What is the best wax or varnish for painted furniture?

A bit of tender loving care will give your painted furniture a much longer life but should you wax or varnish your pieces to keep your wood furniture looking as good as new?

The Rathwood Furniture team tackles this topic, sharing basic tips to help you out:


Adding a wax finish to the paint coat is the easiest way of keeping your painted furniture looking shipshape. Paint not only gives furniture style and character but also protection for the furniture wood. A layer of wax will add extra protection to your furniture pieces.

Waxing your painted furniture is very easy. Firstly you must clean your painted furniture thoroughly with warm soapy water. Once you wipe the soapy remains, allow your furniture to dry properly before applying the wax layer.

Make sure you rub in the wax in an even manner to your painted furniture piece. Let the wax dry and buff the surface with a clean rag to finish off your waxing job and get a nice sheen!


There are two types of varnish you can apply to furniture: water based or oil based. Water based varnish is clear and doesn’t change the colour of the paint. You might need to apply more than one coat, as it is quite thin.

Oil varnishes have a more yellowy tone that could change the colour of your painted furniture, darkening it, so it might not be the right choice for white or creamy furniture pieces. It is a thick varnish so you probably won’t need to apply more than one coat.

You can get both types of varnish in glossy or semi-glossy finishes so chose according to the original varnish on your painted furniture or depending on the effect you want to achieve.

-Also Keep in Mind

You must let the paint ‘cure’ before varnishing, to allow the paint to dry properly and let it get rid of all its moisture. This process can take a few days. Allow a week for thick coats.

Always varnish or wax painted furniture in a dust-free space.

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in relation to your furniture and also take into account the original materials and finishes. This will give you an indication of what the best treatment for your painted furniture is.

Also follow manufacturer’s recommendations in relation to wax and varnish, some of them will be sensitive to air temperature and they should also give you a rough guideline for drying (curing) times.

If you need further advice on wood or painted furniture, please contact the Rathwood Furniture team by email at, phone 0599156285 or visit our store in Rath, Tullow, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

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