Whether you recently purchased a painted piece of furniture or just finished doing a furniture makeover yourself, you want the finish to last, right? You want that beautiful painted buffet or your new kitchen cabinets to hold up over the years and look as pretty down the road as it does now, right?
The best way to ensure that a new finish stays beautiful, new and fresh is to respect its cure time and practice basic furniture care throughout its time with you.
Cure time is the amount of time needed for a product to completely settle out, set up and reach its most durable state. It’s completely different than dry time. Dry time is how long the product takes to feel dry to the touch. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on the product you’re using and the temperature/humidity. Cure time is much longer and is typically 20-30 days or 3-4 weeks.
Think about the home DIY shows you see on TV. When concrete countertops are poured, they have to sit in their molds for a certain amount of time so they can cure.
Before you balk at that time frame, know that it’s pretty much standard across the paint industry. I’ve worked with lots of paints in my professional painting career – Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, General Finishes Milk Paint, Mud Paint, Rustoleum’s Chalked Paint, etc. Almost all of them have the same recommended cure time – 20-30 days. (And even if they don’t, the finish is still vulnerable for a little bit once dry.)
Back in February of 2017, I wrote a post going into the difference between cure time and dry time. You can read it again here.
So does this mean that you can’t use your beautiful new side table or that adorable dresser you just painted for 3-4 weeks? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that you need to be gentle with it during this window of time.
You need to treat it as if it just had its nails painted. You ladies know exactly what I mean, right?! When you go get your nails done and put them under the dryer, they feel dry to the touch after about 5-10 minutes. You think you’re ready to go home, but then you reach into your purse to get your keys and pull your hand out and what has happened to your beautiful manicure?
Photo via Musely
Ugh, we’ve all been there, right? Now your freshly painted piece of furniture won’t quite look like that, but you may wind up getting scuff marks, scratches, discoloration, water rings, or heat marks if you’re not careful.
Here are some basic tips for keeping your finish protected during the cure time.
Don’t put anything heavy or scratchy on top of your piece. If you just finished a nightstand, make sure your alarm clock has little foam feet on the bottom so it won’t scratch the top when you hit the snooze button in the morning.
I wouldn’t recommend loading up the shelves of your freshly painted bookshelf or hutch with super heavy books until your durable topcoat has had a chance to cure.
Photo via Miss Mustard Seed
If you’re a furniture retailer like me, and you have to stage your pieces to be photographed and then eventually out to your selling locations, be careful! Pick staging props that are soft on the bottom or line them with felt pads and foam feet. They’re sold at the dollar store and just about every craft store. Pick up a few different kinds like rubber bumpers, plastic discs and adhesive foam pads. Keep them in your staging stash and put them under your staging props.
When you deliver furniture to your shop or to customers, pad them well with soft blankets to protect their finish from bungee cords and ratcheting straps. (Coffee never hurts too!)
And when your piece actually arrives on the staging floor, slip those felt feet under your staging props. It will go a long way in protecting your finish when customers pick up your smalls to inspect them before purchasing. You can also lay table runners down or dresser scarves to protect really long pieces like buffets and servers. I’ve got one on my French provincial buffet right now! (This is also still available if you’re interested in purchasing it. It’s on sale for $395!)
It’s unreasonable to hold onto a piece for 3-4 weeks before you actually sell it, so taking these basic precautions will help!
Once you get your beautiful new piece of furniture set up where you want it, and the finish has cured, you’re still not off the hook for treating it poorly. You can’t subject furniture to heat and water repeatedly without protection and expect a finish to hold up. It’s simply unreasonable and not a practical expectation to have. Even if you buy a factory finished piece from a furniture store and it’s brand new, you can’t leave a sweating glass of iced tea on it for 10 minutes and expect a flawless surface when you pick it up again. Like I said, that’s not reasonable.
So my first tip is to use coasters.
This is a no-no!
Coasters will help protect your finish from heat rings and water marks. Whatever you’re drinking and whatever temperature it is, put a coaster under it or use some sort of drink cozy.
My second tip is to use fabric to protect your surfaces. Using heat pads, table runners, and even folded up dish towels will act as a barrier against heat and water – especially on kitchen and dining room tables. Some tables even come with a set of custom cut pads that have…drumroll please…FELT ON THE BOTTOM!
The final tip I have for furniture care is to use common sense and have realistic expectations. Finishes and topcoats are durable, but they’re not bulletproof. Like I mentioned earlier, you can’t expect a finish to hold up to severe damage. If a picture frame falls off the wall and onto your stained wood buffet top, it’s going to make a dent. That’s simply how gravity works. If your teenager puts a steaming hot bowl of soup right on the kitchen table with no placemat, then you may get a heat ring. Educate yourself on how to fix finishes when they will eventually be damaged. If you have pets and children, then a certain amount of wear and tear is to be expected.
If you used products that are easily purchased from local paint retailers, then it will be easy to find the colors and finishes you used to refresh and repair your damaged surfaces. You can even talk to your local retailers and get advice on how to go about repairing your piece.
Who knows what products factory finished pieces have on them, and good luck trying to recreate the same look. If you don’t have professional grade material, you’re never going to get the same look again. That’s why I love painting furniture with finishes I know are readily available.
Case in point – I actually need to fix our coffee table because I spilled red wine on it. I used Miss Mustard Seed’s “Linen” and Hemp Oil originally, so all I need to do is scuff the areas that were damaged and reapply these same products to my satisfaction. (I’m probably going to switch to Tough Coat because I’m pretty hard on my coffee table, but you get the idea!)
I hope you got some tips for basic furniture care and have a better understanding of the importance of letting your piece fully cure after painting. I promise you that if you put these practices into place, your painted furniture will look gorgeous for years to come!