Why Is My Chalk Paint Yellowing?

Okay, so here’s a dirty little secret about chalk paint that most of us don’t like to talk about.  Sometimes you find a perfect little piece of furniture at a thrift store and you take it home. You spend hours painting it in your favorite chalk and clay based paints and it looks AMAZING!

Why is my chalk paint yellowing
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Then a few days go by and you suddenly notice that . . . Huh? Does that look yellow to you?  You walk all your loved ones by asking them the same thing. Does that look yellow to you? And they confirm that yes it does in dead look yellow.  The stain is bleeding through you lovely chalk finish.

I know why.  And I am willing to share the secret with you.  

Some stains especially older stains from say the 1930’s to the 1940’s and some even later have tannins in them that are molecularly attracted to water.  Since chalk and clay paints are water based the stains tend to bleed through the paint.

This is not exclusively a chalk paint problem.  This will happen with other water based paints as well. And since most latex paints are actually water based paints with acrylics in them for durability the stains will bleed through them too.

So what to do?  Well if you are not concerned about the fumes from oil based products and their cleaners then you can use an oil based primer and paint to cover the piece.  This will cover the piece without raising the tannins to the surface.

If you want to use a chalk based paint then you need to buy a primer like Bungalow 47 clear primer that is specifically made for covering pesky problems that arise from tannins that want to bond with water molecules.  So far, this is the only primer I have ever used that works. It was the reason that I chose to represent Bungalow 47 in the first place. I was working on a waterfall dresser from the 1930’s at the time and trying to paint it white.  I was 3 coats in the first time I got a sample of their primers. And each coat the stains bleed through.

I will tell you though, when I rolled the clear primer over that white paint the first time I almost had a heart attack!  Because this primer was developed to bond with these tannins it made the piece look SOOOO much worse than it did. I drew all the color up to the surface and the piece was spotty and looked terrible.  The primer stayed sticky which is designed to do as well to make the adheashion with the clay based paints better.

I tried not to panic and rolled the first coat of white onto the dresser.  It looked great, but it had looked great after the last three coats too. So I wanted for it to dry.  Then checked it each morning and to my surprise the stains didn’t bleed through. It was a miracle.

Now if I have a piece I know will bleed (again anything from the 1930s and 1940s) then I automatically give it a coat of primer.  Anything else I wait until I see the first little signs of bleeding and the I will roll a nice thick coat on. It has saved me a ton of money in paint.

Strangely enough yellowing doesn’t just happen with stains.  I’ve had this happen with pieces that are either painted a metallic gold or or gold foiled.  This take a bit longer to notice but after a week or two you might see yellow leeching up through the chalk paints.  The Bungalow 47 clear primer works on these situations too. As would an oil based primer and paint.

If you want to try the Bungalow 47 primer you can purchase it through my shop (keeping in mind that it does have to be above freezing in both locations for me to ship). It’s a bit pricier than the oil based paints but it will allow you to use chalk and clay based paints on any piece you want without yellowing.

Good luck and many blessings to you all!


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