How to Update Whitewashed Cabinets

Cat McCabe

Whitewashed cabinets give a kitchen a warm, informal look. But with time and heavy use, this type of finish can begin to look dirty and dated, especially if the hardware gets rusty. If you're ready for something a little more sleek and modern, but don't have the budget to reface or replace the cabinets, don't worry. A fresh coat of paint and new pulls and knobs will spruce up your cabinets and your whole kitchen without breaking the bank.

Give whitewashed cabinets a fresh, updated look.
  1. Remove all utensils, cleaning supplies and foodstuffs from the cabinets and drawers. Put down a tarp or drop cloth in the work area to catch paint drips and other debris.

  2. Unscrew cabinet door and drawer handles and knobs with a flat or Phillips screwdriver. Take off hinges, cabinet doors and drawers. Place the drawers and doors on the tarp. Run painter's tape along the ceiling and wall areas where the cabinet frames meet ceilings and walls.

  3. Sand every whitewashed surface with medium-grit sandpaper, knocking off loose paint and scuffing the wood to help primer bond to the surface. Include the insides of drawers, the backs of doors and interior shelves, and the backs and bottoms of frames.

  4. Wipe all parts of the cabinets with a water-dampened cloth. Allow them to dry. Prime all the surfaces with acrylic-bonding primer, using a paintbrush or small roller for even coverage. Prime the inside of the drawers and cabinets first, ending with doors, drawer faces and cabinet frames. Allow the primer to dry for 4 to 6 hours.

  5. Pour latex paint into a plastic container or paint tray. Brush it on the surfaces as you did with the primer, in the same order. Latex needs time to cure and harden, so plan on a day or two of drying time. Apply a second coat for added durability.

  6. Reinstall the drawers and doors when the paint is dry. Install new hardware with a screwdriver to complete a clean, updated, fresh look for your cabinets.