How to Whitewash Wood

How to Whitewash Wood

Wood is everywhere as part of our daily lives, from the furniture we use to the floors we stand on. As it ages gracefully, so does the wear and tear process works its magic on it? You find that most of the best creations came out of necessity. So does whitewash. Since the early 16th century, whitewash was used to treat wood as a way to preserve the life of the wood. For those who don’t know, whitewash is a mixture of diluted white paint. For us to add more life to the wood, you need to whitewash it properly. It is a nice way to add more beauty to your wood while at the same time keeping a visible wood grain. So, how to whitewash wood becomes our next question.

There are many ways to whitewash your wood. But before we get into that, let’s find out what you need?

  • Paintbrushes
  • Buckets
  • White paint
  • Rag
  • Wood furnish
  • Sandpaper
  • Turpentine

As earlier indicated, there are various ways in which you can achieve a good whitewash depending on your prowess, of course. Whitewash can be used on various woods such as unfinished wood, stained wood, weathered wood to avoid shiny wood. This is because instead of adhering with the wood, it will glide off.

  1. Paint and drag
  2. Water and paint
  3. Wax method

Wax Method

This method achieves a distressed or weathered look and feel. It can be used on any type of wood, either reclaimed or brand new. The waxing method makes the wood have a weathered look. If you don’t know how to stain wood, you check out some good companies here that make wood stains. And if you are looking for a hand-on approach, here is a blog you can get some home recipes.


Step 1.

Rub the candle side on your wood using its sides. To achieve a better note on the wood, you need to apply the candle randomly on the wood with different pressures to get different thicknesses of the wax on the wood. Bear in mind that the area with the wax is the one that is going to be showing the distress.

Step 2.

Paint the whole wood and allow it to dry until it is gluey.

Step 3.

Finally, use a dry to dry off the excess paint. If you administer more pressure, this will remove more paint. On the other hand, using a dump cloth will give you a more distressed look if that’s what you are looking for. Let dry for at least a day before putting your wood to use. The paint usually peels off where the candle wax was administered.

Paint And Drag Method

This method is used mostly on wood that has a high textured grain or reclaimed wood. It is not suitable for new wood and as such go for the old weathered wood.

Firstly, you need to deposit some paint on your wood. Then, take a spackle knife and spread the paint over the wood gently. If possible, ensure that the spackle knife goes through the wood on one stroke. The knife at this point will be covered by paint. You can use the paint to go over the areas you feel the paint did not have a good touch on.


Water And Paint Method

This is the most commonly used method. It is easy to work with, even without any painting knowledge. It can be used on any wood, especially floors and walls. Depending on the texture you are going for, a rug will provide a smooth feel but you can also use a brush if you need to see the brushstrokes. You can add a few coats if you want an opaquer or whiter look.


Step 1.

Before whitewashing your wood ensure it is bare and naked. Remove any existing paint, varnish, or stains on the wood. When it’s raw, that’s the best time to apply your whitewash. If it has a previous coating, then you need to sand it and remove the coating. When you have completely sanded the wood, use your dry cloth to remove the excess sawdust.

Step 2.

Mix the paint with an equal measure with water for a thicker consistency. If you are looking for a lighter look, consider adding more water to your paint to a ratio of 1:3 or 1:2. This allows the wood to glow through the paint easily.

Step 3.

Paint using your brush. Apply multiple coats for the best results. On the contrary, it is good to note that whitewash dries quickly, and hence, you need to paint is small bits and allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next coat.

How To Whitewash Wood Without Sanding?

One of the draining parts of whitewashing is during sanding. It is time-consuming and downright exhausting, hence the question, how can I whitewash my wood without sanding it? Below are some of the ways to accomplish this.

Using Chalk-Paint

This is one popular way of doing and the most widely used. Not only does it have a stunning finish but also it does not need any prepping of the wood. It lets you get into the action seamlessly.

Use Mineral Paint

It acts similar to the chalk paint. It doesn’t require any prior prepping of the wood meaning you can just start painting. Additionally, it has numerous advantages such as;

  • It can’t be stained
  • Doesn’t require any top coating
  • It has waterproof capabilities
  • It sticks to almost anything

Use Milk Paint with a Bonding Agent

The bonding agent is used the same way as a primer to help the paint adhere to the wood easily. It may seem like a tough project but all you need is mix the same measure of bonding agent to the already mixed milk-paint. The bonding agent isn’t used on other coatings except the first one.

Using a Bonding Primer

Primers are known to stick to glossy surfaces like tiles, glass, metals, etc. This is because they have a binding agent that allows them to stick easily. It is a little bit heavy on the price tag.

