How to Stain With Whitewash

Daisy Cuinn

Traditionally, whitewashing is a technique involving mixing a lime-based wash and painting it on wood, creating a white-tinted surface. Old-fashioned whitewashing isn't difficult, but it doesn't last as long as modern paint and stain jobs.

To reduce the amount of repainting required over time, most modern whitewashes are actually white stains or diluted white paint. Commercial whitewash stains and the other materials you'll need can be purchased at most home and garden centers. For the best results, apply a whitewash to a unfinished wood or unvarnished wood treated with a dark wood stain.

  1. Sand the surface of the item or area to be whitewashed, removing all dirt, oils and any old, flaking paint. If the wood is especially dirty, scrub it with soap and water and dry completely.

  2. Wipe the wood with a microfiber cloth to remove any dust left from sanding.

  3. Stir the whitewash stain. Alternatively, mix white latex paint with water to dilute it. Add water gradually, painting a test strip on scrap wood until the desired opacity is achieved and the paint is frothy and closer to the consistency of cream. Don't make the diluted paint too thin, as it will lose its ability to adhere to the wood.

  4. Paint the whitewash stain or diluted paint with a wide, flat brush. Allow the base coat to dry for 30 to 60 minutes. Add a second coat, if desired, if you want a more opaque finish. Dry for at least an hour.

  5. Apply two coats of spray varnish over the whitewash, drying for 30 minutes between each coat. Allow the wood to dry overnight before use.

  6. Tip

    Colored whitewash, also called pickling, can be made by diluting any color water-based paint.


    Stain, paint and varnish in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside.