Remember that awesome “cubby” I found a few weeks ago?  I spotted it when I was out shopping once, but I passed it up, because it was a little pricey.  I kept thinking about it, though, and decided if it was still there the next time I stopped in, I would buy it.

Well, it was still there and I snapped it up.  (It’s so funny that I get so excited about buying things I’m just going to turn around and sell!)

The only problem with this piece is that it was shedding paint everywhere.  If you would just breath near it, flakes would fall off.  I love the “chippy look”, but I don’t want actual chips of paint littering the floor.

So, I have a standard way I deal with pieces like this…

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

Before I get into the process, please check the EPA website for safely dealing with lead-based paint if that’s a concern.  This process is only for pieces that do not contain lead-based paint.  

I start out by vacuuming the entire surface of the piece.  This is to remove cobwebs, loose dirt and flaking paint.  The vacuum and I got well acquainted with this piece, because of all of the cubbies!  I used a brush attachment for the flat surfaces, in order to be gentle with the chipping paint, and a wand for the cubbies.

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

 Sometimes I’ll give pieces a scrub after vacuuming, but the surface on this piece was very rough and I was afraid of pulling off too much paint, so I left it alone.  

If you do decide to scrub your piece, just use warm, soapy water and a cloth or sponge or spray on an all-purpose cleaner.  If you can, put the piece outside in the sun, so it can dry.  (It also helps with musty smells to let the piece air out in the breeze and sunshine.)

The last step is to apply a clear non-yellowing, water based sealer.  You really can use whichever brand you like, but, of course, I use Tough Coat from the MMS Milk Paint line.

Tough Coat | Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint

I lay it on really thick so it “glues” down the edges of the chipping paint and really seals it.

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

…and then I brush out the finish with one or two strokes.  They key to a smooth finish is not over-brushing.

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

Another key is using a quality brush, roller or applicator pad.  I used my favorite Parsons West brush, naturally, but you really can use any well-made brush.

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

You can see how the finish will bring out the character of the wood and paint underneath.

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

Now the piece still has that wonderful, chippy look, but it can actually be used in a home.  I would just keep an eye on it over the years for any new chipping.

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

Today, I cranked my music, worked hard and focused on my space for The Market on Chapel Hill.  Here’s where that newly-sealed piece ended up…

cleaning & sealing chipping antique pieces | miss mustard seed

I still have a few small pieces to work on and some finishing touches, but the booth is almost done!

Here are a few pictures from around the space so far…

market on chapel hill booth | miss mustard seed market on chapel hill booth | miss mustard seed market on chapel hill booth | miss mustard seed market on chapel hill booth | miss mustard seed  market on chapel hill booth | miss mustard seed

And I got in a big shipment of antique hemp sheets.  These might be some of my favorite I’ve ever received.

antique hemp sheets | miss mustard seed

I’m keeping some for my own upholstery and slipcover work, but I’m bringing along a bunch to sell.

market on chapel hill booth | miss mustard seed

More market preparations and makeovers to come…


Another post about cleaning and sealing painted pieces…

Sealing the “Crusty Counter”


  1. Terri

    Love it! All!

  2. Susan

    I love this piece. I was so hoping to make the Chapel sale this year, but life threw some curveballs our way and I won’t be there this year either.
    I would love to know how you would “preserve” the rust on a piece of metal. I have a metal egg basket that I love just the way it is, rust and all, but I want to stop it from rusting more.
    Happy Wednesday!

    • marian

      You can do the same thing – seal it. For a metal egg basket, if it’s wiry, I would use a polycrylic spray.

      • Susan

        Thank you for the advice! I will try that!

  3. Emily

    Hi Marian,
    I love your stuff. You have me obsessed over grain sacks and antique sheets. Thank you! I
    have done a couple projects using them both now. Wow! The quality is amazing. I loved picking apart the hand stitched seam of the grain sacks imagining a woman in the French countryside spending her day stitching it together. I sort of felt bonded…cheesy…but true. I imagine her life was filled with mundane tasks, much like my own (being a stay at home mom to 4 kids), but she still created something beautiful that is appreciated generations later. A good reminder that there is beauty in the mundane. That pile of hemp sheets is making me swoon. I hope everything goes perfectly for your sale. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Lauren Baxter

    Great pieces! Wish I was in the states to come and buy, secretly hoping that beautiful horse doesn’t sell so I can scoop it up! Good luck at the booth!!

    Lauren Baxter | Lovely Decor

  5. Diane Christy

    I live in the Montgomery area, am planning on coming to Pike Road for the Market and would love to take you to dinner the night before. I know you’ll probably be crazy with all the loading in details, but I could at least bring you some sandwiches! Let me know if there’s anything else you need locally. I work 7:00-4:00 and have a flea market booth at Eastbrook Antique Market as a side job/hobby, Saltmarsh Design. I’ve had one pop-up shop and know what a ton of work setting the booth up will be! Joyful in many ways, but work, too.

