Stripping off A LOT of chalk paint

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I've had my first (of many, I'm sure) disastrous DIY project. I have covered my entire kitchen cabinetry with chalk paint and I hate it. It's streaky, it's cracking, the wood and oil is coming through from underneath, even though I prepped in the way they told me, it chips off at the easiest bump even though I waxed it. I followed all of the instructions the chalk paint lady told me. I'd love to sand it all off and start over fresh with real paint. There are some recessed crevices in the cabinet doors that will be nearly impossible to sand. What is the best (easiest) way to approach this? Will a stripper work? Do I need to sand all the recessed areas by hand? Please help!!!
q stripping off a lot of chalk paint, chalk paint, diy, kitchen cabinets, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
  80 answers
  • Debbie Harris Debbie Harris on Dec 03, 2013
    Chalk paint and wax not good for high traffic... So strip it off. Lots of good strippers out there now that practically let you just wipe it away. Sounds like it's time to visit your local home store.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Dec 03, 2013
    With wax you have to reapply it every few months, using cleaners and just the traffic of people will ware off wax..and you have to reapply. You could just reaply chalk paint then use poly over it. The Chalk paint will go over anything..but the poly will protect the surface..and no more streaks.
  • Carole Carole on Dec 03, 2013
    There is one paint stripper called Citristrip. As the name suggests it is citrus scented rather than strong chemical smell and a bit less toxic than the industrial strength strippers. I would see if your local hardware store stocks that brand or something like it. Chemical paint strippers are usually quite nasty to breath in (needing a chemical mask and also long chemical gloves as you don't want this stuff on your skin). The citrus ones are much less toxic, but should still do the job. Advisable to still wear protective gloves and work in a well ventilated area even with the citrus stuff. Hope this helps!
  • Carole Carole on Dec 03, 2013
    BTW, whatever you decide to do, I would just try doing one cabinet first and see how you go. Leave it a couple of days before doing the rest. If you try doing the whole lot and it looks even worse or does not come off cleanly and is still hard to paint over, it is a lot of work for a bad result.
  • Vicki Vicki on Dec 03, 2013
    I'm not sure and more than likely a stripper would do. I wanted to say that the cabinets in the picture are beautiful. Are you sure you wouldn't want to update the back splash instead of all that work? I understand though that a girl has to do what a girl has to do!! Show us when you are finished please.
    • Through the Dutch Door Through the Dutch Door on Dec 04, 2013
      @Vicki They do look lovely from far away. I love the color and sheen to it, but up close, they look terrible! What would you suggest with the backsplash?
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Dec 04, 2013
    I have seen several "painted" cabinets in kitchens...some DIY and some done professionally. Not a single one of them holds up like sealing and varnishing does. Even the factory finish paint jobs can peel off. I have wanted my cabinets painted several times, but now I am sooooo glad I did not do it!
  • Nancy Gramm Nancy Gramm on Dec 04, 2013
    I wouldn't change the backsplash you have. If you must do something, why not try beadboard wallpaper between the backsplash and cabinets only? Would look lovely with the white. (I hate the auto-correct on my 'puter! It made beadboard breadboard three times! And 'puter 'outer. Glad I caught the "corrections". Hope it didn't do anything I didn't catch.)
  • Sweet Pea Studio Sweet Pea Studio on Dec 04, 2013
    Maybe you could just remove the wax and add another coat of paint, then wax again. (If the cabinets are streaky it makes me think the cabinets need another coat of paint.) Also, in the photo the floor color and cabinet color don't seem to blend. Perhaps you are reacting to a color harmony problem and need a rug with mostly the cabinet colors and a touch of the floor colors as a visual bridge between the floor color and cabinets. I agree with Vicki that the cabinets look lovely.
  • Shari Shari on Dec 04, 2013
    I remember my mother used to strip wax off her terrazzo floors with ammonia and very hot water. Maybe you could just try wiping one door down with it first to see if it works. Then, before you paint again (with latex I assume?) I would use a liquid sandpaper/deglosser product. By using it, you could minimize or possibly even completely eliminate the need for sanding. In addition to preparing the surface for painting, liquid sandpaper/deglosser strips away any dirt and grunge (and in this case, hopefully residual wax the ammonia & hot water didn't get). Also, if you go the latex paint route, I would definitely suggest using a good primer made especially for bonding. Again, I would try all these steps on one door before you put all that work into the whole kitchen again. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with chalk paint. I haven't used the commercial chalk paint but I did try a homemade version and was not impressed at all. I also just tried milk paint for the first time last week and same story--not impressed. Even with multiple coats, I found the milk paint to be streaky too--very "rustic" or imperfect, which is not a good fit for my perfectionistic tendencies. I know they say you can paint anything with chalk paint and milk paint but I've been highly skeptical ever since I first heard that. I can't imagine doing a high traffic area like a kitchen with either of them and having it look good for the long haul. Personally, I'll be sticking to latex paint from here on out for all my painting projects. In my opinion, latex is tried and true.
