Hi friends! What do you do when you need the tough durability of a poly, but you want the beautiful antiquing and soft sheen of a wax?
Lately, one of the most frequent questions I’m getting is whether to apply poly over wax or wax over poly? You can see how many times I’ve been asked in this one post alone… and it’s a GREAT question! So, today I have a perfect example of this duo topcoat to share with you.
Madelyn (a client) brought me her mother’s desk and vintage chair for a restyle. She’s been generous enough to let me use her furniture as an example even though she’s anxious to get it back home – thanks Madelyn! 🙂
She decided on a Sherwin Williams ‘Paris Grey’ custom mixed paint, a dark grey glaze and poly finish. Between Madelyn working on her laptop, and her son on his homework, this desk will get a lot of use. For durability, I used 3 coats of Varathane’s Diamond Polyurathane in Satin. For a vintage antiqued sheen, I also applied Annie Sloan’s Black Wax on selected areas OVER the fully dried coats of poly.
Here’s what we started with.
And here it is with a poly and wax finish.
THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS TO PRODUCTS USED. YOU CAN SEE MY FULL DISCLOSURE HERE.
This desk and chair make a really nice one-of-a-kind set. It also has sentimental value because this chair has been in Madelyn’s family for over 50 years. The black wax really helps to bring out all the chair’s character.
THE RULE OF THUMB IS WAX OVER POLY
POLY FIRST – WAX SECOND
NEVER the other way around. Just keep in mind that WAX IS ALWAYS LAST. Just like when you wax a car, wax is the very last thing you do for a beautiful finish and protection.
If you’ve waxed your furniture and then decide you’d prefer a poly finish, remove the wax with mineral spirits (in a well ventilated area) before apply a water based poly. Otherwise, the wax tends to repel the poly and it ruins the finish or may be more work down the road.
Have you top coated furniture with both poly and wax? Chime in because I always love hearing from you! 🙂
Happy painting and stay inspired!
Martha G Simmons says
Hi, what is the reason to do wax on top of poly vs. just poly? Is it for the feel of the piece? Longevity of finish?
Hi Martha! Yes, it can prolong the finish and it does give a silky finish. It can also add detailing and depth when using tinted wax.
Kathi Taylor says
I have oak bookcases that are polyethylened, oak wood. Want to wax them black. Suggestions?
Hi, would love help! I chalk painted a bedroom set, then distressed it and applied wax. Overall, I love the outcome, but I see brush strokes on the tops of dressers only and its making me crazy! First, is there a way to fix it now that I’ve already waxed it? And, second for other projects moving forward, how do I avoid brush strokes? PS Love you pieces and all the help you provide!
Hi Penny! Chalk paints are on the thicker side so thinning them with a little water or using a water spray mister while painting REALLY helps with brush strokes! To fix your dresser tops, I would wait until the wax cures (so you can paint over the wax). Once it’s cured, take a sander and sand the top only smoothing out all the brush strokes. Then repaint and wax. Hope this helps.
I love this piece! I just painted a antique secretary in country chic lazy linen with some accents of pebblebeach. Now the old brass hardware looks icky. So I used gilding wax on the hardware in dark silver. Can I poly over the gilding wax??
You can but it has to be 100% dry. Or you could remove the hardware and poly the piece. I don’t know what brand you’re using but gilding wax often doesn’t need a topcoat.
Spent a bunch of time putting 2 coats of white wax over 3 coats of satin poly on my dining table. The wax washed off the first time I wiped down my table with a wet rag.😭
I would love to see an answer to this one!
Same here, would love to know what’s recommended for that!
Sorry guys, with all the questions sometimes a few slip through the cracks.😐 I’ve had this happen with various products as well. It’s my guess that the wax was not cured. Here’s an article on dry time vs cure time that applies to paint, poly and wax. Hope this helps.
Meagan Kestler says
Hello, I am working on a piece that needs to be waterproofed. Should I apply the waterproof sealer to it before doing the poly??
Hi Meagan! I’m not sure what type/brand of waterproof sealer you’re using so I wouldn’t want to say. I’d suggest reading the manufactures instructions or using polyurethane or a water-based poly that’s waterproof so you only have one step. Hope this helps.
Love the job you did! I do have a question: I chalk-painted my dining chairs and then waxed them. Turns out I should’ve used a polycrylic instead due to high traffic etc. Do I need to sand down the chalk paint and start all over again?
Thanks for the great post!
I just finished up a reclaimed table that has lots of great character but unfortunately the water based poly brought out some of the amber in the wood. I’m debating on waxing over it with white wax to kinda mute it a bit.
Do you find that poly with wax over it can work for tabletops as long as coasters etc are used? If any scratches etc end up on it, how do you repair it? Another buffing of wax?
Yes, another buffing of wax can repair small imperfections but you will want to make sure the wax is 100% cured before using a high traffic piece like a table.
I’m getting ready to refinish a kitchen oak table. It’s an amazing piece, 6 inserts, 100 years old It’s recommended to use a post sanding, pre-poly treatment, however it looks like it’s just sealing the grain and won’t provide the depth of finish I’m looking for, What happens if you if you do wax->poly? I know you don’t recommend it, just curious as to why. I’m also tempted to just do wax in order to get depth.
I’ve read multiple places and they say the poly won’t dry if you put it over the wax. However, I have done multiple pieces of furniture and have done the antiquing with the dark wax and then done the poly over to finish the pieces and have never had a problem. I never knew you weren’t supposed to put the wax over the poly. But I didn’t a dining room table (the legs) and the chairs, 4 end tables, a large tv stand and a dresser and I didn’t have any problems at all with the poly sealing over the wax.
Which wax did you use first. I have a piece done with Deco art clear creme wax and I would like to put a poly over it so the black paint and dark stain don’t get on my white sheets..
HI Donna, good to hear. I have a table that I want to add antiquing wax, but gets a lot of use so I wanted to use poly over it but I keep hearing NOT TO DO THAT. Any hints or suggestions?
Hi! I am doing a dining room table set right now. I used oil based poly based on what I read about durability. Can I still put a clear or dark wax over the varenthane oil based poly?