How to Use Milk Paint on Furniture

Milk paint is a unique way to update old furniture pieces or give new ones a rustic, farmhouse finish. If you’re interested in how to use milk paint, here’s what you need to know.

Get more painting furniture tips and ideas here.

empire dresser before painting with milk paint

But, milk paint isn’t for everyone because it comes with a learning curve if you have your mind set on a specific finish.

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What Is Milk Paint?

Unlike regular paint, milk paint is made with natural ingredients like lime, casein (a milk protein), and clay. It’s also non-toxic, making it a great option for painting children’s furniture.

It’s been used for centuries to paint everything from furniture to walls, and it’s becoming popular again with DIYers who want to paint their furniture with a rustic look.

Supplies Used for Milk Painting Furniture

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Grab our list of 10 must have painting furniture supplies too!

Alright, here is the dresser we’re painting with milk paint.

showing damages on the dresser before the makeover

When we bought it, I didn’t realize how bad of shape it was in… But when I got it home, I started to see all the things and could smell smoke on it…I shouldn’t have paid $80 for it! Oh well.

Repairing Old Furniture

Anyway, I bought this thing over 3 years ago, and slowly worked on it as I had the motivation to.

Last year, I removed the veneer from most of the drawers… some of the veneer was glued on extra well, and it was an absolute pain even with my tricks to easily remove veneer.

I fixed the chipped veneer, got rid of the smoke smell, and found this little love note from someone… that someone tried to paint over… hahaha

a love note on the dresser painted over with white paint

And I took apart some of the drawers. Then I lost steam and put it away until just recently.

Then I cut new wood for those drawer bottoms and put the drawers back together, attached the top to the dresser, and repaired damage with Bondo.

Check our guide on dresser drawer bottom replacement here to learn more.

Get the Secrets!

Grab this super convenient How to Repair Furniture Ebook with all of our secrets on how to repair furniture for only $14.

You can print it out and have instant access whenever you come across damaged furniture, and know exactly how to fix it!

Click on the picture of the book to purchase!

ebook on how to repair furniture

Check out my honest Bondo wood filler review here to learn more.

It was all SO MUCH WORK and I wanted to give up multiple times. But I also didn’t want it to just go to the landfill… so here we are.

With all of that out of the way though, here’s what it finally looked like after we had cleaned it and prepped it for painting.

Read these posts to learn more about how to clean furniture before painting and how to prepare furniture for painting!

dresser after fixing all damages and prepping for painting

How To Use Milk Paint On Furniture

I chose milk paint for this dresser because it creates an old, worn look… exactly what this piece is. Old and worn out, but in good enough condition to be of use.

Milk paint comes in a powdered form, but all you have to do is add water to turn it into paint. So, I ravaged through my stash of powdered milk paint and mixed some colors together.

pouring powdered milk paint into container

Then I mixed up a big batch of something similar. Mixing milk paint colors together is different than other types of paint since it’s a powder.

How To Mix Milk Paint

Mix 1 part water to 1 part milk paint powder, mix it together really well, or shake it up, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes so the powder can disintegrate and it can all come together to make a thicker paint.

But, once it’s mixed up, it doesn’t keep for very long, so I only mixed up half of the batch, or what I thought I would use that day. Learn everything you need to know about mixing milk paint here.

Adding Milk Paint Bonding Agent

One other thing about this paint is that it is known to create a chippy look if you don’t paint it on raw wood. If you don’t want it to chip, mix some Extra Bond into the mixed-up milk paint.

shackteau interiors extra bond to be mixed into the milk paint

Technically I think it’s a 2:1 ratio… so 2 parts mixed milk paint to 1 part Extra Bond. I swear this stuff is just glue because it smells like Elmers glue… but I can’t confirm that. Haha

Then I let the paint sit for 15 minutes and then I painted it onto the dresser with a round Zibra paint brush. If you want a chippy finish, here’s how I get a chippy paint finish with milk paint every time!

Best Brush For Milk Paint

I love Zibra paint brushes because they are affordable, and they come in different shapes that make it easier to paint furniture. My favorite is the round brush.

dipping a Zibra round paint brush into the milk paint

Oh, and these brushes will last forever if you clean them out after a project is done. Read this post to learn more about the best paint brushes for painting furniture.

Here’s my guide on how to clean paint brushes.

Painting Furniture with Milk Paint

When painting milk paint, I like to brush it on and then go back over it in a long brush stroke. Can you spray milk paint? Yep! You can!

Milk paint can have a lot of variations, so going back over it with long brush strokes helps minimize the variations in the pigments.

This first coat went on super thin.

result of painting first coat of milk paint

That’s partly because of the bonding agent, but also, milk paint tends to look really bad on the first coat. But the second coat should have full coverage or almost full coverage.

How Long Does Milk Paint Take To Dry

Milk paint dries pretty quickly. Within 30 minutes usually, you can paint the next coat of milk paint.

I painted the dresser with 2 coats (one right after the other) before walking away from it for the night.