  • Shari Shari on Dec 04, 2013
    I just had another thought regarding getting the wax off..... Perhaps a blow dryer would soften or even liquify the wax enough that you could wipe the majority of it out of the recessed areas. Then, as I mentioned above, a thorough wipe down with the ammonia and hot water would hopefully cut any remaining wax residue. ??? Worth a try.
  • Anna P Anna P on Dec 04, 2013
    Shari ,, great idea with ammonia and hot water , have to remember this!!... to fix the cabinets I would do Shari mixture to get the wax off, next step, apply thin coat of Shellac, this coat will block any more bleeding to the surface, next one more coat of chalk paint, and to finish and protect, two coats of water base poly. Poly will make the surface evenly finished.You can use any finishing product on top of chalk paint. But try this on one door and see any improvement before You strip everything. Good luck !!! let us know !!!
  • D Lawless Hardware D Lawless Hardware on Dec 04, 2013
    Unrelated...need some hardware for those cabinets? I'd love to give you some if we could use the pictures afterwords and share it on here and our other social media!! I'm writing you an e-mail!
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Dec 04, 2013
    Even as simple as they make chalk paint sound it is really not that simple. Or any paint for that matter. With chalk paint sometimes it will just wipe off with hot water and elbow grease. It also depends on the brand you used. Is this Anne Sloan or CeCe's paint? I would take off one cabinet door only one, and try something else before going to all that trouble again I think your lacking definition and contour on your cabinets. If this is CeCe's paint you can paint over the wax. If your coat of paint isn't heavy enough add another coat. There are a lot of things you can do to make these cabinets pop beforipping them and starting from the beginning. A simple white wash would make them pop. Without stripping and re- painting. There are several sealers out there you can also use on wax. CeCe satin finish can be put directly over a wax. A white wash glaze would make those cabinets pop. Use a glaze and white paint or CeCe Vintage White, paint on wipe off let it get a bit tacky before you wipe off. Sealing a piece is also key to having furniture, cabinets you use. If they are waxed, waxed melts in heat. Also always consider what you are using the painted piece for so you know how to seal it. Her satin sealer can be put directly over wax. I would have used polyurhene Over the paint. But on the cabinets keep adding the glaze until you see some definition and I think you well be happier than stripping and starting over. You don't even have to put another coat on to do this. Practice first. Her sealer the satin isn't my favorite but it is long lasting, wipe able and it can be put over wax. I do it a bit different I sand using 220 grit sand paper in between and then out another coat on. Then it feels more like a poly sealer.
  • Z Z on Dec 04, 2013
    By what I understand the purpose of chalk paint is for the ease of distressing painted furniture. Which is why I've never tried it. If I take time to redo something I want it to look good and last a good long time. That being said, I found this info on AS's website that might help you save what you have so you can paint over it. Whether you want to redo it with AS is another big questions. "Q. I am painting a previously stained piece of furniture with Chalk Paint® and a yellow stain has appeared in my new paint layer. How do I cover it? A. If you see a yellow or pink stain coming through the paint on older furniture - typically pieces from the 1930s and 1940s - apply clear shellac, a natural non-toxic sealer. One or two coats of shellac applied with a cloth pad will stop this happening. There is no need to remove the stained coat of Chalk Paint® - you can apply the shellac directly on top. Shellac dries in minutes, and then you can get on with your painting!" After reading the next quote I'm wondering if part of the problem is that you didn't allow the paint (and wax?) to cure long enough before using. "Q. How long will it take for my new finish to harden and cure? A. Chalk Paint® decorative paint is a water-based paint. Water-based paints take approximately 30 days to harden and cure, a chemical process that takes significantly longer than drying. Annie Sloan Soft Wax contains solvents that need to completely evaporate before it is hardened and cured. The curing process for this product may take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks or longer. All finishes prefer warm, dry conditions during the curing process. Cold temperatures, high humidity, and application thickness will extend drying and curing time substantially." And this next question and answer might tell if you did anything wrong when cleaning your kitchen cabinets. "Q. How do I care for my new finish? A. Furniture painted with Chalk Paint® decorative paint and finished with Annie Sloan Soft Wax will stand up very well to everyday wear and tear. Treat your furniture with respect. Allow your new finish to harden and cure 30 days or longer before placing items that may scratch the surface. Avoid excessive water and sharp or scratchy objects. Use coasters under water glasses and placemats on dining tables. Clean with a soft cloth and avoid all liquid furniture polishes. To clean marks or stains, use a slightly damp cloth or chamois with a little mild soap. If you need to use a stronger cleaner, you may have to re-wax the area. Keep away from extreme temperatures or humidity. Waxes dissolve in alcohol, so using it on bars is not advisable!"
