Surface Prep (and when it’s needed!)

Chalk Paint®decorative paint by Annie Sloan can be used on most surfaces, indoors and out, without the need to sand or prime. Most times simply dusting off the surface will do, but on rare occasions a surface will require an additional step or two.

When to Clean

Wash away any noticeable dirt and grim with a grease-cutting biodegradable cleaner and warm water. Use a cloth or soft abrasive pad on flat surfaces and a soft scrub brush to work into open grain. Take care to not saturate the surface. Be sure to rinse well with clean water and then let the piece dry completely. Avoid using harsh cleaners or solvents as they can prevent the paint from adhering.

Special Note: For years I have trusted Dirtex from Savogran to clean my wooden furniture. On harder surfaces, such as melamine, laminate, ceramics and metals I use Savogran’s Liquid TSP Substitute.

When to Sand

A surface should be sanded when you need to:

  • Remove loose paint, rust, and other surface debris

  • Scuff up a very glossy surface

  • Break the surface tension of hard finishes such as melamine, laminates, or ceramics

  • Smooth any imperfections before painting a smoother finish

Use medium or fine grit sandpaper. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain never perpendicular to it or at an angle. Hand sanding is preferable, but a light-duty sander can make sanding go faster. Change out your piece of sandpaper when it becomes clogged a fresh sheet makes the task at hand easier to accomplish. Remove any sanding dust with a brush or damp cloth. It's wise to wear a dust mask while sanding.

Chalk Paint® will slow down corrosion, but rust will likely reappear over time, especially if the object is placed outdoors. To prevent this, remove the rust by sanding the affected areas with medium grit sandpaper. Then wash with soap and water, rinse well, and dry quickly with a hair dryer. Finally, apply a metal primer with a rust inhibitor to seal the surface.

When to Apply Clear Shellac

A surface should be sealed with clear shellac when you need to:

  • Stop yellow or pink stains from tannins found in wood knots or open grains (particularly true for pine, oak, and certain mahoganies), or colors from non-permanent wood stains, from bleeding up through new paint layers

  • Seal areas that have been repaired with wood fillers or spackling or touched up with a stain pen

  • Seal surfaces that were exposed to nicotine and smoke, soot stains, water rings, coffee and tea stains, permanent markers, saline stains, etc.

  • Lock in unpleasant odors

The easiest and most effective way to apply shellac is to wipe on one or two coats with a cloth pad. Wearing a pair of disposable gloves, dip a cloth into the shellac and wipe a thin coat over the surface. Shellac dries in minutes and cleanup is easy the rag and gloves can simply be tossed away! Shellac can also be applied by brush or spray, but care should be taken to avoid any heavy buildup. Shellac should always be applied in thin layers; if applied too thickly it can cause subsequent paint layers to crack or even peel away.

Pre-mixed shellac is perishable and has a limited shelf life. Cans are marked with their date of manufacture. Zinsser® Bulls Eye® Shellac, a popular brand, uses a date code. For example, let’s say a can is marked with the code S95079D. The first number after the letter S is the last digit in the year of manufacture. The second number corresponds to the month. The third and fourth numbers relate to the day of the month. This can was manufactured on May 7, 2019.

Since storage conditions can greatly affect its shelf life, always check the manufacturing date to find the freshest shellac. Shellac typically expires 6 to 9 months after the date of manufacturer (Zinsser® Bulls Eye® Shellac is guaranteed for 3 years after the date of manufacture when stored properly). To ensure the long life of shellac, keep the container tightly closed and store in a dry place where the temperature does not exceed 75° Fahrenheit or 23° Celsius. Extreme heat can ruin shellac in less than a week! There is no need to worry about cold weather; since shellac is alcohol-based it is unaffected by freezing temperatures.

Clear shellac is both food safe and safe for use on children’s toys and furniture.