When I came back the next day, there were 2 places where the veneer was lifting, thanks to the moisture from the paint. So I chipped those off and filled them with wood filler.

Here are more methods on how to fix veneer that is lifting.

Learn more about the best wood fillers for furniture here.

chipping off loose veneer due to moisture from the paint

And I mixed up another batch of paint and painted on another coat on everything to make sure it was all the same color.

Painting Over Wood Filler with Milk Paint

I had to touch up those spots where I wood filled. I put some Extra Bond over them to help the paint stick and then I painted over them… just to find one of them chipping again.

So I had to sand it again and try to touch it up again…

Sometimes milk paint really has a mind of its own and doesn’t like to stick where wood fillers are. But I kept at it and it kept chipping because of the damaged veneer right there.

So I ended up just scraping off the veneer (with my carbide scraper) on that whole area, and then painting it all again.

Which was kinda tricky because I didn’t have much paint left, and it doesn’t have much of a shelf life.

scraping off veneer with a carbide scraper

But I finally got it all fixed! Then I replaced the missing drawer stops and sanded all of the paint to smooth it out and blend variations in the pigments.

If you’re having the same drawer problem, learn how to fix old dresser drawers from falling out here.

Sealing Milk Paint with Soft Wax

Milk paint is super porous, so it has to be sealed. It can be sealed with wax, water-based polyurethane, or hemp oil. This time I sealed it with some soft wax.

real milk paint soft wax to seal milk paint

Water-based polyurethane will make the milk paint chip even more. If that’s the look you’re going for, then I recommend the water-based polyurethane.

Here’s how to apply polycrylic to painted furniture. Learn all about how to seal milk paint with these 3 ways to seal milk paint.

Then I added the new hardware and put on some keyhole covers…

Check out my guide on finishing touches of painting furniture for a successful makeover.

Watch the entire milk painted furniture makeover here:

And here’s what it looks like now! Scroll down for the after photos and additional tips on how to use milk paint on furniture!

close up of the drawers after the makeover
rustic blue dresser after the makeover

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

side angle of blue milk painted dresser after the makeover

It’s rustic and totally gives a nod to its history. Even though I tried to prevent chipping, there were still a couple of small spots where the paint still chipped.

I’m honestly not sure about the overall look… I think I might repaint it with something else. What do you think??

Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the right type of paint for your project.

Powdered Milk Paint

Milk paint is a natural product made from milk proteins and lime. It’s non-toxic, making it a good choice for painting children’s furniture.

The downside of milk paint is that it can be tricky to work with if you want a solid finish with no variations, and you have to mix it with water.

It is known to create chippy finishes, but when it does adhere to a surface, it is on there good. See what a chippy milk paint finish looks like on this chippy blue painted hutch!

It’s a porous paint, so it needs to be top coated. Learn more about topcoats for painted furniture here!

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint, on the other hand, is a synthetic product that contains calcium carbonate. It comes premixed, is easy to work with, and creates a solid, matte finish.

You can also create your own chalk paint with this homemade chalk paint recipe! It sticks well to furniture, better than latex paint, but it still needs help to stick to most surfaces well.

It also has to be top coated for the best durability. Check out this post to learn more about how to chalk paint furniture.

Read through my comparison between milk paint vs chalk paint to learn more.

Best Milk Paint For Furniture

There are a few different brands of milk paint for furniture, but the best brand in my opinion is Shackteau Interiors milk paint which I also used in this Antique Pie Crust Table Makeover.

It’s very pigmented so it has great coverage. They have the best selection of colors too!

Other great brands of milk paint are The Real milk paint (it doesn’t chip very much, even when you try to), Miss Mustard Seed milk paint, and Sweet Pickins milk paint.

Check out this stunning navy blue milk painted dresser using Miss Mustard Seed milk paint.

Rustoleum milk paint and General Finishes milk paint are not the same. Get my Rustoleum milk paint review here. And read about painting with General Finishes milk paint here.

Check out more milk painted furniture ideas here!

How to Use Milk Paint on Furniture

rustic blue milk painted dresser

Milk paint is a unique way to update old furniture pieces or give new ones a rustic, farmhouse finish. Here's how to use milk paint on furniture.

Instructions

  1. Repair any damage on the old furniture then clean with a degreaser and prep the dresser for paint.
  2. Mix 1 part water to 1 part milk paint powder, mix it together really well, or shake it up, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. For chippy paint finish, add some Extra Bond to the milk paint mixture and let the paint sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Apply 2 coats of milk paint, letting it dry between coats (within 30 minutes usually).
  5. Seal the milk painted dresser with soft wax then add your hardware!

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empire dresser before painting with milk paint

3 Comments

  1. Teresa Holder says:

    Thank you for showing me about how to get smoke out of furniture . I thought I had the answer but I didn’t I only had half th answer.
    I just love watching you repaint furniture and showing me how to do it right,that’s what I love about your show too all your help with painting and how to re-do furniture , how to re-surface finishes that’s my favorite .

  2. That is such a unique and beautiful color. I wouldn’t change it.

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