An Honest Review: Why I Prefer Poly over Wax | Little House of Four - Creating a beautiful home, one thrifty project at a time.: An Honest Review: Why I Prefer Poly over Wax

Monday, February 27, 2017

An Honest Review: Why I Prefer Poly over Wax

A few years ago I got the bright idea to paint over our black/brown IKEA VEJMON side table with an antique white chalk paint followed by clear wax.  As the famous Julia Roberts once said, "Big mistake, big, huge." I loved the brightness the white paint added to our living room, but after a few months it was already showing major wear and tear.  Needless to say, the table got a makeover this weekend and I was sure to seal it with poly instead of wax.

Painted side table sealed with poly

Before I get to the makeover I wanted to take a minute to compare the pros and cons of wax and Polycrylic.

POLYCRYLIC: Clear, ultra fast drying and durable protective top coat.
WAX: Hardens and seals furniture giving it a gloss or buffed appearance.

DURABILITY:  Polycrylic hardens to a durable, wipeable finish and is good for high traffic pieces.  Wax is only a semi-permanent finish and may never harden, making it better suited for show pieces.

WEAR: Wax scratches and stains easily and will wear over time where poly has a much harder finish and is scratch resistant.

FINISH:  You will get an even finish with both products. Poly may leave brush strokes where wax will leave a buffed, smooth finish.

WIPEABLE: Poly is easy to clean and can be wiped down without damaging the surface of your piece.  Wiping furniture that's been sealed with wax is likely to damage the finish and remove the wax.  You'll see in a minute how I damaged our side table trying to wipe up spills and remove stains.

COST: Minwax water based Polycrylic (the brand I use) is about $18.00 for a quart while wax can be upwards of $30+ for less product.

DRY TIME: Wax will dry in a few hours where wax can take days to fully cure.

COLOR: Dark wax allows you to age a piece of furniture where a glaze must be used with poly to to get a similar look.

It really depends on two things.  How much wear will your furniture receive and are you willing to invest time in maintaining the finish of the piece.  Wax can leave a beautiful finish, but it is not permanent and will need to be reapplied often.  After the disaster of my side table I personally like and would recommend using poly over wax.   There's absolutely nothing wrong with using wax, I simply prefer using poly for it's durability. 

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at my chalk painted side table.  I painted it about 3 years ago using an antique white chalk paint and clear wax.  It looked good for a few months, but then it slowly started to stain and show wear.  You'll quickly understand why I prefer to use poly AND why I rarely show this view on the blog.
Painted side tabled sealed with wax

Painted side tabled sealed with wax

 The table doesn't look too bad from far away, but up close was a different story.
Stained and damaged side table sealed with wax

Damage rom waxed side table
The wax had no chance against the abuse of my kids.  Everything and anything they spilled on the table left a stain.  You can see where I tried to wipe off something that was stuck on the table and it completely wiped off wax and paint.  Yeah, not good.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this table has been sitting like this for about 3 years.  This weekend I finally had enough and repainted it with a few coats of black milk paint.
Black milk paint
This is my first time using milk paint and I thought the coverage was great and the paint was very smooth and easy to apply.  I got pretty much full coverage with one coat, but ended up doing two then distressed and sealed it with Minwax water based Polycrylic.
Painted side table sealed with poly
I actually like the white better, but since we'll be replacing our worn out sofa in the near future I went with black.  I think it will be a nice contrast against a light colored sofa.
Painted side table sealed with poly

(The stacked ball lamp is from Target.  I changed the chrome to gold using spray paint and gold leaf Rub 'n Buff)
Side table sealed with poly
Wax can definitely give furniture a beautiful finish, but when it comes down to it, durability wins.   

Why I prefer poly over wax



  1. Love this post because I've a piece that I did recently with chalk paint and wax and it's already starting to look pretty yuck. Can you paint directly over the wax or did you sand yours down first?

  2. I love painting furniture too much. The above pieces are so beautifully made. I'm so inspired with above pieces. I got some old pieces and think to match with my existing furniture see here and hope to get great look as shown above. Anyway, thanks for sharing. see here

  3. Your table looks great, and I LOVE the lamp! Where did you find it please?

    1. Hi Carina! The lamp is from target (there is a link in the post.) I just updated the chrome parts with spray paint and gold leaf run n' buff :)