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How to Seal Painted Furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Protect newly painted furniture by sealing it with a protective finish. You also can protect older furniture from further wear with a clear finish coat. Choose a glossy finish to highlight new or well-preserved paint. A matt finish lacks shine, so it will not detract from the beauty of softly worn paint. Choose an acrylic finish if you do not know whether the surface is painted with oil or latex. Acrylic finish will adhere to either.

Wipe your furniture with a tack cloth when the painted surface is completely dry. A tack cloth is a sticky piece of cheesecloth that picks up dust and lint that could mar the protective finish. Tack cloths are available at stores that sell paint and finish.

Use oil-based polyurethane on oil paint and water-based polyurethane on latex paint. Stir the polyurethane so any material on the bottom of the can is dispersed throughout the finish. Do not shake polyurethane to mix it as that will cause bubbles in the finish.

Apply a thin coat of finish with a foam brush or a good synthetic-bristle brush. Paint in the direction of the wood grain, if visible. Stir the finish frequently as you paint.

Let water-based polyurethane dry two hours between coats. Oil-based polyurethane requires four to six hours to dry. Apply three coats of water-based polyurethane or two or three coats of oil-based. Sand lightly with fine sand paper and wipe with a tack cloth between coats.

Allow to dry 24 hours after the last coat of polyurethane before using the furniture.

Use an acrylic finish when you do not know what type of paint you are covering. Acrylic will work on all types of paint.

Wash the furniture and let it dry completely. Sand off any loose paint. Wipe the dry furniture with a tack cloth to remove any dust or other debris.

Stir the finish so any material on the bottom of the can is dispersed throughout the finish. Do not shake as that will cause bubbles in the finish.

Apply a thin coat of finish with a foam brush or a good synthetic-bristle brush. Paint in the direction of the wood grain, if visible. Stir the finish frequently as you paint.

Let the piece dry at least two hours between coats. Apply a total of three coats. Sand lightly with fine sand paper and wipe with a tack cloth between coats. Allow the furniture to dry three hours before handling and 24 hours before use.

Warning

Protect your work surface with newspaper or a dust sheet. Work in a well-ventilated area.

Things You'll Need

  • Tack cloth
  • Polyurethane or acrylic finish
  • Stirring stick
  • Sponge brush or good synthetic-bristle brush
  • 220 grit sandpaper
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About the Author

Camela Bryan's first published article appeared in "Welcome Home" magazine in 1993. She wrote and published SAT preparation worksheets and is also a professional seamstress who has worked for a children's theater as a costume designer and in her own heirloom-sewing business. Bryan has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Florida.