Use of De-Glosser or Liquid Sander

This is one of the less known methods. Despite that, it is a used method by some people. The liquid is applied before the paint which enhances the grip of the paint and allows fast absorption of the paint. It should be applied in a well-ventilated area as it has a strong smell which can be irritating to smell sensitive people. Make sure to follow the instructions on the can to get a perfect look.

 Benefits of Whitewashing

  • It is environmentally friendly
  • It is a good repellant for insects lick termites and hence you’re wood will not be eaten off.
  • It also produces a good finish for the wood, as it produces a beautiful decorative finish.
  • Again, it acts as a waterproof material and thus the wood is not affected by water or any other liquids.
  • Aside from all these, it is very durable not only as paint but also extends the life of the wood.
  • It doesn’t require a lot of knowledge in its application.
  • In addition, it acts as a disinfectant for the wood, thus mold and fungi cannot affect it.

How to Whitewash Wood


  1. If it is not correctly mixed, chances are high for messing up the overall appearance of the coating when it dries up.
  2. If it is not used with the right protective gear, it can affect your hands or worse your eyes.

Tips To Consider When Whitewashing

  • Always try the whitewash on a different piece of wood to check if the desired result is you’re going for. This is because it is easy to add a coating than to remove one that’s already dried up.
  • When applying the whitewash, follow the direction of the grain. Paint may glob on the edges of the wood, thus, wipe it carefully to remove the wiping marks.
  • If you like the wood grain to be noticeable, remove the excess lime using a dry cloth before it completely dries off. The longer you wait for it to dry off, the deeper it penetrates making the wood whiter.
  • Apply the whitewash in fewer amounts and less surface to give you more time to wipe down the excess white. This is because it dries off very fast.
  • Again depending on the texture, you are looking for you might need to check your ratio to achieve your desired consistency.
  • If the white has completely dried off, you can use a sander to give it a smoother texture.
  • When using a chemical stripper to remove old sealant, make sure you use protective gear as the chemicals are caustic. Additionally, wash the wood with vinegar and water to neutralize the chemical before applying your paint.
  • Don’t use too much force when wiping down the paint.
  • If you add alum powder to the paint, it makes it harder and less chalky that cannot rub off.

Warnings to Look Out For When Whitewashing

  • When using whitewash place a plastic sheet on your floor as it could be caustic.
  • Again wear protective gear as the whitewash can be harmful to you.
  • If you are smell sensitive, ensure where you are painting it is well ventilated.

Frequently Asked Question

  • Do I need to sand the wood before whitewash?

Yes, you do. Whitewash works well on rough and naked wood which makes it easy to adhere to.

  • Does whitewash preserve my wood?

Absolutely yes. Since the 16th century, it was used to preserve trees, houses, and everything wood. It is a preservative for wood.

  • Can I use a roller for whitewashing wood?

If you are applying whitewash to your ceiling, a roller might be a good choice for you. However, after you are done use a hand brush to go through again and ensure the paint goes into all the cracks and nooks as well as remove the roller marks.

  • How can I whitewash at home?

It is very easy. As stated earlier, this is achieved by mixing an equal measure of water and paint and then applying it on your piece of wood. Depending on the consistency you are looking for, 1:2 ratios will give you a thin coating while a 1:1 ratio gives a thicker coating.

  • Can I use other colors to whitewash my furniture?

Despite whitewash being white, that doesn’t mean we cannot use other colors. Dark colors will require you to mix them well to acquire the desired results. Brighter colors will provide a more translucent feel, while the white and pastels give a clear effect.

  • What is the difference between paint and whitewash?

Paint is usually applied as paste or liquid which when its dry forms a thick coating and adds color to the object while whitewash is a mixture of lime (calcium oxide/quicklime/burnt lime) and water.

  • Which wood is the best for whitewashing?

Pinewood is best with whitewash. As for Oaks, it uses a method called pickling.

  • Can I whitewash over varnish?

A resounding No! This is because the original finish or stain will create a barrier that blocks the whitewash from being absorbed by the wood. However, consider using a solid stain over the finish which also produces a fantastic look.

In Conclusion

Now that you are all done whitewashing your wood it would be nice to add a water-based matte or satin polyurethane which acts as a sealing material, therefore enhancing the longevity of the whitewash. Avoid using toil based clear coats as the yellow over time and stick to the water-based clear coats. Also, read the manufacturer’s manual before using the paints.

How to whitewash wood is rather simple if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, I have made it easy for you on this blog using different techniques. However, you can seek professional help before embarking on this adventure, we don’t want to see you spoil your wood.