Salt Wash: How to Use It to Refinish Furniture

DIY vintage décor is all the rage right now. So is the practice of turning a thrift haul into a moneymaking opportunity. Both are made possible by looking for old pieces other people don’t want and transforming them into something you keep for yourself or sell to others. In many cases, a substance known as salt wash plays a big role.

Although the original Saltwash® is a brand name product, similar products from other manufacturers are referred to generically as salt wash. So what are these products? They are paint additives that create physical and visual texture. They are additives you would utilize to make your own chalk paint.

Jami Ray Vintage is a Utah company that specializes in repurposing old things and selling them to fans of DIY vintage décor. They use salt wash and other additives to create a distressed look. Quite frankly, that is what salt wash is all about.

The Look of the Sea

If you want to know what salt wash is all about, look no further than the name itself. If you have ever lived close to the ocean, you know that the combination of sun, wind, and salt can do a number on everything from wooden furniture to decorative metal pieces.

The effects of sun and salt are more than capable of weathering wood furniture. They cause metal objects to rust. Mixing salt wash with a bit of paint can give you the look of the sea without actually living on the coast.

Just Mix It In

Using salt wash really isn’t difficult. You just mix it into your paint and then apply. As for how much to utilize, that depends on your project and what you’re trying to achieve. Almost all chalk paint additives come with mixing suggestions on the label. You might add two tablespoons to a small can of paint to achieve one look or an entire cup to a gallon of paint for another look.

The key to getting a good look is not diluting the paint. Yes, adding salt wash is going to make an already thick paint thicker. But that is what you need to create a distressed look. You want the finished piece to look as though it has been distressed by sun, wind, and salt. You cannot get that look with a thinner paint.

Adding Texture with Layers

Salt wash and other chalk paint additives are ideal for older furniture pieces with thick layers of lacquer. You can use chalk paint right over the top of the lacquer without having to strip it away – which greatly reduces the amount of effort you have to put into refinishing a piece.

Unfortunately, a heavy coat of lacquer can prevent you from getting the look you want. So one suggestion is to add additional texture with multiple layers of paint. Let us say you wanted a finished piece in sea foam green. You would start by painting with a layer of dark gray or black – mixed with salt wash, of course. After that dries, you would put on a coat or two of the sea foam green.

Both paints would have salt wash mixed in. They would create the physical texture you are after. As for the visual texture, just enough of the darker layer would bleed through to make your sea foam green finish look like it had been on there for years.

Salt wash is a great chalk paint additive for making pieces look like they been weathered by sun and salty sea air. Give it a try if you’re into DIY vintage décor.

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