How to stop that pesky bleed-through once and for all! (& an Antique Desk Makeover)

Hello amazing Friends! Welcome to Trash-to-Treasure Tuesday!!

You know I love turning trash into beautiful functional décor and so do four of my favorite bloggy friends! They will be sharing their own makeovers today as well, so be sure to look for links to them at the bottom!

Ok I do have to admit that today’s makeover isn’t really very trashy…at all. It is this awesome antique desk that I picked up while thrifting last week:

Cool, right?? I paid a little more for it than I would have liked…it was $70, but I knew it would be a quick redo and would sell well. (Quick ahem…yeah right.)

As a bonus, I am also sharing this chair I picked up a couple of weeks ago for $10:

I thought these might make a great set!

Here they are all refreshed:
How to Stop Bleed-Through once and for all!


How to Stop Bleed-Through on furniture once and for all!

This desk may not have really fit into the “trash” category, but it was filthy on top. Years of build-up needed to go…good thing I planned to sand the top.

I’ve included a few affiliate links so you can find the products I use and love.

I started with 100 grit sandpaper and my Ryobi Orbital Sander to remove the stain and gunk build-up…

Then I gave it a once-over with 220 grit until it was smooth. After cleaning up all the dust with my shop-vac, I used a soft cloth to apply a coat of Wood Conditioner to the top. (This allows the wood to take the stain more evenly.)

I followed up with Java Gel Stain by General Finishes. I had never used their stain before, but my buddy Nancy at Artsy Chicks Rule uses it often and I love the look of it, so when I came across it at an unfinished furniture store last week, I decided to give it a try!

I applied it with a soft cloth as well and let it dry for about 36 hours. One coat was enough for the look I wanted. Then I sealed it with their High Performance Topcoat which I already had. To apply it, I used a brush specially designed for polyurethane by Wooster.


Java Gel Stain


How to Stop Bleed-Through on furniture once and for all!

Then it was time for paint!

Ahh…The Dreaded Bleed-Through

Because I knew I would get that dreaded bleed-through on this older piece (Older mahogany and cherry pieces almost always have issues with bleed-through.), I gave the base of the desk a coat of Zinsser Shellac, applied with a foam brush.

The suggested wait time before painting over the shellac is one hour, so I waited about an hour and fifteen minutes and came back to paint. However, I was still getting bleed-through, so I gave everything one  more coat.

Now I have had this happen before and I should have known better. It was freezing cold this weekend and I was working in the garage with the door open. (This stuff is stinky!) The temperature was simply too cold, and I needed to wait longer than the suggested one hour wait-time before painting. (This will be the case in hot humid conditions as well!)

So don’t be in a hurry! If you still get bleed-through after the first application…wait a few hours or even overnight give it plenty of time, and then paint again.

And if you’re still getting that pesky bleed-through?

You shouldn’t if you are patient and give the shellac time to fully cure before painting, but it sometimes still happens. You have a couple of options at this point. One is to spray the few areas with another clear matte sealer. Just about any one will probably do. I like Rustoleum Clear Matte Spray and Clear Matte Sealer by Plaid. Allow those to dry completely and then repaint. (An hour should be plenty this time.) That should do the trick.

Another option is to wax those areas with clear soft wax and allow them to dry for 30 minutes or so, then paint over those areas. Bleed-through is one of the most frustrating things when painting furniture, but I’ve never met a bleeder that I couldn’t tame!

UPDATE: My NEW favorite go-to for sealing in those pesky tannins is Dixie Belle’s BOSS, which stands for Blocks odors, stains, stops bleed-thru! This stuff rocks! It comes in white and clear.

How to Stop Bleed-Through on furniture once and for all!

Although painting these super dark older pieces white can have it’s challenges, I love how they distress!

How to Stop Bleed-Through on furniture once and for all!

I used Behr’s Bit of Sugar in a flat finish made into DIY chalk paint for this set. (Find the recipe with video HERE.) I sealed the chair and the base of the table with Annie Sloan’s Clear Soft Wax.

You can find my How to Paint Furniture using Chalk Paint Tutorial HERE!

How to Stop Bleed-Through on furniture once and for all!

For the chair, because it was small, I stuck it in my Mini Spray Shelter and primed with Rustoleum Spray Primer. I still had bleed through in a couple of places, but I sprayed some clear sealer on those areas and I was good to go.

How to Stop Bleed-Through on furniture once and for all!

You always want to spray prime cane before painting so the paint won’t flake off on you or your guests. #askmehowiknow #oopsie

How to Stop Bleed-Through on furniture once and for all!

I spray primed the cane seat, then used chalk paint to paint it, and sealed just that area with clear matte sealer. You could also spray paint the cane after priming, which would not require a sealer.

This chair is a cute companion for this desk, but it will be staying with me. I just love how it turned out and it will make a great prop for photos!

