How To Distress And Finish Sand Milk Paint

Milk Series Part 4

Welcome to part 4 of my milk paint series. I am really excited to share what I have learned over the years on how to distress and finish sand Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint.

I realize that probably the only reason you are reading this is you actually searched for information on “how to sand milk paint.” The average person just doesn’t read this stuff for fun. 🙂

If you are just joining me, you can catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

You may already know how to distress painted furniture but do you know how to finish sand milk paint? I can tell you the biggest mistake I made when I first started out was not sanding it properly to make it silky smooth.

Learning how to do this simple step has made all the difference in how my finished pieces look.

How to distress and finish sand milk  paint.

If you are new to distressing furniture, it can be “distressing” (pun intended). I found it very intimidating when I started painting furniture to think about taking a piece of sandpaper and actually removing the paint I just spent two hours lovingly and carefully applying.

I am not suggesting that every piece need be distressed. Much of this decision really depends on the look you are trying to achieve. If you have been a reader around here for very long at all you will notice I distress almost all of my pieces.

Even if you choose not to distress, milk paint by nature is kind of crusty and needs to be finish sanded.

The only exception is my chandelier. I actually wanted a crusty look on it, so I left it alone.

 Distressing tells the story of your piece.

Miss Mustard Seed explained it perfectly in one of her blog posts how every piece of furniture has a story. Distressing the finish helps you bring the story to life.

Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in typewriter

There may be parts of your story that were pre-written, especially if your milk paint chipped. Embrace this and distress in the areas that will accentuate your chippy finish.

Chippy, layered, finish using Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in Linen and Bergere

The first thing you want to think about before you take sandpaper or sanding block in hand is this, where would your particular piece naturally show wear? For a chair, this would be the seat, arms, legs, and maybe the back where it might be touched when moved. If you keep this general rule of thumb in mind you really can’t go wrong.

Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Kitchen Scale

It has taken me 3 years to develop my personal style and look to my distressed pieces. You can too if you stick with it.

Let’s take a look at this chair.

5 tips for using Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint.

Here are the tools I use to tell my story.

Sanding sponges various grits

Sandpaper various grits

Brown paper sack

My favorite tool to use for distressing is a sanding sponge. I have found that 180 grit generally takes care of any and all the issues I might need to address. It’s just heavy enough to distress with yet not remove too much paint.

On this chair, I started with the legs. The color I used is my favorite, Kitchen Scale.

You can see just how crusty and bumpy milk paint can be prior to sanding.

How to finish sand milk paint to get it silky smooth.

You can already see a huge difference between the sanded area on the left.

While I was sanding this piece I noticed (paint nerd alert) that when I started to work on an area, it was quite noisy and scratchy. The longer I worked, the sound the sanding sponge made became softer and smoother and so did my finish. Sand until you can’t hear anything and it should be glossy by that time.

How to finish sand milk paint.

My process is to distress a little, then take a step back to see how it looks.

How to finish sand and distress Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint.

Finish Sanding.

After I have done all my distressing, I am ready to finish sand. This is where the paper bag comes in. You probably thought I was joking but I learned this trick from Allison of Refunk My Junk and it really works. You can just tear off a portion of a brown paper sack and use it just like a piece of sandpaper.

No brown paper bags at your house? No problem, just use a 220 or 320 grit sanding sponge or sandpaper.

I use a circular motion and go over my entire piece. Milk paint will almost look glossy and should feel pretty smooth to the touch once you have sanded it properly. You will notice subtle variances in the color. This is one of the things I love about milk paint.

How to distress and finish sand milk paint.


I have shared my process for sanding but there are a few other techniques out there worth mentioning.

Orbital or Palm Sander- I would suggest using an electric sander if you want a heavily worn and distressed look. Be sure to wear a mask because it will be dusty.

Wet sanding- This is simply using a damp, lint-free cloth and gently wiping the areas you want to distress. This a great alternative if you suffer from allergies and don’t want to suffer through all the milk paint dust generated by sandpaper. Be sure to rinse your cloth out periodically while using this method.

Wet sanding with hemp oil Another great option for allergy sufferers. Simply brush on your hemp oil, then work it into your piece with a sanding sponge. You can distress and finish sand at the same time. Wipe away the excess oil with a lint-free cloth.

Here’s a video demonstrating this process.

I hope I have put to rest some of the fear you may have over distressing painted furniture. Start with a small piece, like a frame or a chair, and work your way up to bigger pieces as your confidence grows.

If you have any other questions please feel free to ask them in comments. I am here to help.

Check back soon for Part 5 so we can chat about waxes, hemp oil, and other sealants.


Your chippy sister in paint,


Part 4 of my milk paint series covers how to distress and finish sand Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint.

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  1. 1915house says:

    Ok, I’m sure I should have known this, but I didn’t know about the paper bag trick!! And I live the look it gives. I’ll be honest- none of my pieces have turned out that smooth- it’s gorgeous!! Thank you for all the tips!!! You make this so do-able. 😊

  2. Toni | Small Home Soul says:

    You are the second person in a week that has talked about sanding with a Paper Bag!! Who knew? Well, you did but I had no idea. Apparently it works on chalky paint too 🙂

    I am nervous about distressing but might jump in at some point and give it a shot. Maybe I’ll practice on a picture frame first 🙂 Or my map project.

    Great information as always, you give me confidence to step outside my latex box again!

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