Milk paint has to be one of my favorite types of paint to use for home projects. I’ve always been a big fan of chalk paint and even worked with BB Frosch, which is a chalk paint powder company years back.
Now I do more with milk paint these days because it has better coverage overall and doesn’t chip as much.
Key Takeaways of this post: My favorite milk paint I recommend to everyone is Old Fashioned Milk Paint. I like this one more than others because it’s high quality, you can’t go wrong, and it’s reasonably priced.
However, it does depend on your project. Keep reading to find out if it’s the best milk paint for you or if you’re short on time, just trust me and pick it up now.
What Is So Special About Milk Paint and What Is It?
Milk paint has been around for a long time, but is currently seeing a resurgence in popularity with interior designers and decorators.
It is a non-toxic, highly durable paint made with milk protein (casein), lime, and natural pigments.
It has almost no odor, unlike many other home decorating paints. Because it is water-based, it cleans up easily with just mild soap and water.
The drying time is another positive feature of milk paint; most brands dry in a little under one hour.
One of the most prominent features of milk paint is that it is amazingly durable over time.
Types of milk paint date back literally thousands of years. Evidence of milk-based paint has been found in the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamun and in prehistoric cave paintings.
These discoveries attest to just how durable milk paint can be!
Milk paint manufactured today is a popular choice for people who want a vintage or antique look in their home decor. In fact, many artists and furniture makers in Colonial America used milk paint in their work. Today, milk paint is a favorite medium for anyone wanting to transform furniture into something resembling a historic reproduction.
This paint dries to a smooth, almost completely matte finish similar to the look of chalk-style paint.
The colors in milk paint are resistant to fading and will look as vibrant after many years as they do on the day they are freshly painted.
Unlike most other paints, milk paint is usually sold in a powder form that you mix with water.
The powder form has a nearly indefinite shelf life, but once the paint is mixed it will only last for a few days. For this reason, you should only mix up as much milk paint as you’ll need at one time.
What do you use Milk Paint for?
Milk paint is so versatile! It can be used on wood furniture, walls, woodwork, metal, and even glass.
The current trend is to use it as furniture paint. Plain or older furniture can be given new life with vibrant colors from milk paint.
Using it on wood trim or doors in your home is a fun way to add colorful accents to your decor.
Because milk paint is completely non-toxic, it’s a safe choice to paint children’s furniture, rooms, and even toys.
It’s a fun choice for craft items, too. Wooden signs, decorations, and stenciled accents created with milk paint have an adorable “country chic” aesthetic.
What’s the Difference between Milk Paint and Chalk Paint?
Milk paint and chalk paint are often confused. They both are water-based matte paints; popular with anyone who wants to decorate with a “vintage” or “farmhouse” theme. They are available in similar color palettes, and they both dry pretty fast. That’s really where the similarities end, though. I covered the difference between milk paint and chalk paint in-depth in another blog post.
Chalk paint dries to a completely matte finish.
There is no sheen to it at all. It’s a good choice if you want to distress a piece of furniture for an antique appearance. It also comes pre-mixed and is thick enough to cover in just one or two coats of paint.
The downsides to chalk paint are that you’ll need to apply a wax sealant on any surfaces that will be touched/moved frequently.
This will give it a slightly satiny sheen instead of being perfectly matte, but your piece will be protected.
Not all chalk paints are non-toxic, and some brands of low levels of VOC (volatile organic compounds) so there might be a slight odor.
Milk paint is also considered to be a matte-finish paint, but it does have a very slight sheen to it when dry. It’s completely non-toxic, with little to no odor and no VOCs. You can experiment with creating custom colors by mixing two of the powdered milk paints together with water.
You can distress furniture with milk paint, but the chipping/distressing is a little harder to control than it is with chalk paint.
If you’re going to distress a piece of furniture that you painted with milk paint, you should do it soon after the milk paint has dried.
Use light-grit sandpaper. The longer the milk paint is on a painted piece, the harder it will have to adhere to the surface, and the more difficult it will be to distress.
One of the biggest downsides to milk paint is that once milk paint is mixed with water, it has a very short shelf life.
You should use your mixed paint within a couple of days, otherwise, it starts to spoil. Mixing it can be tricky, too. You need to thoroughly mix the powder with water, then let it sit for a few minutes to allow any foaminess or bubbles to dissipate.
Chalk paint tends to go on heavier than milk paint. One or even two coats of most milk paint could appear semi-transparent.
This can be used as a nice effect if you want to do a colored wash over a piece of furniture, but if you want a solid covering you might need to apply more coats of milk paint than you would chalk paint.
What’s the Difference between Milk Paint and Regular Paint?
The most commonly used paints for home decorating projects are latex paint and oil paints. Both of these are significantly different from milk paints.
Both latex and oil-based enamel paints are available in a variety of finishes, from “extra glossy” to “satin”. Milk paint is always a matte finish paint, although it does have a very slight sheen to it when it dries.
Latex and oil paints also contain varying quantities of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).
A simple definition of VOCs is that they are chemicals that vaporize into the air around us, and can be dissolved in water. They’re common in many household products, but especially so in home paints.
VOCs usually contain toxins that can cause health problems, so you should absolutely wear a face mask and work in a well-ventilated area when working with these substances.
Conversely, milk paints are completely non-toxic and contain no VOCs. Most brands of milk paint have little to no odor, although some do have a slightly “grassy” scent that completely disappears when the paint is dry.
It’s a safe choice to use on any items that will come in contact with your children or pets.
