I always avoid indoor paint projects because of the fumes. Even with low VOC paint, I don’t want to pollute what precious indoor air quality I have in my basement craft studio – especially in the winter months when I can’t even crack a window open. Did you know that there are no VOCs in milk paint? Because it’s truly non-toxic, I get to keep every brain cell so I can keep dreaming up new projects!
When I found out that you could add a bonding agent to make milk paint stick to challenging things like glass, metal and varnished items, that was the icing on the cake. Homestead House was kind enough to send us some milk paint and bonding agent to experiment with when I expressed an interest so when I spied this cute little varnished adirondack chair at Value Village, I knew I had my first test subject to try out!
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You will need:
- Milk Paint. I used Fort York Red for this project, but Homestead House has a great selection of colours to choose from.
- Bonding agent
- Sanding sponge, fine grit
- Prefinished item. I chose a wooden item, but the bonding agent will work on any substrate.
- Paint brush
- Container to mix in
- Plastic sheeting (to protect your surface from paint spills)
- Re-sealable bag to store hardware
- Masking tape
- Popsicle stick
Watch this very brief video to see how the adirondack chair transforms:
First, I gave the chair a very light sand with a sanding sponge; I vacuumed up the dust and wiped it with a barely damp rag to remove the remaining dust.
I laid a piece of plastic sheeting on my work surface to protect from spills.
Mixing Milk Paint
For small quantities, I use a milk frother to mix the paint.
I chose a bright red colour milk paint. I put one part of warm water in the container first, measure out an equal part of milk paint powder and added it into the water.
The best technique is to rest the frother on the bottom of the container and apply pressure. Turn it on and lift it up a little bit so it moves. Mix it for a maximum of 20-30 seconds so it doesn’t over-froth.
I then let it sit for a few minutes, while I prep for the next step; this will allow the water to absorb into the powder. Give it another quick mix with the frother. If you find that the milk frother has produced foam, skim it off the surface before you add the bonding agent.
The bonding agent instructions say to use a ratio of 1:1, but I usually just eyeball it and squeeze it in. Stir to combine; I generally use a popsicle stick at this point so I have a record of what the colour looks like on raw wood.
Keep in mind that milk paint tends to settle on the bottom when it sits, so give it a stir while you’re using it every once in a while to reincorporate.
To clean the frother, turn it on in a cup of soapy water to clean, then rinse well.
It’s much easier to get into all the nooks and crannies when the chair is in pieces….
…so I took it apart.
Once you have it disassembled, make sure you put all the screws and washers in a ziplock bag ,so you don’t lose them, and set aside for later!
A professional trick I learned from hubs when painting small pieces is to set up a board with masking tape (here, I’m using a scrap of cardboard). The masking tape is positioned down the middle of the board lengthwise facing sticky side up and it’s secured with smaller pieces placed crosswise (sticky side down). Then you’ll have somewhere to paint the last little bit (as you’ll see later) so you can finish hands-free and also rest the pieces as they dry to get air circulation.
Now you can start painting the front and in between the slats of the first piece. For this project, I used a cheap bristle brush. I painted the front, in between the slats and all the edges – leaving the back for the next coat.
When you get to the very last unpainted section, you can stick the piece down to the board.
With both your hands free, you can finish painting the area you were holding.
Repeat with the rest of the pieces until the first side is done.
Wash the paint brush out with warm soapy water and rinse. Let the pieces dry for at least 12 hours, then paint the back areas you didn’t get. I let it sit overnight again and then reassembled the pieces.
Once back together, if you notice any spots you missed, you can touch it up with a fine brush.
I chose not to do another coat because I like that it’s still a bit translucent. For a more solid look, especially with some of the lighter colours, you might want to do a second coat on both sides.
When you add bonding agent to milk paint, you can’t use traditional top coats such as hemp or tung oil. That’s because they won’t absorb into the wood; they’ll just sit on the surface. Hubs sprayed the chair with a clear semi-gloss waterproof varnish made for outdoor use. We water-proofed it for good reason: we’re using this little charmer as a plant display and the finish will resist any water spills (and rain if we move it outdoors).
If you have a project that you think would be perfect for using milk paint with the bonding agent, you should definitely check it out. When I run out of my sample, I’m definitely going to make it a staple item in my craft studio; I love it that much!
If you enjoyed learning how to get milk paint to stick to anything, don’t forget to pin:
A Few More Projects to Check Out
By the way, you may have noticed that I borrowed the succulents from another thrift store find project I just completed.
Hubs and I attended a succulent sale at Allan Gardens in downtown Toronto on Sunday so this is just temporary until I can make another supplement arrangement. We’ll need more succulents because we have an exciting project coming up using an incredible find from a recent antiquing excursion. If you look closely at the picture below, you can probably guess the origins of the item hubs is carrying!
As part of the transformation, we’ll be showing multiple ways to use milk paint, including how milk paint can be used on metal. It’s a technique-packed tutorial that you won’t want to miss!