Introduction: How to Get Milk Paint to Stick to Anything!
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!
Watch the very brief video above to see how the adirondack chair transforms.
Step 1: Materials
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
- Varathane Diamond Wood Finish (top coat).
Step 2: Prep Work
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.
I chose a bright red colour milk paint. I put one part of warm water in the container first, measured out an equal part of milk paint powder and added it into the water.
Step 3: Mixing Technique
For small quantities, I use a milk frother to mix the paint. 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 but keep it against the bottom.
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 adding 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.
Step 4: Disassemble
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!
Step 5: Pro Tip - Another Stick It Bonding Experience
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 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.
Step 6: Let Dry / Finish Painting
Wash the paint brush out with warm soapy water and rinse. Let the pieces dry for at least 12 hours, then paint the back side you didn't get to. 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.
Step 7: Top Coat
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 an extra 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 Varathane Diamond Wood Finish. He used the a clear semi-gloss waterproof varnish made for outdoor use shown above. We water-proofed it for good reason: we're using this little charmer as a plant display and the finish will resist water spills (and rain if we move it outdoors).
I love the pop of red colour; the chair complements the greenery perfectly! You may have noticed that I borrowed the succulents from another post on Instructables 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 succulent arrangement.
Step 8: Remember the Title?
Remember I said that milk paint could stick to anything? Visit our 'Partners in Grime' post on Instructables, where I show you how milk paint + bonding agent can be use for metal and terra cotta pots too! We put those items to good used - as you'll see in the next step!
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 going to make it a staple item in my craft studio; I love it that much!
Step 9: Please Vote! New Milk Paint Projects on the Horizon
I just posted another exciting milk paint project using a unique find from a recent antiquing excursion. One of my Instructables readers called it 'the best use of a phone booth since Superman'.
As part of the transformation, I'm demonstrating how to use milk paint on raw wood to create faux barn board. It's a technique-packed tutorial that you won't want to miss! You can find our Phone Booth Planter right here on Instructables.
If you haven’t already subscribed, you can follow us right here on Instructables or via on our own webite. You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, our Youtube channel and on Instagram.
Don't forget to vote :)
Runner Up in the
Stick It! Contest
4 years ago on Step 9
I've never tried milk paint, but I'd like to try this on a life sized chair for the back yard.
Reply 4 years ago
You should definitely give it a try. One thing I've noticed is that it self levels so you don't notice any brush strokes (a pet peeve of mine).
4 years ago
Thanks for sharing, I've read a little about casein paint before, but this gives a nice overview!
Reply 4 years ago
Thanks Gadisha! I've dabbled with it a bit, but I've recently been inspired to experiment more. The fact that it doesn't have any volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is really driving my interest in milk paint. It's the oldest natural paint known to man and can still be found in ancient sites.
4 years ago
Good info to know, thank you.
Reply 4 years ago
You're welcome! The bonding agent has inspired a whole list of projects I want to try with it. There's more info to come in future Instructables!