  • Through the Dutch Door Through the Dutch Door on Dec 04, 2013
    Thank you, everyone for your input! I appreciate each one of them. I do agree that they look lovely. I do also agree that the flooring is atrocious (okay, nobody said it quite that way, but I'm sure more than one of you was thinking that! :) ) We are putting in dark wood floors, but I made my husband wait until the kitchen was done. I think I'm going to leave them for now. I'm going to add some accessories. I like the beadboard wallpaper idea. I was going to beadboard wallpaper the inside of the recessed areas of the cabinet doors and thought against it. We'll see how it holds up and then in the near future, go from there. I think everyone's comments were extremely helpful!! Keep an eye out for finished pictures in the near future and we'll see how it looks then!
  • When sealing cabinets or heavily used furniture I use Benjamin Moore's Stays Clear. It is made for hardwood floors, so it's very durable and won't yellow at all over time. It is available in Gloss, Low Lustre, and Flat. I combine the Low Lustre and Flat one to one and get a beautiful sheen that looks a lot like a wax finish.
    • CC CC on Dec 05, 2013
      @Fabulous Finishes by Michelle Thanks for the info!
  • Julie J Julie J on Dec 04, 2013
    Maybe layer white paint over the grey, then lightly distress, wax or seal. I think it could come together nicely, especially with the countertop and grout. Dark floors would anchor the look. Then you could add some beautiful curtains, hardware and accessories. Message Marian at Miss Mustard Seed. She's an expert and very creative. http://missmustardseed.com/
  • Debbie Harris Debbie Harris on Dec 04, 2013
    You might be able to pop off the backsplash tiles and put stainless steel ones on. This would highlight the greys and add a little reflective shine.
  • Barbara Gold Barbara Gold on Dec 05, 2013
    If you could seal the grey on upper cabinets and then just repaint lower cabinets with a complimentary color I think it could look nice and would be ale less work.
  • Barbara Gold Barbara Gold on Dec 05, 2013
    Also the upper cabinets probably get a lot less bumps and wear than lower cabinets.
  • Lane Harkey Lane Harkey on Dec 05, 2013
    you can take ASCP wax off with mineral spirits. The wax is used to harden the paint, but you should be able to sand after removing some wax.
  • Maine Country Home Maine Country Home on Dec 05, 2013
    Before you take off any of it and use mineral spirits etc, have you asked the store where you bought the paint. Is it Annie Sloan Chalk Paint? How many coats did you put on.? etc. I am pretty certain that there is an easier fix than stripping them all off.
  • Christine Christine on Dec 05, 2013
    I've removed waxes easily with a mineral spirits or amonia (Windex) wipe. Which is why I'd never use it in a kitchen -- learned the hard way! The chalk paint of any type should come off with hot water and a plastic scrubbie, used gently. If you made it yourself with a latex, I immediately recommend Citristrip. You can do this in place. Put something under the cabinets for drips, put the stuff on thick, press plastic grocery bags against it (to keep the stripper in contact with the wood/paint) and go to bed. I always give it 6-8 hours on antique doors to cut through years of oil paint, varnish, shellac, whatever. In the morning, you can use a plastic scraper to squeegie the goop off the doors easily. Anything left over comes off with (again) a plastic scrubbie and hot water. I have to tell you, this Citristrip makes stripping actually fun for me. The results are almost immediate, no space suit or flesh eating chemicals, just nice ribbons of paint coming off. When you're done and prep properly again, I STRONGLY suggest looking at the STIX adhesive primer and Cabinet Coat by Inslx (now owned by BM). It dries HARD as a rock and is made for cabinets and moldings. Since you're using a light color, you have lots of choices. Proper prep makes this stuff go on like butter. Love it, too. Good luck.
