Chalk Paint Scratches Off with Fingernail? Here is How to Fix

Chalk paint is a popular type of paint that is easy to apply and creates a beautiful, soft finish.

However, depending on the condition of the furniture and how it was prepped, chalk paint can be scratched off with just your fingernail relatively easily.

Chalk paint that easily scratches off with your fingernail can be extremely frustrating, especially if you spent a lot of time painting your furniture.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent chalk paint from scratching off easily. In this post, you will learn the best methods.

Why chalk paint scratches off with your fingernail

You didn’t seal your furniture

If you have recently painted your furniture with chalk paint, once it has cured for long enough, you should seal your furniture.

Finishing wax to coat your chalk-painted furniture is essentially like an invisible protective layer for your furniture. It can help prevent spills, scuffs, and scratches from damaging the paint on your furniture. Waxing after the painting is not necessary for most types of paints, but since chalk paint can be less durable than other common paints for furniture, it’s a necessary step to protect the furniture.

You didn’t prep the furniture

If your chalk-painted furniture hasn’t been properly prepped before it was painted, the chalk paint might not adhere well to the surface. Built-up grease and grime on wood furniture essentially act as a barrier between the paint and the wood. It’s difficult for the paint to “stick” as a result.

Additionally, if your furniture has a glossy finish, your chalk paint might have a hard time gripping the surface. Lightly sanding the furniture can roughen up the wood and give the paint something to grip onto.

If no precautions were taken to prep the furniture, the paint will have an easier time being scratched off, even if just lightly with your fingernail.

The paint hasn’t cured yet

Curing is the process the paint goes through to harden. Once it is applied, although it might feel dry to the touch after about an hour or so, it’s not nearly as dry as it could be until days after you paint.

According to Annie Sloan, the creator of chalk paint:

“Curing can take between 5 and 21 days depending on ambient temperature. You can use your finished piece straight away, but you may need to treat it with extra care until the wax has cured completely (you might want to use coasters, avoid sharp objects etc).”

Once chalk-painted furniture has cured, it is much more resilient to wear and tear. It’s relatively easy to scratch off chalk paint on furniture that is only just starting to harden up.

How to ensure that chalk paint doesn’t scratch off with your fingernail (for your next project)

Whether you flip furniture for profit or would like to apply chalk paint to your household furniture, it’s important to avoid this chalk paint problem in the future. 

Ultimately, the prep that you do before you paint can make or break your project. Chalk paint brands claim that prep isn’t needed in most cases. However, proper prep can only help to make your furniture more durable. The better you prep the furniture, the better the chalk paint will stick, and the less likely it will scratch off easily.

Give the furniture a quick cleaning

The first step to prepping your furniture before chalk paint is to give it a quick cleaning. Fill a small pale with warm water and mix in a splash of dish soap. Use a cloth to wipe down the furniture to remove any grease or grime.

Sand off the finish

To sand off the finish, it’s best to move the furniture outside. If you want to work on the furniture inside, at the very least, move the furniture to an area of good ventilation and wear a facemask so you don’t inhale any wood dust.

With medium grit sandpaper, lightly rub your wood furniture back and forth with your sandpaper.

Once you have finished sanding, wipe down your furniture with a damp rag to remove the wood dust.

Apply primer

As long as you have thoroughly sanded and cleaned your furniture, primer isn’t completely necessary in most cases before chalk paint.

However, if your wood is high in tannins, priming your furniture is necessary. Tannins are essentially a tree’s sap that can be visible in raw wood. When tannins bleed through paint, they create a yellowish-brown stain that can ruin a paint project.

The following types of wood are high in tannins:

  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Walnut
  • Mahogany

A shellac-based primer will ensure that the tannins don’t bleed through. Even if the furniture doesn’t have any tannins, you can still prime to ensure the best paint adhesion to your furniture possible.

Apply two coats of chalk paint

Once the primer has been applied, you can now apply the chalk paint. To make the furniture as durable as possible, it’s best to apply two coats of chalk paint. 

Apply a top coat

Once the paint has completely dried apply a top coat for extra protection. Chalk paint enthusiasts typically prefer using finishing wax, but you can also use varnish on chalk paint, polycrylic, and polyurethane as well. 

As long as these precautions are taken to prep the furniture, the chalk paint will be much less likely to scratch off easily. Learn more about how to chalk paint furniture here




  1. It is not worth the effort to chalk paint on furniture or any area the will get moderate use. It has it’s purpose just not on furniture.

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