Product Reviews

Milk or Chalk Paint For Furniture?

Do you have a project you have been dying to dive in to, but don’t know where to start? If you are like many DIY’ers, you have heard the terms “chalk” and “milk” when referring to types of furniture paint, and have probably considered them for such projects. I am here today to help you decide which one to choose for your next project. 

What IS the difference anyway? And what’s all they hype about? Well, I am here to answer your questions!

Milk Paint

Let’s start with a brief history on milk paint. Modern milk paint mimics an actual form of paint that originated thousands of years ago using real milk mixed with lime and naturally derived pigments. This product was found to have been used on cave paintings, and was even said to have coated the furniture found in King Tutankhamen’s (AKA King Tut 😉) tomb! This is SO COOL, and is such a testament to its popularity as a durable, effective product.

Today, milk paint is still widely popular for painting furniture and wood work. You can buy traditional milk paints in powder form, or for those die-hard DIY’ers you can also make your own! Check out Bob Villa’s recipe if you’re interested. [Disclaimer: I have not tried this recipe yet, but will absolutely share it with you when I do!]

You can also buy milk paints pre-mixed, which is super convenient (and hey, who doesn’t like convenient?) but less traditional. Milk paints are made to reproduce the look of old-world furniture paint. The sheen is low (comparable to a typical eggshell) and the hardness is high. It is extremely easy to use, but certain colors can be harder to cover with than others, like white or red (as is true with most paints). You can also manipulate this product to achieve many beautiful special effects like layered colors, or a dry brush. 

Furniture For Milk Paint

  • Kitchen tables and chairs
  • Heavier used side tables
  • Kitchen Cabinets
  • Anything that will be used daily.

Chalk Paint

Chalk based paints are also said to be one of the first paints used in recorded history (around 800 B.C.!). They were mixed similarly to milk paint using a pigmented lime (the chalky part) base. Chalk paints have a VERY low sheen, which is perfect if you are looking for a classically flat finish. They also tend to have better coverage than milk paint.

However you will find chalk paint is less durable than milk paint. Due to the formula required to create chalk paint, there are more fillers added in order to achieve the look, feel and coverage for what makes a chalk paint, a chalk paint! An easy way to test this is by holding a can of chalk and a can of milk in each hand – the chalk paint will be heavier! These fillers give that desired matte sheen, and make the product easily sandable for distressing… Unfortunately this also means it will be easier to scratch and scuff, and it will be less resistant to unwanted oils and residues.

Furniture for Chalk Paints

  • Lightly Used Side Tables
  • Decorative Side Chairs
  • Decorative Buffets or Hutches
  • Bottoms of side tables or buffets and wood refinished tops like the picture to the right.

The Comparison

For you science savvy followers out there, here is a closer look at some spec comparisons between the two products from, General Finishes.


  • Water Base
  • Low VOCs
  • 30 Min dry to touch
  • Recoat 2 hrs
  • Sheen – Flat
  • Long lasting color
  • Can be used for exterior use with proper top coating
  • VISCOSITY (CPS) 2,000- 3,000
  • Solids 54%
  • Durability – High


  • Water Base
  • Low VOCs
  • 30 Min dry to touch
  • Recoat 2 hrs
  • Sheen – Flat (chalky look)
  • Not for exterior use
  • VISCOSITY (CPS) 2,000- 3,000
  • Solids 60%
  • Durability – Medium

Note: That General Finishes no longer makes their Chalk Paint. I am not sure why but I am going to go ahead and speculate. (Don’t email me) It is because it is not a low durable product.

Both milk and chalk paint are water base products, so they are eco-friendly. These paints have no odor and can be used indoors. Because both of these paints are water based, you can also mix them together to make customized colors!

Happy Painting 

Tara Lou

* This blog contains affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer page for more information.

Tara Lou

Mama, wife, furniture connoisseur, small business owner, nature-lover, homebody, hunter.

3 thoughts on “Milk or Chalk Paint For Furniture?

  1. I love a good upcycling project, I’m always up for anything to keep useable things out of the landfills. Unfortunately, creativity is not something I’ve been blessed with. I had no idea there was such a thing as milk paint that could actually be used for anything other than kids crafts. Now I’m intrigued. I’m thrilled to have happened upon your website so I can be inspired.

  2. Hi I’m wondering what would be your choice for painting cabinets, milk or chalk paint? After reading this I’m leaning towards the milk paint. I painted my desk with chalk paint but it stains easily, would the milk paint do the same? I also have the wax over it.

    1. Hello Sally, yes milk paint would be a much more durable option for kitchen cabinets. If you do a suitable top coat such as a poly acrylic waterbase finish it will resist staining. Milk paint also doesn’t have fillers in them so it won’t stain as easy either. Read our blog post on waxing furniture too.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: