Top Problems with Chalk Paint & How to Fix Them

First of all, I have to tell you where I’m writing this blog post and how awkward I feel lol. I’m writing this blog post on Friday, and if you watched my Instagram stories from today, then you know I managed to essentially break Brandon’s car this morning… he had to pick me up from a parking lot and drop me off at work, then we had to get his car towed. A colleague drove me to Brandon’s medical school (I forgot I didn’t have house keys) and so now I’m waiting on him to finish few a few lectures. But there are SO many people here! It’s Friday, so obviously this teacher is in jeans and a comfy sweater. Everyone else around here dressed professionally, in white coats, or in scrubs. I DO NOT FIT IN LOL, and based upon the looks I’m getting, everyone around here is very puzzled by my appearance lol.

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Now let’s get to it –

If you’ve been following my blog and Instagram for the past month, then you know that I went through a lot of obstacles with chalk painting our new bedroom nightstand (find the post HERE to read about the Beginner’s Guide to Using Chalk Paint to Achieve a Distressed Vintage Finish). I’ve faced issues with Chalk Paint before, but never so many issues on one piece. Some of these problems I’ve seen before, some I hadn’t. I did the research, tested methods, failed miserably, then researched some more, and retested – all so you don’t have to! I’m breaking down some of the top problems with chalk painting, and how to combat them (or prevent them from happening at all)! Now Chalk Paint is known for being amazing for requiring no prep and practically sticks to anything BUT every now and then, you get some problems…. this is where this blog post comes in!

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Problem #1: Pink or Brown Bleed Through or Oil Stains

This old problem… it’s the worst, truly. Pink or brown will start to bleed through after a first coat of paint. No matter how many coats of paint you apply on top, the stain comes back. It’s such a major bummer. These stains come from a variety of things, but mostly if you are working with new wood (unfinished) and the tannins bleed through or a previous oil-based finish (common in pieces from the 1930s-40s) bleeds through (head to Annie Sloan’s site for more info HERE) Sometimes a colorless oil stain will bleed through also. The same issue though… it won’t go away with a second coat of paint. I had both pink and oil stain bleed through on my piece!

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Pink bleed through on the edge
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Pink spots coming through

The way to prevent this is to apply a coat of clear shellac on the entire piece before starting, especially over wood knots. I like THIS one. Be sure to clean your brush right after (or use a brush you don’t care about) because this does irreversible damage to brushes after it’s dried!

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Faint pink spots coming through
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pink spot bleeds through
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pink spot bleeds through

If you didn’t know your piece would bleed and did a first coat of paint before seeing the bleed through, no worries! Go ahead and seal those areas with the bleed through with the clear shellac. Once thoroughly dried, go back and paint a layer of chalk paint. This happened to me in multiple locations on my nightstand. In most locations, it worked perfectly, however on the top (of course the area I care the most about) it was pretty evident that I had sealed it with shellac and painted on top (it was uneven with the rest of the paint). I took 400 grit sand paper (I like THIS one) and lightly sanded down the raised edges. Then I went back with one last coat of paint (and painted the entire top) and it was perfect!

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Shellac on the pink bleed through, before painting another coat of paint.
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Shellac on the pink bleed through, before painting another coat of paint.
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Shellac on the pink bleed through, before painting another coat of paint.

Problem #2: Paint Peeling

Here’s a problem I didn’t know could happen with Chalk Paint – I had paint peeling off in some sections. This usually occurs if there is a residual oil on the piece that wasn’t taken off before painting. I always clean my piece with Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser, (find it HERE) before painting, and honestly I have never had issues. But, it seems my good ole liquid sander didn’t do the trick this time. After researching, I’ve decided that if I ever had a super old, and dirty piece again, I will use Mineral Spirits (find it HERE) since it is a more intense cleaning solution. Side note – I also use Mineral Spirits to clean my wax brushes, so I usually have it on hand anyway. So moral of the story- when in doubt, clean your piece with a rag and mineral spirits before painting.

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Peeling after trying to paint a few coats to fix it. This is before I used the sanding and shellac trick. 

Now say you didn’t realize there was still a residual oil on your piece (like what happened to me) and you are experiencing peeling, there is still hope! I tried a few methods, but realized the method I’m about to tell you about is the best. Take 220 grit paper (I like THIS one) and go ahead and sand the areas that are peeling. You are trying to sand off any of that substance cause the peeling. During this process, you will sand off some chalk paint. That’s okay, you will fix it in the next step! Once you have sanded off the substance, wipe your piece free of any dust. Seal the area with the clear shellac mentioned above. Once dry, go in and paint a layer of paint on top of where you sanded. Depending on how many coats of paint you’ve done on your piece already, you may need to do 2-3 coats so it is even with the rest of your piece. Now, as it dries, it should look SO much better. But, there may be some areas that are starting to flake a tad. Take your 400 grit sandpaper and gently sand the areas so you are “pressing” the paint back where it should go (not sanding off the paint). I know this is weird to describe, but trust me it, works! Your piece should look flawless after this! From here, you can go ahead with waxing like normal.

Problem #3: Paint Cracking

Thankfully this didn’t happen to me on this piece, but this has happened to me before. Sometimes you paint a piece and as the paint dries it cracks. And I’m not talking the cute chippy, crackle type of cracks. This is a smooth finish and then there is a big ole cracked section running throughout your piece. Not cute. Aside from not properly cleaning and prepping your piece, this is usually due to painting near a heated vent or space heater. It’s important to be painting at room temperature and then to continue to allow your piece to dry in room temperature. Do not speed up the process with a hair dryer, this will cause cracks.

If you get cracks, you can always sand your piece back down and start over. It’s just a huge pain. My advice – take precaution and don’t paint near a heat source from the beginning.

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Problem #4: Dark Waxing before Clear Waxing

Ah don’t do it! Whatever you do, don’t dark wax before you’ve done a coat of clear wax! Okay maybe I’m being a little dramatic, we’ve already established most issues can be resolved by sanding down the paint and starting over… so there’s always that option (it’s just a ginormous pain).

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Dark wax just lightly applied, has not been blended with cheesecloth.
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Dark wax after blending and buffing with cheese cloth.

If you haven’t read my Beginner’s Chalk Paint post (HERE) I explain in more detail how to go about the waxing steps. Essentially, the clear wax does an initial seal of the paint and allows you to add the dark wax with some wiggle room. You are able to remove excess dark wax and work with the piece until it’s just right. If you dark wax before clear waxing, you don’t have this freedom. Wherever you put that dark wax is where it’s staying.

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And there you have it! I am hoping these tips save you from making any mistakes, and if you do happen to find yourself in a pickle, that these tips are able to save you piece! Was this helpful? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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