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Miniwax Polyshades Review

A few months ago we had some money budgeted towards house improvements and I went on a massive hunt for new bedroom furniture. We love our bed frame, but we desperately needed a new dresser and some nightstands. Every night I scoured Craigslist and Wayfair and every site I could think of, but I kept coming back to a few Craigslist listings for a vintage furniture store an hour away. After a few weeks I decided to bite the bullet and just make the drive, since I knew they had some great pieces & great prices. Luckily I was able to squeeze a dresser and two nightstands in the back of our HHR (and close the back!), so the trip was well worth it!

I was planning on painting the furniture to match the dark brown espresso color of the bed, but after seeing how close the nightstands already were to the bed, I started wondering if there was a way to just darken them a little.

Nightstands, 1

After some quick Googling I found a few blogs raving about Miniwax Polyshades, a tinted poly coat that you can brush right over an existing stain to darken it. I was sold! I ran to the store and grabbed a can in the Espresso color in the Satin finish and got ready to work.

Miniwax PolyShades

If you're looking for a quick review, let me tell you up front that this stuff was TERRIBLE and I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND IT! Now that that's out of the way...

First the nightstands needed a light sanding. On the left you can see one with the knobs removed and sanded, and un-sanded on the right. You can see that the nightstands had quite a few knicks and scratches, but the stain did fill those in nicely.

Nightstands, 2

Then I used a cheap brush to apply the first coat. It went on super streaky, but I could tell the color would build up and it would work better with a nicer brush so I was still optimistic. I was so glad that I applied most of the stain with the stands upside down like this, because the stain was very drippy and it would have been a mess if they had been turned the other way.

Nightstands, 3

I bought a fancy $8 natural bristle brush (which ended up getting ruined & tossed) and the stain did go much smoother, but it dried so fast that you ended up with brushstrokes and streaks no matter what. After a few coats it still looked pretty crappy in some areas. The front of this nightstand looked particularly beaten up ~

Nightstands, 4

And the top showed every brushstroke ~

Nightstands, 5

At this point I went online again looking for help, and came across the Home Depot site. PolyShades had absolutely terrible reviews there, with people complaining about streaking, dripping, and all of the problems I had been dealing with. Most said the project would have been so much easier if they had just used a normal stain to begin with, and it took forever fighting with the PolyShades to get a half-decent result. The only positive reviews were by people who had sprayed on the stain instead, which supposedly works well, but even those reviews agreed it was terrible brushed on. At least I knew I wasn't alone!

Several reviews recommended wiping it on with a sock, so I raided my husband's drawer, grabbed some gloves, and tried another coat. Once again, the stain did go on much smoother and I was able to work quicker. Finally the color was pretty uniform, though there was some streaking between glossy and matte on the tops ~

Nightstands, 6

Some of the reviews I read mentioned painting two things with the same can and one would end up glossy and one matte, so there is definitely some issue with getting a uniform shine. I figured this was the best that I could get with the Polyshades and hoped that my topcoat would cover up the shine difference.

For a topcoat I used Miniwax Wipe-on Poly ~

Miniwax Wipe-on Poly

It did even out the shine a bit, though you could still see some streaking under a strong light. Luckily I don't think you'll be able to see it at all in our bedroom ~

Nightstands, 7

I attached some new knobs and a new magnetic clasp and the nightstands ended up looking almost new! With all of the coats of stain, they ended up looking more black than 'espresso', but they look fine next to our bed.

Nightstands, 8

So, I was able to get a pretty decent result, but only after much fighting with the PolyShades & the problems they create. For the dresser I'm going to try a 'real' stain, although this process has made me a little nervous about it! If all goes wrong, I'll break out the paint after all.

Nightstands - Before & After

Comments

My grandmother's old-school furniture polish/cleaner-oil-stuff clearly had some stain mixed into it because the lovely cherry veneer has been darkened to a nearly black color in the places where it built up. Could that sort of thing be an option?
That might work for slight tinting, like these needed. The dresser is a lot lighter, but I found a new product for that which has really good reviews - General Finishes Gel Stain. (I'm normally good at checking reviews, but I guess I didn't think of it with the PolyShades because I'd seen several blog posts in love with the stuff)