There are several ways to do a whitewash for wood and after struggling to get it right I have finally found the best way to do it! In the five years of refinishing furniture I’ve done a little dry brushing and a whitewash pickling but have stayed away from actual whitewashing pieces. You see, every time I attempted to do a whitewash it would turn out streaky. Have you tried whitewashing and have encountered the same? Would it look streaky after you wiped the whitewash off? The more I applied my whitewash and wiped, the streaker it would get. After many frustrating attempts I’m happy to say this may be the easiest and best way to whitewash wood!
My client wanted this dining table (photo below) whitewashed and it was a great opportunity to finally come up with the best solution to my problem. I had recently tried it on a set of dressers and it was an epic fail (I share more about that on my Instagram). So it was time to take a step back and think about a better approach.
Here’s how I accomplished to apply a super easy whitewash with great results!
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The first thing I did was take the table apart so that I can sand it down. If you can take apart your piece and be able to put it back together without any hassle I encourage you to do so. It makes it so much easier to work on! I wanted some of the wood grains to show and sanding down the table exposed a lot of the beautiful wood grain that was hiding underneath the stain.
I used my SurfPrep sander to sand the entire table. It attaches to my shop vac and barely creates any sanding dust! I can finally sand inside my garage and not worry about dust going all over the place. It has truly made my job so much easier! For 10% off SurfPrep use code PBYP10!
After the table was completely sanded, I cleaned it well with a tack cloth. I made sure to clean it well and remove any dust that was on it. Now I was finally ready to apply my whitewash!
Make your whitewash
Here is where the magic happens! I made the mistake of giving my old whitewash technique another try and of course it turned out streaky again! I mixed 2 parts water to 1 part paint and even mixed 3 parts water to 1 part paint and wiped the excess off, only to find that it was still streaky arghhh!!!
It’s hard to tell in the photo below because it was still wet, but the drier it got the streakier the table looked (the whitewash was applied to the right side of this table top.)
After doing some research, a lot of articles called for 3 parts water to 1 part paint and not having to wipe but my paint didn’t seem diluted enough and every time I even brushed on a new section you can see the difference. So I sanded the area I whitewashed and started over. I was determined to get it right this time!
It was time to think of something better and it was simply adding more water! That’s right! Dilute your paint even more and you’ll see the difference!
I had some left over Sherwin Williams Pure White mixed with BBFrosch paint transformer from a previous project. For more on how I paint furniture, take a look at this post about BBFrosch Paint Transformer.
Here is the ratio I used that was a game changer! I did 5 parts water to 1 part paint, 5:1is the trick! You can use any white paint you’d like. Make sure its a matte or flat paint, nothing glossy. I mixed 1 cup of paint and added 5 cups of water. Stir it well in a container or a painting tray. I used this cheap painting tray and mixed my whitewash right in it. I used a bigger brush since the table top was pretty big but any brush will do. Now it was time to apply my whitewash.
Apply your whitewash
This ratio allowed me to simply brush my whitewash on, and walk away while it dries. That’s it! You brush it on evenly and wait for it to dry before applying more coats! You’ll see the wood grain come through as your whitewash dries.
When applying the whitewash remember its super watery so make sure your brush isn’t dripping a lot before you brush it on. Just wet your brush like you would when painting and press your brush against the edge of your can or tray if there’s too much. I didn’t press down on my brush against the wood either. I simply just glided the brush enough to apply the whitewash.
It goes on pretty white but will lighten and get clearer as it dries.
Now remember, there are different wood species and types and that will determine what your whitewash is going to look like so make sure to test your whitewash in a small area first.
You can apply as many coats as you’d like. The photos below were just after one coat and it looks amazing!
My client wanted the table to look a little more white but still show some wood grains so I applied two more coats. I just love how great it looks!
Look at the wood grain coming through!
Protect your whitewash
Now that the wonderful whitewash is applied it is time to seal and protect your piece. For high traffic furniture I like to use Minwax water based polycrylic. It comes in different finishes like matte, satin, semi gloss etc. I applied my polycrylic in satin and did three coats on the legs and four coats on the top. You need to lightly sand with 220grit in between coats of your poly. This ensures adhesion between coats and removes any fine dust particles that have settled on the wet poly. Do not apply an oil based poly as it will yellow over time.
To apply my polycrylic I used a round painting sponge that I love from Country Chic. I used small foam brushes before, and I still do on small details, but this sponge works well on big flat surfaces like table tops. Pour a small amount in a bowl (I like to use these styrofoam bowls) and dip your sponge right in!
I still have to try this “new to me” whitewash technique on other pieces but so far it has made this dining table project a breeze. It turned out so beautiful too! I cant wait to attempt it on other pieces. I wish I knew to do this before but I’m so happy I now know this for the future!
Let me know if you have any questions or if you give this whitewash technique a try. I would love to know what your thoughts are!
Does wood gets rough after whitewashing due to the water?
Hi! It does not get rough. I lightly sand to smooth out the paint in between coats.
Can a whitewashing technique be used with tinted paint?
Hello! Yes you can, you’ll just may need to water down the paint a little in order to achieve a whitewash look.