Which Finishing Product to Use Over Milk Paint?

Posted by Carolyn Moore on

I wanted to talk about the options you have for sealing and protecting a piece you have milk-painted - if you need to seal it that is (see below). 

The basic choices are matt varnish, oil or wax, but what you choose will depend on what you have painted, where it will be used and how much sheen you want to add (or not!)

The first consideration is the level of protection you need. It isn't essential to seal a milk painted piece, but it is recommended if it is likely to be handled, need regular cleaning or needs to be water repellent. So for example, if you have painted a picture frame or mirror which will be hung on the wall, and just require occasional dusting, there is no need to seal it unless you want to add a sheen. But for any piece of furniture or shelving likely to be used regularly or have things stored on it, you will need light protection to prevent marking the paint and make cleaning easier. And for heavy use areas such as kitchen cabinets or painted floors, you will need a finish tough enough to to be fully water and grease repellent.

The next consideration is the appearance. If you want to retain the true colour and completely matt finish of the milk paint, then you really have to go with a matt varnish. If you don't mind some low sheen, then a wax or oil (or our new oil-wax) can look beautiful - just bear in mind that even a clear wax or oil can darken the colour very slightly, and may even add a slight yellow tinge to whites and lighter creams. Also bear in mind that most oils are only suitable for porous surfaces as they need to slightly absorb into the surface. So, if you have painted a metal piece, then oil may not be suitable.

Many of our sealants are food safe - see below for more information.

Matt Varnish


A good quality matt sealant such as our Safecoat Acriglaze Matt is the perfect choice if you want a completely invisible sealant - so no sheen or colour change - which still offers some protection from dirt and is water resistant. Safecoat is a low VOC, naturally mildew resistant water based varnish, which contains no chemicals, so is great all around the home, even bedrooms and bathrooms, as it is safe for those who are chemically sensitive. It just brushes on and dries fast, so two or three coats can be applied in one day. 



A pure beeswax - just as you would use on unpainted wooden furniture - helps protect a milk painted surfjace from scuffs and waterspotting, whilst adding a very low sheen. This is a pure unrefined beeswax with no petroleum byproducts or solvents, so it is a non-toxic and food safe choice. It can be applied generously either by brush or cloth, then buffed to a shine after 10 to 15 minutes. This would need to be repeated occasionally to maintain protection. Tinted waxes are also available to add aged or limed effects.

Hemp Oil

Hemp Oil is a 100% natural, pure, food safe, solvent- free, naturally drying oil pressed from the seeds of the hemp plant. It will penetrate to provide a protective, water-resistant finish whether used over milk paintor bare wood, and cures from the inside out to protect your project and is water resistant once dry. This means it is not suitable for use on non-porous surfaces such as metal.  The oil will dry to a slight satin finish, with each coat adding more sheen, and also more protection.

As well as being natural and non-VOC, Hemp Oil is completely food safe, which means it can be used on kitchen or food display items such as cutting boards, salad bowls and wooden utensils, as well as baby toys, cots and pet furniture.  Our hemp oil has very little odour.

Hemp Oil is brushed on, then the excess wiped off after 15-20 minutes. It is dry enough to use or recoat after 24 hours, but takes 30 days to fully 'cure' (i.e to offer fully penetrate the wood and ofer maximum protection).

Tung Oil

Our toughest finish of all, pure Tung Oil is a natural oil extract which provides a beautiful low sheen, highly water resistant finish on fine furniture or painted wood.

Tung oil is recognized by craftsmen to be the ultimate drying oil for all fine woods, furniture and antiques, and has been used for boat building in China for centuries. It penetrates deep into wood fibers, cures, and actually becomes part of the wood. It forms a low gloss hand rubbed finish that’s not only beautiful, but remarkably durable. Resistance to moisture and alcoholic drinks is truly amazing, so is ideal for kitchen worktops and even outdoor furniture. Tung Oil is one of the few food safe finishes which also offers excellent moisture resistance.

Tung Oil is brushed on, then excess oil is wiped off after about an hour. Re-coat after 24 hours(3 to 4 coats are recommended for full protection). 


Our latest finishing product, new "Oil-Wax". This brilliant product is easily applied like an oil (as above) but gives the subtle lustre and finish of beeswax, or can be buffed to build up a higher shine. It contains a combination of natural resins and waxes that together create a durable, water repellent, water-mark resistant finish and sealer.  

Oil Wax will dry to a smooth, hard satin finish that offers tons of protection, and only needs to be applied once; there is no need to reapply over time. Like all oils, Oil Wax should be used over porous finishes such as milk paint or unfinished wood, so is great for tabletops to furniture and everything in between.

Oil Wax is non-toxic, all natural and has low VOC’s.

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