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Wax Before or After Distressing Chalk Painting Tips

Should You Apply Wax Before or After Distressing? Chalk Painting Tips

Ever stood in front of your beautifully painted chalk piece, brush in one hand, wax in the other, and thought, "Wait, what now?" You're not alone. This common conundrum of whether to apply wax before or after distressing can leave even the most seasoned DIYer scratching their head. Fear not! We're diving into the nitty-gritty of this age-old debate to help you achieve that perfect distressed look.

Discover essential techniques and expert tips for prepping furniture with chalk paint in our comprehensive guide. Get practical insights and achieve professional results with Vintage Tonality's step-by-step instructions.

The Basics of Chalk Painting

Before we get our hands dirty, let's cover some basics. If you're new to chalk painting or just looking for a refresher, we recommend reviewing our article: Chalk Painting 101: For Beginners. This informative guide will help you better understanding the process of painting furniture with chalk paint.

What is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is a versatile and user-friendly paint that adheres to almost any surface without the need for sanding or priming. It's a favorite among DIY enthusiasts for its matte finish and vintage charm.

Wax and Distressing: What's the Deal?

Waxing seals and protects the paint, giving it a smooth, durable finish. Distressing, on the other hand, is the art of giving your piece a worn, vintage look by strategically sanding areas to reveal layers underneath. While our article Distress Furniture With Chalk Paint covers a wide range of distressing and waxing techniques, this guide will focus on the essentials.

Applying Wax Before Distressing


  • Protection: Applying wax first offers a layer of protection to your paint, which can prevent over-distressing.
  • Smooth Finish: Waxing before distressing results in a smoother, more polished finish, thanks to the barrier created by the wax.


  1. Paint Your Piece: Apply your chalk paint and let it dry completely.
  2. Wax On: Using a wax brush or a lint-free cloth, apply a thin layer of clear wax in circular motions. Buff it to a subtle sheen.
  3. Distress Time: Once the wax has cured, use fine-grit sandpaper to distress the areas you want to highlight. The wax layer helps control the distressing process, but it can require a bit more elbow grease to get the results you're looking for and you will probably want to add another layer of clear wax to protect the raw areas you've sanded.
  4. Final Buff: Give your piece a final buff to bring out the shine and smoothness.

Tips: Remember, it's called "distressing" your furniture, not yourself. If you start to feel stressed, take a coffee break!

Applying Wax After Distressing


  • Controlled Distressing: Distressing first allows you to see exactly where you're removing paint, giving you more control over the look.
  • Better Adhesion: Wax adheres beautifully to the distressed areas, enhancing the texture and depth.


  1. Paint Your Piece: As always, start with a clean, dry surface and apply your chalk paint.
  2. Distress First: Use fine-grit sandpaper to distress the edges and corners where natural wear would occur. Be gentle to avoid going overboard.
  3. Wax On, Wax Off: Apply the wax in small sections, working it into the paint and distressed areas. Buff to a soft sheen.

Note: One of our customers tried distressing after waxing and ended up with a masterpiece that looked like it survived a bar fight. Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to experiment, but maybe keep the wax for last next time.

Factors to Consider

  • Type of Furniture: The material and shape of your furniture can influence your decision. Delicate pieces might benefit more from waxing first.
  • Desired Look: If you're aiming for a subtle, vintage look, waxing first might be your best bet. For a more rugged, farmhouse style, distressing first could be the way to go.
  • Durability: Consider the piece's use and location. High-traffic pieces might need the extra protection of waxing first.

Expert Opinions and Personal Experiences

Customer Stories: Jane from Ohio shared recently with us how she transformed an old dresser into a stunning focal point by waxing before distressing. She loved the controlled, polished look it gave her piece.

Expert Tips: Seasoned chalk painter, Emma Wright, suggests trying both methods on small sample pieces before committing to your final technique. "It's all about finding what works best for your style and the specific piece you're working on," she says.


In the great debate of waxing before or after distressing, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. It ultimately depends on your desired finish, the piece you're working on, and your personal preference. So go ahead, grab that wax, and get distressing (or not)! And remember, it's your project—make it uniquely yours.

Ready to dive into your next chalk painting project? Try both methods and share your results with us! We'd love to see your creations and hear your tips.


Shop Chalk Paint Brushes
Shop Chalk Paint Brushes

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