It was pretty nicked and beat up along all the edges, but that just made it distress even better…


I wish I had a place for this desk as well. It would make a great dressing table…just look how huge that drawer is!

The wood inside the drawer was so pretty I decided not to cover it with fabric this time.

This would also be great if you had a large entryway.

How to stop bleed-through when painting furniture from

I suspect it won’t last long in my booth!


How to stop bleed-through on furniture from

Don’t forget my girls are sharing trash-to-treasures of their own…I can’t wait to see them myself!

1.  Girl in the Garage

2.  Artsy Chicks Rule

3.  Prodigal Pieces

4.  Bless’er House

Want even more Trash-to-Treasure inspiration? Visit all of my makeovers from this series HERE!

I’ll be back on Thursday with my favorite thrifting buddy, Nancy from Artsy Chicks Rule! We have a new video of us thrifting to share, plus we will share what we bought and made over! Here’s a hint:

See ya then!

UPDATE: No need to come back…you can see it now HERE! 🙂




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  1. Mary Kaiser says

    Beautiful. I wish I lived closer, that table would be mine!! Looking forward to Thursday’s video, you two crack me up!!

    • Thank you, Mary! Aww I would love for you to have this sweet table. I’ll see ya Thursday…and yes Nancy and I have a ball thrifting together! XOXO

  2. Christina in SW FL says

    This desk won’t last long in your shop Christy. Beautiful and thank you for all the details to stop bleed through. I was imagining you working in your cold garage and you are a determined soul! The outcome is warm, cozy and the stained top is perfect.
    While I am not a fan of cane seat chairs, this one is beautiful. 🙂
    Very well done as always!
    Enjoy the rest of your week.

    • Thank you, Christina! I don’t think it will last long either! I’ve had to deal with that darned bleed-through many times and hoped my tips might help someone else. And yes…it’s COLD out there lol…dreaming of warm Spring days ahead! XOXO

  3. What a find! It looks like a close relative to the console table I recently redid. They are so awesome to have. You gave it such a beautiful new life. Love it!

    • Thanks, Larissa! I loved this table the minute I saw it…wish I had a place for it! XOXO

  4. Christy…I was surprised to read, you said to apply soft wax, to prevent bleed-through and paint over it…I wasn’t aware, you could paint over wax…I enjoy your blog…I am an old-timer…who used to refinish furniture and am enjoying, reading about the new paints and products, that are out there today!

    • Hi Sharon! Yes if you are using chalk paint, you can most certainly paint right over it! Options for painting furniture have expanded quite a bit since I first started as well. 🙂 Thank you so much for following along with me! XOXO

  5. That turned out so gorgeous Christy! I just love Java Gel (and hate bleed thru lol) ! The chair really does look perfect with it, too, but will make a great prop. xo

    • Thanks, Nancy! I always thought I had to drive out to Military Hwy to find that stain locally. I didn’t realize Good Wood had it. I drive by there all the time to go to my parent’s house and to take Brennan to therapy! Love your pieces when you use it! And yes I have to keep the chair…always looking for simple props and I think this will be perfect! XOXO

  6. Debra Wise says

    Everything you frepurpose is gorgeous! When you distress your pieces, do you sand by hand or use an electric sander?

    • Aww thank you so much, Debra! I usually do it by hand using 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around an old foam sanding block. If it is a larger piece with a large flat surfaces, I will sometimes use my rotary sander. 🙂

  7. Love it!! You always find the nicest pieces of furniture to work with! I’m glad you kept the top original. Some pieces have the most beautiful wood grain in them and I always keep them too. I may have to come shopping in your neck of the woods!

    • Thank you so much, Debbie! I thrift a ton at several different places and every once in a while I get lucky…I grabbed this as soon as I saw it! And yes I love to keep the top original as well when it has this beautiful wood! XOXO

  8. Susan Williams says

    I love this makeover! I have been painting a few pieces of my own white and leaving the top in stained wood. I love the look. I wish I had read your piece on bleed through first as I had a horrible time with a cherry wood end table that took 3 coats of white chalk paint.
    Thank you for sharing! I love trash to treasure Tuesdays!
    BTW– have you re done your chandler yet? I have one that I need to change and Im debating on white vs black but leaning towards white.

    • Thank you, Susan! I really love this look as well. And that bleed-through can be the worst! At least there are ways to combat it when you do come across it. I love Trash-to-treasure Tuesday as well…looking forward to checking out what my friends made over today as well. As for the chandelier, I have not done anything to it yet, but leaning towards white when I do! XOXO

  9. As usual great job!! Off topic… is your flooring tile or wood? Looks great.

  10. Marcie Lovett says

    Oh, yeah, fresh and bright. The desk has beautiful lines and the paint just makes it better looking. That chair works so well with it! Maybe you’ll change your mind and send it to keep the desk company (although I suspect the desk won’t stick around long)????

    The first piece of furniture I painted with chalk paint turned a funky orange in places and I couldn’t figure out why. Daggone mahogany bleed through! Good to know how you attack it before it strikes again.

    • Thank you, Marcie! I love the lines of this piece as well! That bleed-through is so frustrating…and it always happens on the most beautiful pieces! XOXO

  11. Nothing to look forward to anymore…I know it will all be white before I even open the post…..

    • I get it, Lisa, really I do, but it is about SO much more than just a paint color. It is about mixing finishes, like a weathered top for example, or revealing beautiful wood, or mixing in a pretty fabric, or learning about how to combat something super frustrating like bleed-through, or just enjoying pretty pictures. I do use white a LOT because for one, I love white and would paint everything white if I could, but I also have to sell these pieces and that is what sells. I do appreciate your thoughts though, and you should enjoy my Furniture Fixer Upper post next week. 🙂

  12. Beautiful! That set shouldn’t last long in your booth. The lines are great and the finish is just perfect.

  13. The thrift chair and desk make a beautiful set… and love those legs! Great tips on bleedthrough. B.I.N Shellac Primer is another amazing option. It goes on white so you can see how many coats are needed before the bleedthrough stops. It’s costly and stinky but it works…lol. Beautiful makeover Christy. Pinned! 🙂

    • Thanks, Denise! I have tried that white shellac primer but I feel like the bleed-through is always worse with that? Maybe I need to give it another try as I’m sure you’ve had your share of bleeders too! Thanks! XOXO

  14. That desk turned out great! I had to scroll back again to see if it was the same desk!
    I have to tell that spray booth is wonderful! I linked to it from your site so I hope you got credit for it. Although it’s still cold here, I can at least go out in the garage and do a quick spray and run back in the house to keep warm. (hehehe) Sometimes I think my garage is colder than it is outside, no, I know it’s colder. ????

    • Thank you, MaryJean! I’m so glad you are lovin your new spray tent! Now if I could only find one in between that smaller one and the huge one, that would be great! 🙂 And thanks for linking back…most appreciated my friend! Stay warm! XOXO

  15. Did you use a matte or semi gloss on the top of the table, I just did some end tables like you did and I used Minwax gloss on the stained table top and it was to shinny, should I resand with a fine 220 sand paper and use a semi gloss or matte finish?

    • Hi Jeri! I used the matte finish, but it does have a slight sheen to it. I would lightly sand with 220 and go for the matte!

  16. Christy it turned out great despite the bleed through. I just finished a piece yesterday and also had bleed through and it was my first time. You say I should use wax and then paint on top but can you paint on top of the wax when using chalk paint?

    • Thank you, Mary! Yes you absolutely can paint over wax with chalk paint. The goal is to seal in the tannins from the wood, so anything that seals really should work, and wax is just another option if you don’t have a space where you can spray! XO

  17. Christy, you really made that dark desk bright and gorgeous! That wood grain on top is Wow. Thanks for all the bleed-through tips. Zinsser shellac usually works great for me, but you’re right – the smell is awful! I may try one of the spray options instead sometime.

  18. How fun that you are keeping the chair! It is VERY pretty, and I’m looking forward to see how you use it in styling photos. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Christy… always beautiful!

    • Thanks so much, Julie! I’m glad I’m keeping this one too…funny that I didn’t love it that much in its before state, it was just a good deal. I still underestimate the power of paint sometimes! XOXO

  19. I suspect it won’t last long in your booth either. When I saw the before picture I thought to myself, oh Lord a bleeder. Great tips on how to tame that beast! Looking forward to seeing more of that pretty chair on the blog.

    • Thanks, Marie! I knew it would be a bleeder too…all the best ones are, right?? XOXO

  20. This is so beautiful! I love getting your newsletter and seeing how you transform things into gorgeous new pieces. The information and instructions are so helpful too. I always look forward to the next makeover!

    • Aww thank you so much, Linda! I appreciate that and I am so thrilled that you enjoy what I share! XOXO

  21. I did not think I could love ths desk and char anymore than the before, but after seeing the fabulous white paint, the end results, I was speechless. Outstanding fabulous!

  22. I was just at the VB Antique Mall last Sunday. It’s so weird (but definitely cool) to see some of your projects from Pinterest in person!! I just bought the cutest desk off of Craigslist and it’s also very dark wood so I think I will probably have the bleed through issue to. I’m going to take your advice and use the shellac first. Hopefully it’ll turn out as nice as your desk! ????

    • Oh fun! I was just in there on Saturday! Yes definitely shellac first, and then wait at least an hour before painting. You can then test a back leg to see if it still bleeds. A second coat may be required or another sealer if it is really tough. Best of luck with your desk! I’m sure it will be gorgeous! XOXO


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