Oil-based paints can take several days to fully dry. Latex paints are faster; usually becoming fully dry in approximately 24 hours.
Milk paint, however, can be completely dry in an hour or two. This makes large painting projects go much faster, with less time spent waiting to apply second or third coats of paint.
The other big difference between milk paint and more traditional paints is clean up. Milk paint cleans up easily and quickly with just mild soap and water.
You can clean up latex or other acrylic paints with soap and water also, but it takes a little more effort. Oil-based paints will require a solvent of some kind for cleaning.
Turpentine, paint thinner, and mineral spirits are most commonly used to get brushes and other tools clean after using any oil-based paint.
Does Milk Paint Chip?
Milk paint can be purposely chipped or sanded to create a distressed look on furniture or other home accent pieces.
However, you need to create this look before the paint has been dry on your painted piece for very long.
If you want to lightly sand it for that popular distressed appearance, you should do so soon after the paint has dried. Otherwise, getting the paint to chip and “distress” will be much more difficult.
Milk paint actually becomes more durable over time. The minerals (usually lime) and milk protein in the paint react to form a natural coating that cures to a rock-hard coating over longer periods of time.
You can further increase the durability and adhesion of milk paint by mixing in a bonding agent. Most brands of milk paint also sell their own powdered bonding agents.
Is Milk Paint Expensive? How Much Does Milk Paint Cost?
Any type of home paint seems to vary in price depending on the brand. It’s always a good idea to compare prices.
Milk paint is a budget-friendly paint, with prices on average being $25-$40 for enough powder to mix a quart or so of paint.
When you compare the price of this quantity with the price of a quart of some latex paints, milk paint might seem a little pricey.
Consider though, since milk paint comes in a powdered form, you can mix up just enough paint for whatever project you’re working on, so you won’t have leftover paint that you can’t use.
The milk paint powder lasts for years if properly stored, so you’re getting long-term value when you buy milk paint.
The Top 5 Best Milk Paint Brands
Ok so here’s what you came for. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular milk paint brands for home projects and furniture painting.
Old Fashioned Milk Paint
Old Fashioned Milk Paint is one of the most popular brands of milk paint. Their milk paint powders are made in small batches, so you know the product you buy will always be fresh. Their color selection has been created to reproduce the look of shaker and “old country” furniture. It’s a favorite with crafters and designers who want to transform modern furniture into something that appears to be a cherished antique.
Amy Howard Toscana Milk Paint
Amy Howard Toscana Milk Paint brand focuses on soft colors that are meant to invoke the look of family heirlooms. This paint is one of the stronger milk paint formulas and can be a little more difficult to get a distressed or “chippy” appearance.
The pigments are unique, using minerals sourced from Italy and the South of France. The “Strasbourg White” color is one of the nicest white shades if you’re looking for a soft, antiqued white. It has subtle cool undertones and an elegant velvety finish.
The Real Milk Paint Co
The Real Milk Paint Co. is a good brand to use if you want to achieve a distressed finish on your painted furniture. This brand is durable, but easier to sand for that chipped look that transforms thrift store finds into treasured home decor. The color selection is outstanding, with over 50 choices. In addition to vintage-inspired hues, many of their colors are compatible with more contemporary color plans.
Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint
Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint is notable for not only having a great selection of 52 vibrant colors, but they are also one of the most eco-friendly milk paint brands on the market.
Made in the U.S.A., not only are they non-toxic with zero VOC content, but this company also supports a co-op of family-owned farms that are dedicated to the societal and environmental impacts of their operations.
The colors of Miss Mustard Seeds paint are easy to mix together for your own customization, with four shades that are specifically described as “mixing colors”.
This kit from GreenBird Real Milk Paint Powders is perfect for anyone who wants to do smaller craft projects (such as decorative signs or holiday items) but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money buying several colors.
This kit features eight brightly colored milk paint powders that can be mixed for endless customization. If you want to experiment a bit with mixing colors and just try milk paint techniques, this kit is a great option.
Tips for Milk Paint Furniture Projects and Clean Up
Milk paint is easy to use, but there are a few tips that can make your project go smoothly.
First, you need to be sure to mix the milk paint powder thoroughly. It can help to use a kitchen whisk that you have designated just for paint mixing. Mixing the powder and water together in a jar or container with a lid can help.
Put the lid on the jar tightly, then shake the mixture together for a few minutes. Vigorous stirring after the shaking will help remove any tiny lumps.
If you find lumps in your mixed paint that you just can’t get out, strain your paint into another container through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve.
You can achieve different looks using milk paint, depending on the technique you use. One or two light coats can have a semi-transparent appearance to give your project a nice color wash.
Using a foam brush instead of one with bristles will help the paint glide on smoothly, with almost no signs of brushstrokes or streaks.
One of the great features of milk paint is that because it’s water-based, it’s so easy to clean up!
For any drips or spills, as well as for cleaning brushes, containers, and rollers, you can just use mild detergent and warm water. Just be sure to clean your tools before the paint is fully dry.
If you happen to get milk paint on clothes you didn’t want to get dirty, you might be able to wash it completely out if you catch it before the paint is dry. You can try running the fabric under warm water to flush out most of the paint.
Then, blot (don’t scrub!) the paint stain with a cloth soaked in mild detergent and water. Just to be sure at this point, you can throw it in the washing machine and launder it as you normally would.
Milk paint is a fun and creative medium for transforming furniture and home decor. It’s easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and completely non-toxic.
It’s versatile enough to create something with a vintage appeal or to add eye-catching color to any contemporary piece. The uses for this popular paint are only limited by your imagination!