Why Is My Chalk Paint Yellowing?

Why Is My Chalk Paint Yellowing?
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Chalk Paint Yellowing is 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!

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 tannin’s in them that

Chalk Paint Yellowing
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are attracted to water on a molecular level.  Since chalk and clay paints are water based the stains tend to bleed through the paint no matter how many coats you put on top of it.

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.

How Do You Stop Chalk Paint Yellowing?

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 tannin’s 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 tannin’s 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 tannin’s 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 adhesion 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 1930’s and 1940’s) then I automatically give it a coat of primer.  Anything else, I wait until I see the first little signs of bleeding and then I will roll a nice thick coat of primer over the top and start again. 

Not Just A Stain Problem

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 their online store. 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 the chalk paint yellowing.

If you want to know what types of top coats you can use on chalk paint besides wax check out my tests here. You might like my other posts on chalk paints as well!

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7 thoughts on “Why Is My Chalk Paint Yellowing?

  1. I painted a dresser with white chalk paint and when I applied the water poly top coat it turned yellow. Now I do not know what to do as I don’t like the feel of the chalk dresser without a top coat.

    1. Hi Theresa! There are a lot of clear coats that have a yellow hue to them. I have a bunch that have Yellows like crazy!! written on them. It’s supposed to give woods a richer color. Unfortunately it make our paint look bad. There are water based non-yellowing clear coats available. The Bungalow 47 topcoat is one but expensive and not available everywhere. Lowe’s and Michaels have water based Varathane that is non-yellowing. I’ve had luck with both. Check the label because a lot of them will say non-yellowing. I hope this helps. Let me know!

      1. I had the same problem! Can I put the primer over the chalk paint (ended up with 3 coats of chalk paint) and paint again?

        1. Hi Mindy – Yep, you can. I used the Bungalow 47 primer and if you’re planning to use it be fore warned that your project will look SOOOOOO much worse after you put the primer on. That’s because it draws the tannins to the surface and bonds to them so they don’t keep bleeding up through the paint. I went into full on panic the first time I tried it. But it works!

  2. Thank you for this. I called Bungalow, they were wonderful, and ordered a can of primer and of matte finish to use instead of wax on top. This was really helpful!

    1. I’m so glad this helped you! I used to sell Bungalow 47 and they are wonderful people. If I can help in any other way let me know!

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