Milk Paint 101 - How to Care for Refinished Furniture - Fresh Coat Finishes

Milk Paint 101 - How to Care for Refinished Furniture

Written By Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint Team

I’ve got lots of posts here on my blog to help you learn how to paint furniture (see other Milk Paint 101 articles here). But what happens AFTER you’ve finished painting? How soon can you use your piece? Can it be cleaned? What happens if you spill water on it?

Whether you refinish for yourself or for clients, it’s important to know how to care for refinished furniture long after you’ve put in the hard work to make it beautiful!

How to care for refinished furniture

Let Your Finish Cure

The first step of refinished furniture care is to make sure you give your brand-new Miss Mustard Seed’s MilkPaint finish time to dry AND cure. Dry time and cure time are often confused with one another, so let’s talk about the differences between the two.

Dry Time - How long it takes a finish to be dry to the touch. Dry time will vary depending on the type of finish you’re using, how heavily you applied the finish and what the temperature/humidity is in your area. On average, MMS MilkPaint takes about 30 minutes to an hour to fully dry to the touch. Our topcoats can take upwards of 24-48 hours to be dry to the touch, depending on how thickly they were applied, and how dry the surface is.

Furniture Wax

Cure Time - How long it takes your finish to reach its maximum hardness and be ready for its recommended daily use. All of our finishes take 20-30 days (about 3-4 weeks) to fully and completely cure (not dry).

The best example of this difference is to think about concrete or painting your nails. When concrete stairs, pavers or walkways are poured, they need time to sit in their molds and cure. If you walk on un-cured concrete, you’ll leave a footprint behind! If you paint your nails and wait for 10 minutes while they dry, you may still damage them if you reach into your purse to tip your nail technician. Why? The polish was dry, but it wasn’t cured.

Make sense?

It’s also super important to make sure your finish has cured before you clean it! (We’ll tell you how to clean furniture in a second.)

Use Coasters and Trivets

Protecting your refinished furniture from liquid spills and heat damage is easy! This coaster is protecting a hot cup of coffee from damaging an antique side table. The top was left in its natural state and was protected with 2 thin coats of our Furniture Wax.

Cup on coaster on refinished table

Using coasters under your sweating glasses of iced tea and hot cups of morning coffee prevent heat and water rings. How many of you have bought antiques that had white or black rings on the top? They’re all evidence of heat and water damage!

On larger pieces, like buffets and kitchen tables, pop a trivet under hot casserole dishes or punch bowls.

When you do spill something on your piece (because let’s face it, we’re all human), wipe it up promptly.

Liquid spilled on refinished table

Wipe up spills promptly

Protect From Scratches

Felt, foam and plastic feet are a quick and easy solutions for preventing scratches on your refinished furniture. Take this faux plant for example.

Faux plant in pot on refinished table

Adorable as it is, the pot is made from a rough textured clay. By adhering some little foam furniture feet to the bottom, it’s now safe and won’t scratch the wood surface underneath (which is sealed in our Furniture Wax, by the way).

Pot with protectors on bottom

Felt feet can be purchased from the dollar store and are lifesavers at market events - especially if you have to stack your furniture!

Table runners, dresser scarves and place mats will keep your tables protected from cutlery, alarm clocks and bowls of cereal. Plus, they’re a great way to bring in fun patterns and textures to your space!

How to Clean Painted Furniture

When it comes to cleaning your refinished furniture, less is best. Dry microfiber cloths or lint-free shop towels are great for dusting! For quick clean ups, use a barely damp microfiber cloth or paper towel to gently wipe surfaces down.

If your surface requires deep cleaning because of grease or grime build-up, add a speck of a strong dish detergent (like blue Dawn or Palmolive) to your barely damp rag. You can also use a touch of vinegar.

It’s important to know that soap and cleansers will break down your finish over time.


It’s because natural products don’t have any added chemicals in them. That’s what makes them natural, right? Because of that lack of chemicals, they can be broken down by cleansers, resulting in a decrease in durability.

Now don’t get us wrong, our finishes are durable and can hold up to every day use. And to be clear, no finish is bullet-proof, and all finishes need to be maintained in some way. But if you want a rock hard finish that’s impervious to water, like a marine finish, you’re going to need products with chemicals to do that.

Here at Miss Mustard Seed’s® Milk Paint, we’re all about chemical-free products that you can use at home to safely create and maintain gorgeous finishes.

Oh, and before you clean your Milk Paint finish, make sure it has cured first!

The Big No-No’s

There are a few big no-no’s when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your refinished furniture. Always avoid the use of furniture polish, dusting spray and oil soap. These products contain silicone and other chemicals that are difficult (if not impossible) to remove from the surface. These will contaminate your finish for future re-coating, and will cause adhesion issues if you ever choose to change the color down the road.

How many of you have come across a stubborn project that will not accept a new finish? In our experience, pieces that were “Pledged to death” can be a real pain in the tush to paint! Now you know why!

Liveable Finishes

Miss Mustard Seed once described our finishes as “liveable”, meaning they’re easy to live with, fix and maintain. These products are available both on this website and in my store in Bath, NH.

One of the other benefits of refinishing furniture yourself is that you know exactly which products were used. When it comes time to reapply your topcoat, or touch up a scratch, you know what color and topcoat to grab from the shelf.

Paint brush applying wax to refinished furniture

If you got your furniture from a big box store, who knows what products they used? Plus, you probably couldn’t replicate their refinishing process anyway, because your home isn’t a furniture factory. (At least ours isn’t…)

Have Realistic Expectations

We’re ending on one of the most important aspects of caring for refinished furniture - having realistic expectations.

Most people don’t have their refinished furniture sitting in a stuffy living room where no one is allowed to sit and everything has plastic over it anymore. Your refinished pieces are meant to be used…so use them!

Home setting with refinished table

Here’s the thing - life happens in every home! Kids are kids, pets are pets and teenagers are…well…gross (just kidding). There will be spilled juice, scuff marks from the vacuum and scratches here and there - it’s inevitable. It happens in our homes and we know it happens in yours too!

So expect your refinished furniture to require some tender love and care through the years. No finish is bullet-proof, but the products from Miss Mustard Seed’s® MilkPaint are durable and safe to use on your furniture. They’re easy to source, easy to apply and easy to maintain.


A note from Nancy:

What great info from the team at Miss Mustard Seed's MilkPaint! Please feel free to message me with any questions. If I don't know the answer, I'll talk to the experts and get you the info you need.

Happy Painting!

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