Trying out Annie Sloan Dark Wax

If you’ve heard of Annie Sloan chalk paint, then you’ve probably heard about their waxes, too. For a protective coat over chalk paint, they recommend using Annie Sloan’s soft waxes. There’s a clear wax, which chalk paint can be added to directly to create a colored wax, and a dark wax, which creates an antiqued, aged look. When I was in Little Rock helping my mom with her kitchen cabinets, we found a little sliver of time to go visit a local boutique that carries Annie Sloan products. I decided to purchase the dark wax, which seemed slightly outrageously priced at almost $30 after tax, but I hadn’t been able to find any other kinds of dark wax.

I still couldn’t bring myself to buy Annie Sloan chalk paint ($35 per quart is insane!), so I planned to try the dark wax with my homemade chalk paint. (It isn’t recommended to use the waxes over regular latex paint because it isn’t porous like chalk paint.)

So for my first experiment with dark wax, I chose this end table. I bought it as part of another purchase from Craigslist. The owners said it was a cheap, poorly made piece of furniture (especially compared to the other pieces they were selling us) and they’d sell it for an additional $5.

Andrew and I didn’t say much and just handed over the cash, but we could tell it wasn’t a bad quality piece, and that in fact it was nicer than the other pieces we were getting. After getting it home, I found this stamp inside the drawer as well as some sale tags. After some quick research, I found out that Sumter Cabinet Co. (previously Korn Industries) produced high quality furniture here in the U.S. up until some time in the 1990s when they were sold and manufacturing was moved overseas. Unfortunately, there was no date on the tag or the piece, but the tag was old enough to know that this piece was produced well before the company was sold and began producing cheaper quality pieces.

I started by brushing it with 2 coats of a mushroom grey chalk paint. I didn’t do any prep work other than cleaning the surface, and to my surprise, it’s actually holding up well. Due to some laziness on my part, though, it did have a good month to cure before I did anything else to it! I mixed my own color for this from a few mess-up paints,  so there’s no name for the color. :( You can find full instructions for how I make my chalk paint here.

Then I applied a coat of clear wax over the entire piece. The dark wax will essentially stain the paint instantly if you don’t apply a coat of clear wax first. For some applications, this may be the look you’re going for, but it wasn’t for this project!

I use Minwax Paste Finishing Wax because it’s significantly cheaper than Annie Sloan’s clear wax option. Up until now, I’ve been using cut up t-shirts to apply and buff the wax, but I haven’t been very happy with the results. They deposit some lint and don’t buff the wax to a very glossy finish. Last week, I picked up some cheesecloth from Lowe’s and what a huge difference it makes! No lint, and it buffs it to a really nice shine! It looks so much better and feels really smooth, too.  After letting it cure for a full 24 hours, it was time for the dark wax. I have to admit I was pretty nervous. Turns out it was for good reason. The dark wax is not easy to work with!!

I didn’t want to spend nearly $40 on the Annie Sloan wax brush before I even knew if I liked the wax, so I used this brush instead. I know it’s not a natural bristle brush like the wax brushes, but it was the stiffest brush I had.

After reading a lot of tutorials, I decided I would try mixing the clear and dark wax to keep it from being too dark.

First, I dipped the brush in a tiny bit of clear wax. I can definitely see how the Annie Sloan clear wax could come in handy to lighten the dark wax. Minwax has a pretty thick, hard consistency that makes it difficult to get onto a brush, whereas the Annie Sloan waxes have more of a margarine consistency.

Then I coated it lightly with the dark wax and brushed some of the extra onto the cardboard.

Then I brushed it onto the paint. I started by brushing it on in a circular motion and really trying to work it into the paint like a lot of tutorials recommended. I also tried to make sure I didn’t use very much because every tutorial I’d read says a little goes a long way. It does, but I also found that if you use too little, it starts to dry and becomes really sticky. The more you work it into the paint, the thinner it gets, the more it dries out, and the stickier it becomes. :(

There are areas that I wish were a little darker, but unlike everything I read, you cannot just add more dark wax. I tried to add some the next day (24 hours later) and it actually removed the dark wax that I’d applied before. Really frustrating, because then how are you ever supposed to add more? Still can’t figure that out. Also, I read that after 24 hours you can apply another coat of clear wax over the top to seal it, but when I tried this in a test area, it started to remove all the dark wax. Maybe the Annie Sloan clear wax wouldn’t remove it? Not sure.

