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How to Dye Wood White

Betsy Morgan

The process of staining wood white, often called white-washing, is a simple way to brighten up wood furniture, floors or paneling. White-washing creates a subtle white finish that lets the beauty of the natural wood grain show through, instead of the opaque white finish you get from simple painting.

White-washed wood lets the natural wood grain show through.

For ease of use, look for a water-based white stain. There are many available at home improvement stores labeled as "white wash" or "pickling" stains.

  1. Sand the surface of the wood with sandpaper to remove any previous stain, varnish or paint and prepare the wood for staining. Use a paint scraper to clear stubborn areas like dried paint drips.

  2. Wipe down the wood surface with a damp rag to remove surface dirt and sawdust from sanding.

  3. Stir the wood stain thoroughly with a paint stick or old spoon to ensure it is evenly mixed. Apply a light coat of stain to the wood with the foam brush and let sit for two to three minutes. If you are staining a large area of wood, do one small section at a time.

  4. Rub the stain into the wood with a clean rag to let the wood absorb the stain. Make sure to work it thoroughly into any knots to accent them. Going in the direction of the wood grain, wipe away any excess stain.

  5. Let the stain dry for three hours. If you want a more opaque white finish, repeat steps one to four until you get the desired look. Allow the wood to dry for 24 hours before use.