    Happy to help in anyway to make your Alabama experience another wonderful one.

  6. Bonnie Sullivan

    Would this type of sealer work on mahogany furniture so that it doesn’t bleed through or would I need to use a shellac?


  7. beverlee

    love it. and I also seal the cruddy part. Is your ‘Tough Coat’ matt or shiny? will help my decision. thanks.

  8. Deb

    Marian, I sure wish you’d offer some of these goodies online (like the hemp sheets) prior to the sales for you blog followers who can’t attend. Best of luck to you at your sale! D

    • marian

      Well, I can’t sell things online first or I won’t have anything for the sale! I know how my readers are when I list something! 🙂 I will list anything I have leftover that can be shipped. Usually there are hemp sheets leftover, since they are on the pricey side.

  9. Nancy @ Slighlty Coasatal

    The chippy finish on that piece is just great. Thanks for filling me in on how to preserve it. I know how you feel when you find something great that you are going to sell in the end anyway. I put it in my home and walk by it and smile feeling like I “was the lucky one who saw its beauty”. Then I sell it and look for the next thing that makes me feel that way.

  10. Lia

    I have used your tough coat since it came out and it has performed beautifully. It is fantastic for sealing in the chipping paint. Thank you!

  11. Lia

    I have used your tough cost since it came out and it works beautifully! It really seals the chipping paint down. Thank you!

  12. Chris

    Oh Marian I am in love with the ironstone milk/water pitchers of all sizes. They are hard to find where I am, but when I do I am so excited to get it. I’m wondering what kind of price you get for them there? So wish I could come to the sale and see your booth for myself, but thank you for sharing it here.

  13. Melissa

    Can I use MMS Tough Coat over MMS wax? I waxed a piece back in August, and it turned out beautiful, but it is still chipping and like you I do not want paint chips on the floor.

  14. Mary Kay

    Marian, please forgive my ignorance, but would you please explain what hemp sheets are?

  15. Marlene Stephenson

    I hate to ask that question again but, what are hemp sheets and where can you buy them? Thanks i know i am a little new but you give such wonderful posts. Have a great time at market,i live a ways from here so i have no clue how wonderful it would be to go.

  16. MaryLisa Noyes

    You are going to have a great space at the market!

  17. Kathy McGinnis

    Will you be selling any of the hemp sheets online?

  18. Ashley

    Great tutorial! I have this issue a lot, as I love chippy paint too much. But hey, does the sealant work on metal too??


  19. Breezy Mason

    Living in theUpper Peninsula of Michigan doesn’t enable me to make it to the sale. But if you have any of the antique hemp sheets left after the sale I would so love to purchase a couple. I would also like to mention how hooked I am on the milk paint. I love it and have repainted just about everything in my house, my husband tells eyeryone he is afraid I am going to try to paint him. ?. Thanks for all your inspiration! Breezy

  20. Stacy

    I have a question about the sealer…….
    Does it leave a matte finish or is there a shine to it?
    Thanks ?


    Fantastic article. My advice is to use little brushes. They are very useful for tiny spaces. Vacuuming first was a great idea. I am going to try it next time. Best regards!

  22. Alexandra

    What is really sad, is you likely received the most harm from inhaling and touching what’s likely lead based paints. I don’t know how you think its a good idea to suggest this to others.
    Please do some research on Lead paint neurotoxicity. It affects adults just as it does children. A 3M Lead check swab is a very easy way to scientifically test whether or not those pieces are lead. I’m guessing you will delete this. Just think about this. Please.

    • marian

      Alexandra, thanks for your concern and, yes, I am aware of the hazards of lead, which is why I referred readers to the EPA website is their is a concern about their piece having lead paint.

  23. Sarah

    Yeah, I agree with Alexandra. Lead is a powerful neurotoxin ESPECIALLY if children get anywhere near it.
    And man, please don’t sand or vacuum lead paint anymore, you are putting yourself at serious risk.

    I’m just sayin, I would want someone to tell me if I didn’t know.

  24. Jeanne Hayes

    Great post! You did a fantastic job! I am going to try this chipping paint. Thank you for sharing these great advices. Greetings!

  25. Adrienne

    Do you have a “process” for pieces with lead based paint?!

  26. Kelly

    Hi , I enjoyed this very much , I have an old wood box my grandpa made, from old scrap wood and a Blue ribbon tea crate. It is painted green we think this is an original color , then a heavy thick white paint has been painted on top , now today some of the white paint is peeling but not all of it I would like to get some of the white paint off but not all of it Can you suggest how to do this ? I am scraping and sanding but some of the paint is solid and not peeling


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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