Despite all my frustrations with the whole process, though, it actually did turn out ok. Obviously the door on the left has been waxed and the door on the right has not.

Pretty dramatic difference, but I like it. I didn’t want the hardware to be the same color, though, so I painted it with a creamy butter colored paint. Compared to the dark grey, though, it looked stark white…maybe even neon (if white can be neon).

I think even more important than the color was the fact that the hardware had no dimension compared to the end table. I used a chalk paint which has no sheen, and there was no variation in color. Obviously something had to change, so I used a cheapo 2″ natural bristle brush to work some wax onto the hardware.

Then I used the clear wax to wipe off the excess dark wax.

Making the hardware look aged and antiqued was definitely what it needed, but it still pops off the grey background. Different colored hardware just happens to be my personal preference.

I do love that the dark wax builds up in the crevices and cracks of the paint and hardware, creating a really unique aged look.

I read that Annie Sloan wax doesn’t fully cure for up to 28 days, so maybe then I can reapply a coat of clear wax for added protection. Ideally, I would like to have 2 to 3 coats of wax on the top to protect from water (with this being an end table or night stand I’m sure it will have more than a few wet glasses placed on it sans coaster.)

I think next time I try the dark wax, I’m going to be sure to use more of it, brush it over the entire surface quickly, and rather than trying to stipple it into the paint until there’s no excess, I’ll just wipe off the excess with a rag or cheesecloth.

I’m not convinced about the dark wax yet, but I also haven’t given up hope of figuring it out. The learning curve is just a lot steeper than I had expected! Plus, it’s really hard for a perfectionist like me to accept that the piece isn’t supposed to look completely uniform and perfect.

Now that it’s done, I really do love how this piece turned out. The wax adds so much dimension and creates a very authentic, antiqued finish.

I hate to admit it, but I’m really struggling to think of any other way to achieve this look. Point for you, Annie Sloan.

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13 Responses to Trying out Annie Sloan Dark Wax

  1. Sara April 13, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    I’m wondering if you can give me some insight. About a month ago I refinished a dresser using diy chalk paint. It turned out really well but I haven’t waxed it or sealed it yet. I bought some Minwax paste but it has an orangey tinge to it and I’m scared it will give my cream coloured dresser an orange tinge. I can not for the life of me find a “clear” finishing paste where I live. I’ve looked at different websites for Canadian retailers but can’t find anything. Can you suggest any alternatives or should I just give up and clear coat it. I wanted to wax because its supposed keep the matte finish, is that right? Please let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks! Sara

    • Sara April 13, 2013 at 12:17 am #

      I’m sorry I posted the wrong email. It must be close to bed time lol

    • Simple House Expressions April 14, 2013 at 12:50 am #

      Hey Sara! I’ve used Minwax on cream chalk paint before and didn’t notice any discoloration, but I know some people have had that problem. Another option is SC Johnson’s Paste Wax. It’s clear, so a lot of people recommend this over light colored paint. Home Depot or Amazon.com both sell it, and for a pretty reasonable price. I haven’t personally used it (though I’ve been meaning to!) so I don’t know what the sheen will look like or how easy it is to use. You could always try Annie Sloan’s Soft Wax in clear, but it does cost a pretty penny!

      As far as the sheen, it will be a little glossier than the matte finish of bare chalk paint, but not nearly as shiny as even a satin clear coat. Check out this page on Picked & Painted’s blog. About halfway down the page there’s a great picture showing the difference in the sheens of poly vs. wax. Also, remember only to buff as much as absolutely necessary to get excess wax off and create a smooth finish. The more you buff, the shinier it will be. If it turns out too shiny, you can always try sanding really lightly to dull the finish. Use an extra fine sanding block, only sand in one direction (with the brush strokes) and not in circles, and do the same number of passes over each section to ensure an even sheen. Good luck!

