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How to Whitewash Cypress Wood

Fiona Fearey

Whitewash gives wood and masonry surfaces a pale, rustic appearance that makes them look as though they have been aged for many years. A thin layer of whitewash imparts a subtle, bleached look, while heavy applications coat a surface almost as completely as white paint.

Whitewashing is an appropriate choice if you want to lighten a cypress wood surface and still see its patterns of grain. Besides creating beautiful, weathered finish, whitewash is economical and safe for the environment.

  1. Protect the floors with thick drop cloths. Whitewash stains can be difficult to remove.

  2. Prepare the whitewashing mixture. Add five parts of lime to one part of salt in a bucket. Stir in water until the ingredients have the thickness of batter. Let the mixture sit several hours or overnight.

  3. Wipe the surface of cypress with a rag moistened with mineral spirits shortly before applying whitewash. This helps to remove oily sap that rises to the surface of cypress wood.

  4. Wet the cypress wood with a damp sponge. Water draws the lime into the surface of the cypress, resulting in a more pronounced whitewash.

  5. Brush the whitewash onto the cypress wood. Apply whitewash in the same direction as the panels of wood. Use a flat, stiff brush that is an appropriate size for your project. Whitewashing large expanses will go much faster with a 4- or 5-inch brush. Detail work, such as fine furniture and trim, may require a 2- or 3-inch brush.

  6. Decide how pale you want your cypress to be. Wipe off excess whitewash with a damp sponge to soften a whitewash finish. Add extra coats for a brighter look. A whitewash finish continues to develop over time, as the lime bonds to the wood.

  7. Wash out your brush right away. The lime in the whitewash mixture is corrosive and can damage a paintbrush over time.


Wear a respirator when mixing powdered ingredients.