Following the Wood Grain – Use a high-quality natural bristle wax brush to apply a thin layer of liming wax on bare wood. Brush on evenly, first in a circular motion to fill the open wood pores.  Follow up by finishing in the direction of the grain. Avoid creating thick patches or uneven buildup of the wax.
Brush liming wax in circles into the wood grain
  • Remove Excess Wax with a Clean Cloth – Once the wax has been brushed on, use a clean cotton cloth to gently buff off any excess wax. Buffing will help achieve a smooth, consistent finish. You want to buff with a soft cotton cloth until the wax feels dry and you have removed any white haze (or haze in the colour of the liming wax that you are using).
Remove the liming wax with a clean cloth
1 coat of liming wax in white, edge is still raw wood
  • Allow Proper Dry Time Between Coats – It’s important to let each coat of liming wax dry fully before applying additional coats. Drying time will vary based on factors like temperature and humidity, but a good rule of thumb is 24 hours between coats. Rushing the process can lead to tacky wax that never dries properly. Be patient and allow the wax time to dry before adding more.

It is best to add multiple thin coats to your piece and build up to the level of liming effect that you wish to see.  The type of wood you are working on and the porous nature of the wood, will effect how many coats you may require. Once you have reached the effect you want and have allowed sufficient drying time, you can move on to the next step of protecting the liming finish.

Protecting Liming Wax Finish

A liming wax finish needs to be protected to preserve the color and finish. Wax is never not a durable finish as say a polyurathan top coat is. There are however, a few key things you can do to extend the life of the wax finish:

Apply a Sealant

It’s important to apply an additional coat of clear wax over the liming wax.  This last layer of paste wax will seal and protect the layer or layers of liming wax. Ensure you buff this final layer until you reach the beautiful luster that wax finishes are known for.

Reapply Liming Wax Annually

Liming wax finishes aren’t permanent, just like other wax finishes. If you are not maintaining the clear wax finish above the liming wax, you can expect to reapply the liming wax.  This will restore the pop of white (or other colour you may have used) in any areas that have started to lose their brightness. Reapplying annually will keep the finish looking freshly limed.

Dust Regularly

Dusting regularly prevents dust buildup, which can start to dull the liming wax over time. Dusting helps preserve the vibrancy of the finish. Use a soft lint-free cloth to gently dust.

Avoid Water

While wax does have water resistance, it’s not really a water-resistant finish.  You should avoid lettting water build up on your piece of furniture.  Use damp cloths rather than sopping wet cloths and wipe up spills immediately. 

Raw wood surface, all finish removed
Before Liming Wax
Liming wax finish
After one coat of liming wax

Liming Wax vs Paint Wash

Liming wax and a white wash effect could be mistaken for each other from a distance, as they produce a similar look.  However wax and paint washes offer two very different approaches for changing the colour of wood furniture. While both can transform the look of a piece and provide a white tone, but understanding the key differences between wax and paint washes can help inform which is the best choice for a particular project.

The main distinction is that wax penetrates into the wood grain while a paint wash coats the surface. This means liming wax highlights the natural pattern and texture of the wood itself. The paint wash is usually wiped back after application, which will leave the most residue in any wood grain, but will also coat the surface lightly with an opaque layer of paint. 

The paint wash requires a further top coat for durability.  You could opt for a wax top coat which will create an effect closer to liming wax.  You can also choose for a durable water based top coat.  This is the most popular option when looking to create a durable raw wood look.

For thrifted and vintage furniture where the patina of real wood is part of the charm, liming wax is an ideal choice to gently alter the color while retaining the weathered character. Paint wash requires that you first clean and potentially sand the piece that you are working on.

Ultimately the goal of the project will determine whether liming wax or a paint wash is the most suitable finish for your project. 

Check out step by step how to paint wash wood. 

Paint Wash in off-white
Paint wash in off-white, wood grain isn't highlighted like liming wax causes.

Liming Wax on Dark Wood

Liming wax will not create the raw wood look itself.  If you are working with a dark wood or stained wood, you may want to first lighten the wood prior to using liming wax.  

Lightening wood is easy to do with hydrogen peroxide. Check out the easy step by step process. 

Final Thoughts

What is liming wax, was the first thought I had when I picked up the jar at my local paint supplier.  I knew of furniture wax, but wasn’t familiar with the unique abilities of that liming wax had to offer. It highlights the depth and visual interest of the wood. It is a great option for pieces where you wish to allow the wood to age or keep it’s current patina. 

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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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