      -Arielle

  2. Lori June 3, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    You can mix regular (cheap) paste wax with wood stain to make your own dark wax! I just did that and it’s gorgeous and was easy to work with. I am concerned now about how to protect it all without the new wax taking off the first coat…hmm.

    • Simple House Expressions June 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      I’ve been meaning to try that! It doesn’t seem to mix very well with Minwax, though, so I’ve been wanting to get Johnson’s Paste wax. What kind of wax did you use?

      Regular dark wax can be recoated with wax once it’s dry (if you try it too early it will start to remove the previous layer and you’ll end up with a big, sticky mess!), but I’m not sure about wax mixed with stain. I would imagine it’s similar to a glaze which will cure to a hard finish and doesn’t need a protective coat, but can be recoated with wax or a clear coat once fully cured.

  3. Lori July 20, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Arielle – I have done several pieces of furniture with annie sloan chalk paint. I go all out and buy everything she has – brushes, waxes, paints – you name it. With every piece, I learn a few more tips. DARK WAX TIP NUMBER ONE: I have found that the medium brush is a must to get great results. There is just something about it that lays the paint AND the wax on perfectly. ALSO: Dip the tip of your brush in mineral spirits, blot, and then pick up straight dark wax, and it goes on like a dream – huge, huge difference. Then, wipe it off. Also, when you paint, use the medium brush and brush your paint on every which way. That way, there are interesting brush strokes for the wax to get caught in. I don’t have a blog, but my furniture is turning out to die for gorgeous. I love, love, love annie sloan paints. They are worth the money.

    • Simple House Expressions July 23, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      Hey Lori! Thanks for all the great pointers! Love the tip about the mineral spirits! I’m going to have try that soon and see if I like it better. Even though I loved how my waxed piece turned out, I had almost given up on waxing because it was so difficult to work with, but you’ve inspired me to try again!

      -Arielle

  4. Deborah winger October 1, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    You are my kind of girl!! I have been making my own chalk paint and I can’t see why to use anything else.. I wanted to know whether to splurge on AS wax and brush or not.. thank so much!!

    • Simple House Expressions October 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Thanks, Deborah! I agree! I love my DIY paint and though the Annie Sloan dark wax creates a beautiful finish, it’s definitely not my favorite to use!

      -Arielle

  5. kim March 11, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    WOW, thank you so much! I am so excited to try some projects, but did not know where to start! This was So helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to teach someone who definitely wanted to learn!!!!!

    • Simple House Expressions March 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

      Thanks, Kim! I’m glad it was helpful! Happy waxing! :)

      -Arielle

  6. JC August 6, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    How ventilated does the wax need to be? Can you use it indoors, or does it need to be done outside? Also, is there a way to remove dark wax? I am not liking the look at all and want to remove, but was told I need to repaint completely to get rid of it… this is heavy bedroom furniture upstairs, so if I had to repaint would like to just do in our bedroom if possible… but not sure about using the wax inside because it smells strong.

    • Simple House Expressions August 7, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

      I’ve used it both indoors and out. I’ve never really noticed extreme fumes from Annie Sloan wax, but if possible, I do try to keep a window open! (Sometimes if it’s too hot outside, I really prefer to do it indoors so the wax doesn’t dry so quickly!)

      If you used chalk paint, it can be pretty difficult to remove the dark wax if you didn’t first apply a coat of clear wax. Chalk paint is porous, so the dark wax soaks into the paint and generally stains it. Before you repaint, though, you can try to remove the dark wax by rubbing it with clear wax. If the waxing was done recently (probably within the last couple days), this should remove quite a bit of the dark wax. If it’s had time to cure, though, it might not be very effective. I’ve also heard people say to use a mixture of vinegar and water and a slightly abrasive pad, and if that doesn’t work, you can try wiping it with turpentine. I’ve never personally tried that, though, so I would test it on a small area first to see if it affects the paint. I hope you can find a solution that doesn’t require you to repaint! :( Good luck!!

      -Arielle

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