Since becoming trained retailers for Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint last spring, we have noticed that one of the most common questions we get asked is – “Do I need to sand my furniture before painting?”. Now the question to this isn’t always a straight and easy answer. We always have to ask our customer questions in return. Like “What kind of look are you trying to achieve, chippy or opaque?” and “Does it have a previously painted surface, or a very shiny, factory finish to it?”. Prepping your piece of furniture prior to milk paint can be done in many different ways, which is why we ask these questions. It always depends on your surface you are painting, as well as the look you are going for!
To begin with, you have to decide what kind of look you are going for? Do you like the “chippy look”? Or are you looking for a smoother finish? If your answer was to get a smoother finish and not have your piece be chippy then the prep work for your piece is important. We always begin our prep work by seeing if there are any gouges, scratches or pieces missing that need to be filled. We use a simple wood filler and go over those areas just using our fingers. You can use a putty knife too, but make sure not to scratch your piece more if it’s metal.
Once filler is complete we sand. For milk paint you want to sand using a medium-coarse grit paper, like a 100 grit or 120 grit. You do NOT need to get your piece down to the raw wood, but the goal is to rough up the existing finish to give it some “tooth” for the paint to grip on to. You may use an orbital sander if you like, otherwise a block works great too. Make sure to get into any grooves in your furniture piece as well!
After sanding we clean. There are furniture cleaning products you can get, but we tend to use a good old bucket of warm water and some dawn dish soap! This will make sure any grease or oils will be cleaned up as well as all that sanding dust. And don’t forget to take any drawers out of your piece and wash the inside body as well. You would be surprised how much dust gets on the inside of pieces we find!
Once it is all cleaned up you can begin painting!
HOWEVER – we have to answer another question for you. The question of if your piece is a very shiny finish, like more modern day furniture pieces. If it is very glossy and shiny then you have one more step to your prep work.
Because milk paint is a natural paint that uses only 5 ingredients, it soaks into a piece instead of sitting on top of the piece like modern mixed paints. If your piece is super shiny it makes the milk paint harder to adhere. For better adhesion Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint has a primer-like product called Bonding Agent.
For those shiny pieces we apply bonding agent straight to the furniture piece AND add it right in with the milk paint! Mix your 1 part powdered paint and 1 part water together first. After that is mixed you can add 1 part bonding agent to the mixed milk paint! It’s very easy and just ensures your piece will come out smooth rather than chippy. I considered my dresser here to be pretty darn shiny so I ended up mixing bonding agent in with my paint.
For even more information on prep work and using bonding agent here are some great blog posts by Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint.