How to Paint Over Sealant or Shellac

Lisa East Hunter

Painting directly over sealant or shellac isn't going to give you an ideal finish. Sealant and shellac are slick, so any paint applied over them typically peels, scratches off, or bubbles off with just a little wear and tear.

Ideally, you need to remove the topcoat with chemicals and sand the surface lightly to create texture. Prepping the surface correctly can make a huge difference in the durability of your finished paint project.

  1. Paint a thick coat of chemical paint remover on the area you intend to paint. Use an old paint brush—you'll have to thrown it away after using it with paint stripper. Let the chemicals penetrate the topcoat. This usually takes 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. Test to see if the paint stripper has begun working. Use a scraper or steel wool on a portion of the surface. If the shiny topcoat can be scraped away, the chemicals have worked.

  3. Use steel wool or a scraper to remove all the shellac or sealant from the surface. Keep an old rag handy to clean residue from the scraper regularly.

  4. Use a damp sponge to remove any remaining paint stripper. Rinse your sponge often. Allow the surface to dry completely.

  5. Sand the surface of the area using medium grit sand paper. Sanding removes any remaining chemicals and creates texture that will let the paint adhere.

  6. Apply paint using a good quality paint brush. Brush on two to three thin coats of paint for the most durable finish. Allow each coat to dry before applying another.

  7. Brush on a clear coat of polyurethane to further protect the painted surface from chips and nicks. Polyurethane comes in matte, satin, and gloss finishes. Choose one you prefer.

  8. Warning

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends you read and follow manufacturer's directions carefully when working with paint stripper. Wear rubber gloves and avoid contact with skin and eyes.