Can You Use Wax Finish Over Stain?

Stains enhance color and highlight the grain patterns on wood. They also offer some protection from discoloration, moisture, and UV rays. However, stains are more of an aesthetic choice and don’t make wood more durable. Hence, finishes can be applied on top of stains for longevity and durability.

Wax is an eco-friendly finish that also highlights the wood without changing the color. Fortunately, you can use wax finish over stain. And in this post, we’ll share the best wax finishes to use on your stained furniture.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

You can use wax finish over stain. However, it is important to wait for the stain to fully cure before applying the wax. Otherwise, it will lift the stain from the surface.

The best wax finish to use over stained furniture is beeswax, paraffin, and carnauba wax.

Can you use wax finish over stain?

Wax is a common finish to use on stained wood.

Stains are typically used for adding color to wood and sealing pores to protect it from moisture. However, it is not meant to be the final topcoat for the surface. Hence, applying wax (or other finishes) is necessary to offer durability and protection to the surface.

Note that it is important to let the stain fully cure before applying wax. Otherwise, the wax will lift off the stain and possibly make the finish cloudy.

Related: Can you use Chalk Paint Straight Over Varnish

Best wax finish to use over stain 

There are several waxes available for use on furniture. They mostly differ in components, durability, and price. Some of the most commonly used finishes for stained surfaces are:

Beeswax: Beeswax is a natural byproduct of honeybees, making it non-toxic. Some brands are even food-safe.

This wax finish is often sold in blocks or paste form. It is extremely easy to use due to its smooth application. However, this wax finish is not as durable as the other types on this list. In turn, it’s often mixed with carnauba wax for added durability.

The most popular beeswax finish brand is likely Furniture Clinic’s Wood Beeswax Polish. It is a clear wax that offers a longer-lasting satin sheen.

Carnauba Wax. This is another natural wax made from dried Carnauba palm trees from Brazil. It has a higher melting point, so it is more durable than other natural waxes. Like beeswax, it is often sold in blocks or paste form. It’s popular because of its high-gloss sheen and water-resistant coating.

Carnauba wax adheres well on stained surfaces. However, since this wax is harder, it is more challenging to apply.

The Real Milk Paint’s Clear Carnauba Wax is a great choice. It offers a high sheen and it’s not tacky once dried. You may leave it without buffing for a nice satin sheen.

Paraffin Wax. This is a synthetic wax often made from a combination of saturated hydrocarbons. It is typically soft and colorless and sold in blocks or paste form. And it is more affordable than natural waxes (such as those mentioned above).

Paraffin wax is great to use on stained wood and other finishes as it is non-acidic. So, it will not remove or break down the stain.

One of the best and most budget-friendly paraffin wax to try is Minwax Paste Wax. It is quick-drying and easy to use.

Pros and cons of wax finish 

Like other finishes, wax has its advantages and disadvantages. It is important to consider them before using wax finish as it can be very difficult to remove once it cures.

Pros 

The main pro to using wax finish is its ability to enhance wood color, making even raw wood look stunning. Other advantages to using wax finish include:

  • It doesn’t drip or flow, so applying it on furniture isn’t super messy
  • Some brands are natural and environmentally friendly, so they are great for homes with children and pets.
  • It can be used on top of other finishes like varnishes, and polyurethanes.

Cons

The biggest issue with a wax finish is its durability. It offers less protection than polycrylics and polyurethanes. Other disadvantages of wax finish on wood and other surfaces include:

  • It needs frequent reapplication.
  • It’s not heat-resistant.
  • Wax is easy to scratch and hard to remove.
  • It easily shows stains, dirt, and grease.

Wax vs polyurethane for stained furniture

Polyurethanes are another type of topcoat that can be applied over stains. Unlike waxes, this finish is often made from synthetic materials. 

Besides the components, there are other differences between these two finishes for stained furniture.

Durability. Polyurethanes form a hard and durable layer on the surface that lasts for a long time. They are also scratch and moisture-resistant. 

In contrast, wax forms a semi-hard layer that offers some protection but is still easier to scratch or rub off. After regularly bumping into the corner of a dresser treated with wax, you will wear away at the finish quickly. 

Application: Wax doesn’t need specialized tools for application other than a brush. However, it is more labor-intensive since it has to be applied by hand and needs to be buffed for a higher sheen. Nevertheless, wax typically only requires one to two coats.

On the other hand, polyurethanes can be brushed, rolled, or sprayed. It is less forgiving to inconsistencies, and it can be tedious to apply but all-in-all, less labor-intensive.

Sheen: Unbuffed wax has a satin sheen, which can be left as is. But if you prefer a glossier surface, it needs extra work as it has to be buffed.

Polyurethanes come in different sheens. You can buy polyurethane in matte, satin, gloss, and semi-gloss. Consider using a matte sheen for more of a muted look and a high gloss sheen for a polished, shiny look. 

Maintenance: Wax needs to be reapplied every few months, depending on surface use. It wears off over time and becomes less durable due to temperature changes. Moreover, wax is harder to clean as it can easily be lifted off.

In contrast, polyurethanes offer protection for several years without reapplication. It is also easier to clean because it dries hard on the surface. You can easily wipe down or brush polyurethane-sealed surfaces without worrying about pulling the finish off. The same can’t be said about wax. 

 

Sources:

https://www.wood-finishes-direct.com/faq/wood-waxes

https://www.minwax.com/en/how-to-finish-wood/wood-stain/wood-staining-tips-dos-and-donts#:~:text=Always%20sand%20in%20the%20direction,the%20stain%20into%20the%20pores.

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