Actually, You Don’t Have to Sand Wood Furniture Before Painting It – Architectural Digest

Painting wood furniture has to be one of the best ways to transform it on a dime (hello, flea market finds!), but sanding it first can be a real pain. Maybe it’s a big, awkward platform bed or table and your arm is already tired just thinking about firing up the handheld sander. Or maybe you don’t have a sander—and don’t want to buy one. Or maybe the piece you’re painting is far too intricate to sand: a bentwood chair? A mirror with detailed carving in the frame? A slatted bench? Step away from the sandpaper, because it’s actually there are a few reliable ways to paint wooden furniture without sanding it first at all. As with any paint-job, clean the surface well before beginning (and if you’re not sure which method to use, test a few in small patches before committing to the whole job).

Options That Require an Extra Step

If you have a very specific paint in mind…

Prep With a Bonding Primer

So you really, really want to coat that little pine side table in Farrow & Ball but aren’t sure if it will stick to the lacquer? Look for a high-quality bonding primer to paint over the piece as a base coat—they’re designed specifically to get paints to adhere to a range of surfaces. So as a bonus, it will help you prep metal, vinyl, glass, and other surfaces for painting in the future if you don’t get through the whole gallon. And it dries within an hour.

Adhesion Bonding Primer by Kilz, $40, amazon.com; shop now.

If your object has intricate woodwork…

Prep With Liquid Sander

Also marketed as a “deglosser” or “sander/deglosser,” liquid sandpaper is a chemical solution that helps to dull the paint or varnish you want to paint over so that the new topcoat will actually stick. And it’s really easy to use: Just soak a rag or sponge and run it over the whole piece—the liquid will creep right down into any intricate crevices. Big disclaimer: Being chemical, it really stinks—so you’ll want to use it outside and wear gloves and protective googles (or maybe don’t use it to all if those kinds of fumes really get to you).

Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser by Klean-Strip, $10 for a quart, amazon.com; shop now.

Options That Require No Prepwork

If you want to avoid VOCs entirely…

Mix Equal Parts Milk Paint + Bonding Agent

Milk paint, which you can purchase as a powder, premixed, or even whip it up yourself at home, is a nontoxic and biodegradable paint option that’s great for use on wood furniture—and if you mix it with an equal part bonding agent, you don’t need to sand the piece before beginning. The bonding agent works like a primer (think: shampoo and conditioner, in one!).

If you don’t mind a super-matte finish…

Use Chalk Paint

Requiring no prep work at all, inherently adhesive chalk paint is kind of a miracle if you don’t want to sand the surface first—it sticks to so many surfaces. And yes, as a bonus, you can use it as a chalkboard (actually could be cool on a breakfast table that your kids will be sitting at—just saying).

Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint by Rust-Oleum, $18 for 30 oz., amazon.com; shop now.

If you’d like the finish to be super-durable…

Use Mineral Paint

In addition to being non-toxic, mineral paint is also so durable that it’s waterproof (see you never, water rings!). And it requires no prep to cling to a slick surface. The downside is that you’re paying for that durablility, as it’s far more expensive (and comes in smaller doses) than some of the other options.

Mineral Paint in Midnight Blue by Fusion Mineral Paint, $23 for 500 ml, amazon.com; shop now.

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