How to Chalk Paint Over Stain

Chalk paint is a great medium for refinishing your furniture, as it adheres well with minimal prep. In some cases, it isn’t completely necessary to prime before applying chalk paint.

But what if your old pieces have been previously stained? Will chalk paint still adhere to the surface?

Fortunately, you can use chalk paint over stain after a bit of prep. In this post, we’ll share how to properly prep stained furniture before applying chalk paint. 


You can apply chalk paint over stained furniture as long as you properly prep first. Whether it’s a water-based or oil-based stain, you should degloss the surface with sandpaper or liquid deglosser. Although primer isn’t always required before using chalk paint, you should certainly use it for the most durable final results. 

Can you chalk paint over stained wood?

As long as you prep your furniture properly, you can chalk paint over furniture that has been stained. 

Sanding or applying liquid deglosser to any stained surface is key before applying chalk paint. 

If you fail to do so, your chalk paint won’t adhere very well to the surface. After all, stain basically acts as a barrier between the surface you’re painting and your chalk paint. Stain often has a glossy finish, that doesn’t allow paint to “stick” as well as it would if the surface was roughened up, and had more grip. 

Take the necessary precautions outlined in this post for any of the following stains:

  • Oil-based stains 
  • Water-based stains 
  • Gel stains
  • Lacquer stains

Although finishes are technically different from stains, it’s important to treat any finishes such as polyurethane, varnishes, wax, or polyacrylic before applying chalk paint as well. 

How to use chalk paint over stain

Whether you are working with water-based or oil-based stained surface, adequate prep is required. 

Tools and supplies

  • Chalk paint color of your choice
  • High-quality rollers or brushes
  • Shellac-based primer, or other stain-blocking primers
  • Fine and medium-grit sandpaper
  • Stain/paint stripper such as Citristrip 
  • Drop cloth, or tarp (for protecting walls and floor from dripping paint paint stripper residue)
  • Respiratory mask, goggles, and rubber gloves

Step 1: Prep your area

Before getting started, it’s important to prepare your area. Choose a room in your house to work ideally with good airflow. Spread drop cloths or old tarps on your floor and put plastic over your walls if painting in a small space. Also, open all windows to improve air circulation since paint stripper and primer can produce strong odors that can be unpleasant or even harmful to breathe in in poorly ventilated areas. Keep fans running if you have them.

Step 2: Remove hardware (if any)

If you’re not painting over the furniture hardware, remove the hardware before the next step of the process. Put the pieces in a resealable bag or a container, to avoid losing them. 

Otherwise, leave them on your furniture. Chalk paint will adhere well to metal and plastic as long as they’re properly cleaned and primed. 

Step 3: Remove the stain

There are two ways you can remove stains from furniture: liquid stain remover, or using sandpaper. 

Using liquid stain remover 

Stain and paint removers such as Citristrip and Klean Strip are incredibly efficient ways to remove stains from furniture. These solutions essentially dissolve the stain so that you can easily scrape it off the furniture. The best part is that the solution breaks down the stain in an hour or less in most cases. As a safety precaution, use rubber gloves, goggles, and a respiratory mask. Although Citristrip has a pleasant scent and is nontoxic, it has a strong scent nevertheless. 

To use Citristrip to remove the stain, follow the steps below: 

  • Pour however much Citristrip you need to cover your furniture into a pail
  • Take a cheap brush that you wouldn’t mind ruining and dip it into the Citristip 
  • Brush the solution onto your furniture generously 
  • Cover the furniture bit by bit in the solution until it’s completely covered 
  • Allow the Citristrip to sit for 30 minutes 
  • Use a putty knife to test scrape an area to see if the stain comes off easily. If it doesn’t, leave the Citristrip site for another 30 minutes

Repeat the last step and give the furniture some more time. In most cases, the stain should come off easily at this point. However, in rare stubborn cases, you may need to wrap the furniture in cling wrap and let the Citristrip sit overnight.

Using sandpaper (scuff sanding by hand or with palm sander)

Using sandpaper is arguably a messier solution compared to Citristrip. After all, when you sand furniture, you essentially release wood dust into the air, which can get all over your living space. Sanding your furniture outside can prevent this of course.

No matter what though, sanding is undoubtedly more of a manual process. With Citrsrip, you simply brush the solution on, while with sanding you must scuff down the entire surface and every nook and cranny on it. It can take longer to use it than Citrstrip in most cases.

Nevertheless, it’s a foolproof method. It works like a charm to remove the stain and roughen the surface up so that your chalk paint has some grip to adhere to.

Just like like when using Citristrip, be sure to use a respirator mask to avoid inhaling sand dust. You can rub fine grit (around 220 grit) sandpaper on your furniture with a sanding block in smooth even strokes. After a few passes, you should be able to remove the stain from the furniture bit by bit.

To make the job easier, use a palm sander. This device certainly takes much of the labor out of the process. 

Step 4. Clean the surface

Whether you sanded to your furniture or applied stain stripper to it, it’s important to clean off your furniture before painting. Furniture covered in dust from sanding or residue from the Citristrip will prevent paint or primer from adhering to the surface. 

For cleaning your furniture off after sanding, mix a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid with warm water in a small pail. Then, dampen a lint-free cloth and start wiping your furniture. Regularly rinse out the cloth to relieve it of the built-up sand dust, and resoak it in the solution. Make sure to get on every nook and cranny of the piece.

For cleaning your furniture off after using Citristrip, you may need to take extra measures to remove the dried Citristrip residue from your furniture. Mineral spirits and denatured alcohol are stronger solutions that work wonders to remove the Citristrip remnants. 

After, wipe dry with another lint-free cloth. And let the piece fully air dry.

Step 5. Apply primer

Once the furniture has been sufficiently cleaned off, you can apply the primer.

With most furniture, you can use a multi-purpose latex-based primer such as Zinsser 123. However, for dark woods such as mahogany or oak, use a shellac-based primer such as Zinsser BIN. 

Dark woods tend to be high in tannins which is a chemical in tree sap. Tannins can bleed through multiple coats of paint with a yellowish hue, which can ruin a project. Yellow stains in white paint are particularly noticeable. Shellac-based primer is formulated to block these stains from coming through your top layer of paint. Remember to stir your primer well before application.

Apply your primer with a brush or roller in long, even strokes. 

Read the manufacturer’s instructions about the dry time of the primer. Most primers dry in less than an hour. 

Step 6: Start painting

Before painting, stir your paint well. Pour as much paint as you need for the project into a small pail. Dip the end of your brush into your paint and lightly brush back and forth along the surface. Reapply small amounts of paint at a time for even coverage and brush in long, even strokes. 

For rollers, pour the chalk paint into a paint pan first, then load your roller. Smoothly apply the paint in one direction until the furniture is fully covered.

Once the paint has dried, apply another coat to ensure there is no bleedthrough and for the best durability.

Step 7: Apply a topcoat

Wax is the most common topcoat for chalk paint since it dries with a matte finish that compliments chalk paint. However, it has a learning curve for application and takes more time to remove if you want to repaint your furniture. Consider using water-based polyurethanes,  polycrylic, or even varnish for chalk paint. These top coats offer more protection and need less refinishing and maintenance over time.

If you’re looking for a unique look you can even stain over chalk paint.

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