  • Karen DeCristoforo Karen DeCristoforo on Dec 05, 2013
    Check out BIN primer...it goes over everything, latex, oil, etc....It may work..Good Luck!
  • Sandra Hellewell Sandra Hellewell on Dec 05, 2013
    There are good instructions on how to paint cabinets with ASCP by From MY Front Porch To Yours. You maybe able to salvage your hard work after reading what she has to say rather than start over! hope this helps!!
  • Tobey McCool Tobey McCool on Dec 05, 2013
    You do not have to strip all of your cupboards, if you choose not to try to fix the chalk paint, which you could but cleaning off a bit of the wax painting another coat and sealing it a polyurethane that will not yellow. this will keep the cabinets from chipping. Chalkpaint is meant to look distressed but I am guessing this is not the look you were going for. If your done with the chalkpaint, was the cabinets down with TSP cleaner and then when dry paint them with a primmer, then paint with a new paint that is meant for cabinets. good luck. You can contact Annie Sloan herself and she will help you if you want to save the chalkpaint look.
    • See 1 previous
    • Tobey McCool Tobey McCool on Dec 07, 2013
      @Terra Gazelle that is what I was telling her to wash off the wax not the paint. She did not like how it was chipping and distressing which is what chalk paint does. so if she takes off the wax, paints another coat of Annie Sloan and seals it with polyurethane it will not do this.
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Dec 05, 2013
    I understand believe me! : ) I have learned to practice everything and it has taken me a lot of practice with paint in general and a lot of books and lessons. Wished I lived closer I would help you strip them. I hate that for you! I have made tons of mistakes and re-painted a ton of stuff. let us know how your doing.
  • Denise Denise on Dec 05, 2013
    I do furniture and interiors for a living...and usually use chalk paint that I make myself; however, in the kitchen I have found that regular paint is superior and Ive done a lot of cabinets. I think your best bet, and simplest solution is to take the wax off (ugh) apply a really good coat of bin primer sealer. Then repaint with standard paint (there are two schools of thought for latex or oil base...both work) , usually three coats but may be just two in your case, and top with two coats of poly. Make sure to allow good drying time between coats, preferably a day and then you should have the cabinets you like. http://ourlakesidestory.com/2013/10/22/kitchen-cabinet-makeover/
  • Meem Kaplan Meem Kaplan on Dec 05, 2013
    Pocket knife and dremel are my go-to tools for nooks and crannies....
  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Dec 05, 2013
    If you want to get into the crevices, try Dremmel. It comes with several heads. Ask Home Depot. Good luck.
  • Just a thought if you choose to sand. Kitchen cabinets, especially the more common non-custom made hard wood types, will fall apart if you start sanding with power tools. Often, the finish is just a very thin layer of laminate or even printed paper. The sublayer could be mdf and will gouge easily. As a long time kitchen designer, I've had numerous clients try the chalk painting to save money and most are happy with the results. The above suggestions to try to fix what you have instead of grinding it off with power tools are great ideas. I highly recommend that you try that first. Please post "after" photos...would love to see the results!
  • Penny Penny on Dec 05, 2013
    have you tried liquid sander? i redid all my cabinets in the kitched also....the liquid sander works really well.....even if it only takes off a few layers, it might be a good starting point to begin all over again...good luck!
  • Gail lichtsinn Gail lichtsinn on Dec 05, 2013
    I think your best bet is to use a stripper..For the crevices try a nut pick or a dental pick..Some stains will bleed through any paint finish unless it is really sealed or primed with Killz sealing primer..I think chalk paint is kind of a soft finish for the kitchen..Its pretty but maybe paint or restaining and a few coats of polyurethene to seal it might be better
  • I second the liquid sander. It is one of my favorite products!
  • Linda Parker Linda Parker on Dec 06, 2013
    I am so sorry for the problems you are having but I am grateful for your post. I am about a month away from painting the kitchen cabinets for our new house. I think I will stick with milk paint or regular paint. Please post your progress. Best of luck.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Dec 06, 2013
    Chalk paint is ok..just seal it with poly unless you are going to wax it every three months..
    • Lane Harkey Lane Harkey on Dec 08, 2013
      @Terra Gazelle You don't have to keep waxing with chalk paint. It's used to harden the paint not for shine.
  • Through the Dutch Door Through the Dutch Door on Dec 06, 2013
    So I distressed one cabinet with dark wax. What do you think of it now?
    • See 3 previous
    • Susan T Susan T on Dec 08, 2013
      Show us when you're done! :) @