One of the most common questions that is asked on polymer clay forums and Facebook groups is about sealers, glazes, and varnishes. Newbies always want to know which is the best one and there are always a lot of answers. But one very common answer tends to cause a lot of confusion for readers. That answer is floor wax. Floor wax on polymer clay? What?? To many of us “oldies” who have been around a while, that answer makes sense. But to a newbie, it’s pretty confusing. What kind of floor wax? Why would anyone put floor wax on polymer clay? Well…you know I’m gonna tell you!
Which Floor Wax?
In the world of polymer clay, it’s very common to use materials that have other original uses. We use pasta machines to roll and condition our clay. We use cookie cutters and ceramic tiles. So it’s really not that outrageous that we would put floor wax on polymer clay as a varnish, glaze, or sealer. But which one? You see…right off the top of my head I can think of three very different products that are used on floors that are commonly used on polymer clay. So when someone says to use “floor wax”, they might mean one product. But a newbie hearing this advice will think quite another product is meant. Here are the three “floor waxes” that are used on polymer clay.
Years and years ago, in our grandparents’ time, floors needed to be coated with wax. It was a laborious job and so when vinyl sheet flooring came out in the 1950’s, it was marketed as “no-wax” flooring. Marketers, always eager to sell a new product, came out with a cleaner and polish for these floors. When I was a kid, the major brands of this were Future and Mop and Glo. In the UK, there was one called “Johnson’s Klear”. These are clear (or slightly milky), thin, acrylic liquids that you would pour onto the floor and spread around with a damp mop. It would dry to a brilliant shine.
Polymer clayers learned that this liquid made a fantastic glossy finish for their clay creations. The most commonly recommended brand among clayers is Future and Klear. But as time went on and companies re-organized, these products were re-named several times. I think the most current name of this liquid acrylic is Pledge Floor Care.
Future/Klear/Pledge is a simple, easy, and fool-proof shiny product to use. It works. But it’s not terribly durable and just as it would wear off your kitchen floor after a few weeks and need to be reapplied, it will wear off your polymer clay as well. There are more durable options. (I recommend Varathane, below.)
Paste wax is a very different kind of floor wax that also works very well on polymer clay. And the funny thing is, paste wax is the only one of these three products that actually IS a wax. Paste Wax is a creamy, oily, waxy paste that comes in a yellow can with a pry-off lid. You use a rag to rub it onto a wooden floor, let it dry to a haze, then buff to a high shine. It penetrates into the grain of the wood, deepening the color and preserving the wood by protecting it from the elements. We use paste floor wax on polymer clay in a similar way, but for different reasons. Polymer clay doesn’t have a grain to penetrate and certainly doesn’t need preserving. But we use it to enhance the shine of a smooth, buffed finish. Paste wax can also be used as part of layered surface treatments. Feel free to experiment with it! Try mixing it with inks, applying over paint, using it to deepen colors. You may have read about Renaissance Wax being a good product to use with polymer clay. Paste wax is very similar and can be used interchangeably.
Note: There’s some confusion about these waxes’ ability to actually protect polymer clay. Wax protects porous materials from moisture. But polymer clay isn’t porous and it isn’t damaged by moisture. Paste wax won’t protect polymer clay from wear.
No, Varathane isn’t a floor wax. But it is very often used as a finish on wood floors. But it makes for a fantastic varnish for polymer clay. Milky white, the consistency of light cream, water-based Varathane dries crystal clear on polymer clay and makes an excellent sealer for surface treatments. It’s been a favorite product among polymer clayers for over 20 years. I’ve written about Varathane before, and if this is a new product to you I recommend that you head over to read that article.
Should You Use a Floor Wax on Polymer Clay?
Each of these products does have its use in working with polymer clay. I do use all three. But they’re very different in how they’re used. Make sure to recommend the correct product when helping newbies learn about our favorite hobby of polymer clay. But also make sure that a sealer, varnish, or glaze is actually needed. In many cases, it’s not! Polymer clay is durable and does not need to be sealed. What does need protecting is the surface treatments that you put on your polymer. Want to learn more about this? Check out my article on polymer clay sealers.