How To Whitewash Wood — A Step-by-Step Guide

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

Share It

From the first time I laid eyes on a piece of whitewashed wood furniture, I was in love. The weathered, rustic look, reminiscent of beach houses and antique markets, captured my imagination. 

I knew then and there that I had to recreate that look for some of the wooden pieces I had at home. So, here’s my personal step-by-step guide on how to whitewash wood.

1. Selecting the Right Piece

I started with a wooden coffee table that I felt was a little out of place in my living room. The dark stain on it was a tad too formal for my beach-inspired décor.

2. Gathering Materials

To begin my journey, I took a trip to my local hardware store and grabbed the following:

3. Prepping the Wood

Preparing Wood

Back home, I cleared my workspace and started by sanding the coffee table using coarse sandpaper. This step was vital to remove any varnish and roughen the surface for better paint adherence. Once satisfied, I wiped away any dust using a clean rag.

4. Mixing the Whitewash

Here’s the fun part! Mix equal parts of latex paint and water in the paint tray. I learned that the more water I added, the more transparent the whitewash would be. You can increase the water content for a subtler look, but for my table, a 1:1 ratio worked perfectly.

5. Applying the Whitewash

Dipping my sponge brush into the mix, I applied the whitewash in long strokes, following the wood grain. Working in small sections is essential to ensure the whitewash doesn’t dry before you achieve the desired look. 

After painting a section, I waited a few minutes and then wiped off excess whitewash using a clean rag, again following the wood grain.

6. Adjusting the Look

While the table was coming together beautifully, some areas were too white for my taste. So, I lightly sanded those sections with the fine-grit sandpaper, blending the whitewash until I got the perfect look.

7. Sealing (Optional but Recommended)

Whitewashing Wood

To protect my masterpiece, I opted to seal it. Using a clear water-based sealant, I applied two thin coats, letting each dry thoroughly.

8. Admiring the Results

The transformation was astounding. My once-formal coffee table now fits seamlessly into my cozy, beach-inspired living room, exuding a relaxed, weathered vibe.

9. Personalizing with Tints

A few weeks after completing my coffee table, I stumbled upon another idea: adding a hint of color to my whitewash. Intrigued, I decided to try it on a wooden shelf that had been gathering dust. 

I returned to the hardware store and picked up small samples of pastel-colored paints. Mixing a tiny bit of my chosen color with the white latex paint and water, I created a tinted whitewash. 

This subtle shade added an unexpected but delightful twist to the whitewashed look. I used a soft lavender tint, which added a dreamy quality to my shelf, perfect for displaying my collection of vintage novels.

10. Layering Techniques

Layering Techniques Whitewashing Wood

Encouraged by the shelf’s success, I explored further. I learned that layering different shades of whitewash could create a more complex and textured appearance. 

For an old wooden bench I had, I first applied a gray-toned whitewash. Once that dried, I overlaid it with the standard white whitewash. The result? A richer, multidimensional look with depths of color peeking through the white.

11. Stenciling and Patterns

Another addition to my whitewashing [1] journey was experimenting with stencils. Using a floral stencil I bought online, I lightly added patterns over the whitewashed surface of a wooden tray. 

stencil Wood

The key here is subtlety; I didn’t want the patterns to overpower the whitewashed look. But when done with a gentle hand, stenciling added a charming focal point to the piece.


Whitewashing wood is more than just a DIY project – it’s a journey. I found breathing new life into a piece of furniture therapeutic and fulfilling. If you, too, are smitten by the whitewashed look, I encourage you to give it a try. 

As I learned, with patience and creativity, you can achieve a beautiful, rustic finish that will make any wooden piece the star of your space.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!

Join Our Woodworking Community on Facebook And Get 3 Woodworking Plans for Free!