Recommended Preparation before Painting Furniture

Do you really know what your little gem has been exposed to over the years? Don`t learn the hard way, follow our rule of thumb to help make your project a success.

Always use Cottage Paint Furniture “Clean and Prep” to remove waxy film build up, dirt or grime before painting. This is one of the most important steps before painting
your furniture piece.


The Age of your Furniture Matters! 1950’s and Earlier

Recommended preparation for furniture that has stood the test of time and is coated in Waxes, Oils or French Polish.

Furniture that lived through this period and earlier usually was coated with wax or oil at some point in time. There is a possibility that the surface could have been initially sealed with lacquer or varnish but in my experience there is always something to be removed. Sometimes the wax is so perfect and shiny you would think it was varnished. I have been fooled a few times so I always use Cottage Paint “Clean and Prep” to quickly reveal the truth. This cleaner was formulated to remove problematic surface contaminants like WAXES and OILS.

Do not use this product as a general cleaner.
It is specifically designed to prepare a surface for painting.

Other cleaners like TSP will remove oil but not wax and Mineral Spirits and steel-wool will remove wax but YUK, who wants to use that! "Clean and Prep" is water based and is environmentally safe. However, like any cleaner that actually works, there maybe some irritating factors so use gloves and ventilate the area. It depends on your level of sensitivity.



Simply spray the surface ensuring you cover the entire area. Let it soak for up to 1 minute then wipe with
a clean cotton cloth. If something is found on the cloth then you know it had something on it. Continue
multiple applications until the area wipes clean. If there is just too much stuff to remove you may choose
to prime the furniture. Typically, where ever the dust would accumulate on the furniture piece is where you
will find the most wax and oil build up.
Wiping an area with cleaner applied on the cloth, will remove nothing. The product must soak on the surface
allowing it to penetrate and loosen the contaminants.
Longer is not better so please only allow it to sit for a minute or so. I had the cleaner drip down the side
and go under the container where I left it overnight. The next day I lifted the container and found where
the cleaner stayed wet it had continued working all night and removed the lacquer as well, right back to
the wood. Oh, how I hate learning the hard way! So I share this with you so you don’t have to.
One more thing about using the cleaner. After you are satisfied that you have removed all the wax, let the
furniture sit for a while. Go have a coffee or if need be, a glass of wine. If the surface has become soft or
tacky, don’t worry, it will harden up again as it dries. Do not paint over the surface until it is completely dry.
This could take a few hours. Better safe than sorry.

1960’s and Later

Recommended preparation for lacquered or varnished furniture.

In my experience the furniture that has not been around for too long is usually less troublesome to paint. In most cases, you just clean off the spray wax or oil soap and you're ready to go. NO sanding No Stripping NO priming. Usually the furniture is sealed with either a lacquer or varnish and is still in good shape. Meeting all the requirements of being clean, sealed and sound. Go ahead and paint.

1. Should I ever use a primer?

Yes, there are a number of reasons why you need to use a primer.

Upon cleaning your furniture you find there is no lacquer or varnish. It had been waxed from day one and the wax is in the grain of the wood and no cleaner in the world is going to remove that. Bare wood and wax sounds like a good chance of paint cracking and discoloring in the near future if you do not prime. However, if you do not mind the cracks, in fact you find they add to the vintage look, then go ahead and paint. But what about the exposed wood? If the wood has tannins, knots and you use a light colored paint, then maybe not today or tomorrow but 6 months down the road you will start to see an ugly yellowish huge seeping through your wonderfully painted masterpiece.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I guess I am not the only one that learns the hard way! You could choose to use a darker colour of paint, then those tannins don’t look so bad, in fact, it may add to the vintage look. We call them


2. What primer should I use?

Primers vary and are designed for specific applications.

A) Pine Knots are the worst. I don’t think the wood realizes it is no longer a tree. Those knots can keep bleeding and bleeding. Honestly, I am not sure if there is anything on the market that will block those knots forever. It just delays it's grand debut.
Your best shot is to use two coats of a white pigmented shellac primer and let it sit overnight. This can also be used if you need to touch up a previous project because a knot is rearing its ugly head through the paint. Simply apply two coats and leave it over night, then re-paint the next day. Good thing furniture surfaces are small and sectioned off making corrections easy.

B) Bare wood might cause problems. You can either have a new unfinished piece of furniture or maybe you have removed all the wax and are left with a unfinished surface.

Yes, Cottage Paint can be applied directly on to bare wood.

You may need to lightly sand in between coats if the paint lifts the grain and makes it rough, but it will cover amazingly and stick like glue. You may still have the issue of cracking if there is wax in the grain or bleeding if tannins are present. Choosing a darker colour can help eliminate bleeding problems in the future if tannins are present.

Excuse me if I`m starting to sound like a broken record!

You may need to prime depending on the type of wood. Mahogany, Knotty Pine and Walnut have lots of tannins and need to be primed to stop the paint from discolouring. There are lots of primers on the market to help you with this issue. As mentioned above, a white pigmented shellac primer is good.

3. But those primers are white and I wanted to rub back to the original surface and expose the wood, not the white primer.



Cottage Paint has the solution! Clear Furniture Primer We have developed a CLEAR primer that can help in a number of situations. Clear Furniture Primer will SEAL bare wood and BLOCK most stains while remaining flexible to BRIDGE cracks that can occur over a contaminated surface.




It is ideal for an older piece of furniture coated with wax. Or maybe you`ve painted a piece without cleaning it properly and have a few cracks forming in the painted surface. Simply apply one coat of this WATER BASED primer. Then let it sit overnight and you may re-paint the following day. However, depending on your painting and visual skills, a second coat, applied a few hours later, might eliminate missed areas. It can be tricky to see where you have painted because it is clear.

It is easy when you know how!

4.What should I do if the furniture has gouges and bumps on the surface?

Unfortunately, Cottage Paint will not hide these imperfections. Depending on how vintage you want your piece to look you may decide to not worry about it and paint right over it. But if you want to repair the surface and fill holes and gouges, use a spackling compound (not wood filler) and lightly sand to a smooth finish. Wood fillers can bleed and discolour the paint. Bumps can be scraped or sanded smooth so they will not be seen once painted. Damaged veneers can be removed and the area can also be filled with a spackling compound and sanded smooth.


5. How do I know if I have prepared my furniture well enough?

Due to a wide variety of products used on furniture in the past and newly develop finishes of today it is always recommended that you paint a small test panel on the furniture to help foresee an undesirable result. It is also a good idea before painting the entire piece, to clean a small area such as a cabinet door or drawer front with the Furniture Clean and Prep and then complete the chosen applications to see the final result. This will help you solve any potential issues with the original surface and ensure that you will be pleased with the colour and techniques you have chosen to apply to the furniture or cabinetry. This especially holds true for those who are taking on a large project such as kitchen cabinetry. After painting over 20 doors in a kitchen, it is not the time to decide you are unhappy with the end result or you discover that stains are bleeding through, when you apply the top coat. Once again, you do not want to learn the hard way.

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