Applying paste wax over poly did not work

mclaughlindw4July 30, 2014

I have a pine end table that I have sanded, applied a stain, then brushed on poly, sanded, poly, sanded, poly, etc.

When I got to the wet sanding using a very high grit (I think it was 400 and then 1000 or something), there was a milky appearance to the finish. A buddy of mine said to use paste wax for the final coat. I did this, but the milky appearance did not go away.

From what I've read since, really all I needed was a final coat of poly without sanding afterwords. But now there is paste wax.

Should I try to remove the wax with mineral spirits, sand lightly and then poly? this is what I was thinking of doing.

Was he just plain wrong about using the paste wax?


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From your description, it's hard to speculate what the "milky" appearance was from. Could be a number of things.

I would be wary of trying to apply another coat of poly at this point. Poly has enough adhesion problems. The wax, which you will not get completely rid of, will exacerbate adhesion issues.

In the future, try things out on a small, inconspicuous area before starting front and center.

At this point, I'd be temped to use 0000 Steel wool, lubricated with the wax and try to buff out poly that's there.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:30PM
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When I googled 'milky appearance with poly' I get a lot of hits, people refer to it as a milky or cloudy look after sanding. Generally the advice seems to be not to sand after final coat to avoid this.

I can try the steel wool and was, Not gonna hurt since there is already wax on it. Can you explain the 'buff out poly that's there'?

If the poly is underneath, how do I buff that out? Sorry I am obviously not experienced in this.

I attached a pic. You can see the sort of whitish spots or blotches all throughout the finish? It's kind of tough to get a picture of it

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 6:28PM
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Sounds to me like some moisture in the poly which often will look milky. I would completely remove the wax applying several coats of a cleaner ( You might call the manufacturer and ask them what to use) and then when you are sure it is removed make sure the poly is completely dry and then sand the finish with I would say 180 grit so it slightly goes through the top coat, let dry for a few days, and then apply another coat of poly. Keep in mind this is only my opinion and I could be wrong but this has worked for me with in this situation. Also when drying the finish keep in a dry area. Do not leave outside if there is any dampness and do not leave out overnight.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 6:44PM
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if you don't remove ALL the wax the next coat of poly won't take ,period. the milkiness is most likely caused by the steel wool and maybe the wax. mineral spirits may not remove all the wax, try to find a wax remover. i know mowhawk carries it, it's called wax off. (google search). if you can't find it, use naptha. use it outside or open windows with a fan. use fine scotch brite and lightly scrub the surface in small areas ( about 2sq,ft) and wipe OFF with clean rags. do this several times. when the rag comes up with no residue, wash it one more time and you're done. this stuff drys fast so work quickly. you can move on to the next step now. scuff sand the top with 180-220 grit sand paper. poly doesn't melt into the layer below like lacquer , sanding helps the poly to bond. wipe once more with the naptha, just in case. now you're ready for the next coat of poly. i don't know what kind of top coat appearance you're looking for, so this is as far as i can go. let me know if i can help. ps. waxing highlights imperfections. the duller the sheen the the fewer imperfections show up. it's your call.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 9:23AM
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