Rust-oleum Milk Paint Review

This week I tried Rust-oleum’s milk paint. And I was completely surprised by it! So here’s my Rust-oleum Milk Paint Review.

Learn more about the different types of paint for furniture here.

Mismatched nightstands before getting painted

I picked these nightstands up from our local thrift store. One was $15 and the other was $25.

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But they were around the same height and size… so you know what that means? Yep, I decided then and there that I would make them into a mismatched set of nightstands.

Single nightstands are hard to sell, and I can see why! I don’t have a use for a single nightstand or end table. So when I can make a pair from two different tables, I jump for the opportunity.

Supplies Used for This Rust-Oleum Milk Paint Review

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Prepping Nightstands for Paint

First I got the tables ready for paint… the way that I get almost every piece of furniture ready for paint. Learn more about how to prepare furniture for paint here.

We removed the hardware. The hardware on the drum table was nailed in as well as screwed in, so I had to pry them off.

Removing old hardware from a nightstand

And then I filled in the 3 fake drawer hardware holes with Kwikwood. Learn why I love to use Kwikwood to fill old hardware holes in this post about how to change hardware on furniture.

Learn more about how to use KwikWood here and check out the best wood fillers for furniture here.

Then my husband cleaned the tables with Krud Kutter to remove any grease, oils or grime that was possibly left on the surface. Learn more about how to clean furniture before painting here.

After the hardware hole filler was dry, I sanded it down smooth and level with the wood around it.

I also took a couple of minutes to tape off the drawers so I wouldn’t get paint on the sides or inside of each drawer. Learn more about how to prevent overspray when painting furniture here!

And then I sprayed them with 2 coats of shellac to help make the paint stick. This stuff is kind of like primer, but it’s clear, so you don’t see it under the paint.

And yeah, it blows my mind that this stuff makes paint stick as well as it does. Here’s what they looked like after 2 coats of clear shellac.

Check out the best primers for painting furniture (and how to choose the right one) here.

Square topped nightstand after two coats of clear shellac

Paint Nightstands with Rust-oleum Milk Paint

For these tables, I tried the Rust-oluem milk paint in the color Eclipse. I used my Zibra round paint brush to brush the paint on everywhere, using the paint straight out of the container.

The round brush is my favorite paintbrush because the shape of it makes it so easy to paint flat surfaces as well as curved surfaces and all of the detail that is on furniture.

Check out the best paint brushes for painting furniture here.

I tried to paint in long brush strokes that went with the wood grain so it would minimize the brush marks left behind. If you really don’t like brush marks in your finish, then check out this post on how to paint furniture without brush marks.

I was surprised by the first coat. It didn’t have as good of coverage as I was expecting for black paint. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised because it says on the container how you can build it up to an opaque finish.

Honestly, I think it might be a great paint to do a wash with.

Here’s what it looked like when it was dry. But when I felt it… I was completely shocked. It felt super gritty and chalky.. not smooth at all!

Top view of round nightstand after one coat of black milk paint

It felt more like powdered milk paint can feel. Actually, I think it’s even more gritty than powdered milk paint.

I was expecting this paint to be more like General Finishes milk paint than the real milk paint that comes in a powder. Learn how to use powdered milk paint on furniture here.

Sanding Between Coats

So, before I painted the next coat, I sanded it all smooth with fine sandpaper. Learn more about sandpaper for furniture painting here.

Sanding the first coat of paint down smooth

And I mixed the paint more just to make sure the grittiness wasn’t just a user error. And then I painted a second coat all over.

Painting a second coat of Rust-oleum milk paint

Here’s what it looked like after the second coat of paint was dry.

Square nightstand after two coats of paint
Sanding the nightstand again after the second coat of paint dries

The second coat of paint was still very gritty, so I had to sand it smooth again.

At this point, I gave up my hope to have these pieces not distressed. I could have switched to a different paint if I really wanted them to not be distressed.

But if you really want the distressed look, check out the 6 best distressing furniture techniques here!

But I wanted this makeover to be a true Rust-oleum Milk Paint makeover. And with how gritty the paint is when it dries, I wouldn’t want to not sand it smooth.

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Topcoat Milk Painted Nightstands

So after everything was smooth, and the dust cleaned off, I got ready to topcoat the milk paint. Check out this post to learn all about the options of topcoats for painting furniture.

First I stirred my favorite water-based polyurethane really good. (Yep, stirring is super important!) And then I poured it into a separate container, and I mixed a little bit of the milk paint into it to tint it.

I’ve found that tinting the water-based poly with the paint helps the poly finish look much better. And it helps hide streaks and the fogginess that you can see especially in dark paint colors.

milk paint and polyurethane mixed together and a sponge

I used a mesh filter to try to filter out any of the grittiness from the milk paint. And then I used a tile grout sponge to wipe the poly onto the milk paint.

Using a tile grout sponge to wipe on the top coat

I’m definitely not very experienced with applying poly by hand… but I tried to work quickly, without going over the same areas more than once or twice. Here’s how to apply polycrylic to painted furniture by hand.

I personally prefer to spray poly on with either a spray can or my paint sprayer, but I know it’s not always possible to… so I’m trying to figure out the best way to apply it by hand and avoid getting streaks and fogginess.

Maybe a foam roller would be better? If you have perfected the science of applying poly by hand, especially over dark colors, please share in the comments!

Anyway, after the first coat was dry, here is what the tops looked like in the light.

Top view of round black nightstand after one coat of polyurethane

The way I wiped it on left some ridges behind, so I sanded the tops down to remove those ridges. And then I applied two more coats of poly.

Watch how we transformed these thrifted end tables with Rust-oleum milk paint here:

Here’s what they look like now.

Closeup of Rust-oleum milk painted mismatched nightstands
Mismatched pair of nightstands painted with Rust-oleum milk paint

More Before And After Makeovers

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

Square and round mismatched nightstands painted in Rust-oleum milk paint
Close up of black milk painted round top nightstand with hardware

I put the hardware from the drum table on both pieces, and I love the traditional look that they give these antique pieces.

Rust-oleum Milk Paint Review

Overall, I’m really happy with how they turned out. The distressed look is definitely not what I imagined when I started this makeover…But that’s the look you get with this paint.

It did even chip a little bit on the top like powdered milk paint does.

The paint is so interesting. It’s kind of a mix between the real powdered casein milk paint, and chalk paint. Check out my comparison between milk paint vs chalk paint here.

What do you think of this makeover?

How Durable is Rust-oleum Milk Paint?

Just for fun, I scratched at it after the 2nd coat of paint to make sure the paint was sticking well. It didn’t scratch off at all! It did leave some marks behind, but that’s typical for matte paint.

Scratching the Rust-oleum milk painted nightstand after the 2nd coat

I even painted it on another piece of wood from a different furniture makeover, without prepping it at all… and scratched at that one to see what it would do without the cleaning and shellac.

Yep, that one scratched right off. But I tested it again after a week or so, and it isn’t scratching off anymore!

Does Rust-oleum Milk Paint Need a Top Coat?

Yes! Without a topcoat, milk paint is very porous. Even lightly touching it will leave white marks.

So as you may imagine, setting anything on it, and daily use will leave marks all over it, and will most likely scratch it up.

A top coat of either water-based polyurethane or wax will make the milk paint more durable, but it will also make it wipeable, and less dusty looking.

I personally prefer Varathane’s water-based polyurethane because it’s extra durable and it dries and cures quickly. Check out the best polyurethane for furniture here.

But wax is a great alternative if you don’t mind less durability and waiting longer for it to fully dry.

Is Rust-oleum Milk Paint Real Milk Paint?

No. Rust-oleum milk paint is not a real casein milk paint like powdered milk paint is. But it does seem to act similar to real milk paint (it doesn’t chip like real milk paint though!)

It feels gritty like real milk paint does, and it distresses beautifully as well. It’s also really good for creating a washed look.

It’s already mixed up so you don’t have to mix powder and water together as you do with real milk paint.

Do I Have to Sand Before Using Milk Paint?

No.. and Yes. Rustoleum Milk Paint will stick to wood furniture that hasn’t been even lightly sanded. But will it stick well enough??

What Happened When We Tested NOT Sanding

I actually brushed it on a finished piece of wood that came from another furniture makeover. I had cleaned it, but I didn’t prep it any other way.

For the first couple of days, it scratched off very easily with just my fingernail. Then I tested it again after a week had gone by, and it is barely scratching off.

I’m going to guess (and I’ll try to update this later) that once it dries for a month that it will not scratch anymore.

Priming Instead of Sanding

On the other hand, I prepped these nightstands by cleaning and then priming them with clear shellac. I didn’t scuff sand before painting.

The paint did not scratch off at all even a few hours after I painted the second coat on. The clear shellac is the biggest difference here!

Best Practice for Best Durability

If you want the most durable painted finish, you’ll need to take some time to lightly sand the wood furniture with 220 grit sandpaper to make sure the Rust-oleum milk paint has the best adhesion.

Learn more about the importance of sanding before painting furniture here.

Painting Furniture with Rust-oleum Milk Paint | Rust-oleum Milk Paint Review

black mismatched pair of nightstands painted with Rust-oleum milk paint

This paint is quite surprising! Here's how to paint furniture with Rust-oleum milk paint.


  1. Get your furniture ready for paint by removing the old hardware and filling in the hardware holes. After the hardware hole filler dries, sand it down smooth and level with the wood around it.
  2. Clean the furniture with a degreaser to remove any grease, oils or grime.
  3. Prime with 2 coats of shellac to help make the paint stick.
  4. Apply 2 coats of of Rust-oleum milk paint onto the furniture, drying and sanding them smooth between coats.
  5. After everything is smooth, and the dust is cleaned off, seal your milk painted furniture with 3 coats of waterbased polyurethane using a sponge.
  6. Attach new furniture hardware.

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Black painted nightstands with text overlay rust-oleum milk paint review
Mismatched nightstands before getting painted

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