Whitewashing has quickly become a trend when it comes to revamping your home. It adds a beautiful feel to your space – maintaining the natural warmth of wood while lightening up the overall mood.

Whitewashing wooden furniture can help you brighten dark furniture and add life to already bright pieces.

Whitewash furniture

What’s whitewashing?

Whitewashing is basically a painting technique where you add a really thin layer of white paint onto a surface to brighten it up. This thin layer of white paint allows the undertone of whatever you’re painting to show through the wash. This gives it a rustic finish that combines novelty with simplicity.

There are several ways to whitewash your furniture, but here we’ll talk about the main two. The first technique is a simple whitewashing technique that works if the wood is not already painted or if you want to strip the paint off of your wooden furniture first.

The second technique is a dry brushing technique that allows you to layer white paint over whatever surface. Even if that surface is already painted, dry brushing lets you layer white paint over the existing layer of paint.

Preparing your furniture

First things first. If you want to whitewash your furniture, you’ll need to prepare your pieces first. The preparation methods are almost similar for both the whitewashing and the dry-brushing techniques.

Protect your floor

Before you start working on your pieces, you want to make sure that you don’t ruin your floors in the process. Place a large drop cloth or a bunch of newspapers on the floor where you intend to start painting and then place the piece you’re working on on top of that cloth.

Strip your surface

strip furniture

If you’re going for the first whitewash technique, you’ll want to apply a chemical stripper to the surface before you paint it in order to remove any existing paint or sealant. Simply apply the stripper with a brush in a few strokes and let it sit for 3-5 minutes in order for it to dissolve the paint. Next, start to scrape the dissolved goop off of your surface with a scraping tool or a ball of steel wool.

Only use a chemical stripper during the dry-brushing technique if you find that some of the paint is falling off or peeling already.

Wash the surface

wash

After you’ve used a chemical stripper, you’ll need to wash it off in order to prepare your surface to take the whitewash. To do that, simply create a water-vinegar solvent of equal parts and wash your surface with it. This will help neutralize the surface and allow it to better absorb the whitewash. It’ll also remove any remaining dirt or stains to ensure a smooth application.

Sand it down

With both techniques, you’ll want to sand down your surface to ensure an even application of whitewash. If you’ve washed the surface, you’ll want to wait for it to dry completely before you start sanding.

When sanding, make sure you cover the whole surface you intend on whitewashing so that it allows for an even application later. And when you’re done sanding, wipe down the surface with a clean cloth to remove any dust.

Preparing your paint

After you have your furniture prepped for whitewashing, you’ll need to mix your paint. You can easily buy ready-to-use whitewash paint that’s called “wood stain” or “whitewash pickling” or if you prefer to, you can mix your own paint for the desired consistency and opacity.

For the dry-brushing technique, you’ll want your paint to be completely undiluted since you’ll be applying paint right out of the can.

For more useful information on furniture painting please read our article.

Latex paint

Latex paint

Add water to your latex paint in a ratio of either 2:1 if you want a thick coat, 1:1 if you want a semi-translucent coat, or 1:2 if you want a light coat. We recommend that you go for the 1:2 ratio for the lightest consistency and then paint several layers of paint to reach your desired opacity.

It’ll be much easier to control the paint that way as opposed to having thicker paint and having to control your brush strokes.

Oil-based paint

For oil-based paints, you can do the same thing with water, except that you’ll add turpentine. Water-based paints like latex paints can be diluted with water while oil-based paints can only be diluted with turpentine. Keep adding turpentine until you reach the desired consistency.

Stir thoroughly

Whether you choose to make your own paint or you buy paint, you’ll want to stir it really well before using it to make sure that you don’t end up with blotches.

Test it out

It’s always a smart idea to swatch the paint on a plank of wood similar to the one you’ll be working on before you paint your whole piece. This will give you a better understanding of what the paint would look like once it’s dry. It’ll also give you a good indication as to whether or not you need to adjust your paint’s consistency to reach the desired opacity.

Basic whitewashing

Now that you have everything prepared and ready for application, here’s how you could whitewash furniture:

Use a brush, foam roller, or cloth and apply the paint in small sections. Avoid painting large sections at a time because the paint is diluted and will dry up fast so you want to finish each section fully before moving on to the next.

whitewash method

For small grain wood like pine, apply the paint in the direction of the grain. For larger grain wood, like oak, you’ll want to apply the paint in the opposite direction of the grain. This will help you coat every crevice of the wood in an even manner.

Use long strokes to cover the whole section you’re working on and then move in with a sponge or cloth and wipe off the excess paint to leave a nice even finish. You could use a dry sponge to wipe off harder to reach areas.

Wiping off the excess paint helps the grains stay visible through the paint which gives off a beautiful rustic finish. Depending on how smooth you want your finish to be, you should wipe the excess paint off at different times in its drying process.

The longer you wait, the more visible your brush strokes will be after wiping the paint down. If you want a smoother finish, however, then you can wipe the paint with a cloth before it starts drying up.

When you wipe down the paint, use a cloth or sponge and move in the same direction as the grain.

Cloth

Wait for your furniture to dry up and absorb the whitewash and then decide if you want to paint another layer over the one you just painted. Sometimes one layer can give the wanted effect while other times you might need to apply several layers.

If you find yourself applying more than three layers, you might want to consider changing your paint’s ratio a bit to make it thicker for upcoming pieces.

Dry-brushing whitewash

If you choose to go with this method for whitewashing furniture, you won’t need to dilute your paint. In fact, you’ll be working with paint straight out of the can. Here’s how:

dry

You want to dip your brush very lightly into the paint to get just enough on the bristles to dry-brush your piece. The point is to have enough paint on your brush to spread the paint in a very thin layer, so if you think you have too much paint on your brush, wipe it down with a cloth.

If you want a thinner layer than you think you’ll be able to achieve with undiluted paint, you can dip your brush in the paint first and then dip that brush in water and shake it before painting.

You want to paint the whole piece of furniture at once, moving slowly from one section to the next in quick and light strokes. It’s very important for the first contact of the brush with the wood to be very light and to maintain that lightness throughout the job. It’s also very important to maintain the same brushing speed throughout the whole job in order to ensure an even application.

When you come to a corner, it’ll be hard to maintain the same brushing speed but don’t hesitate.

If you want the brush strokes to be visible for an amateur look, then move your brush in short strokes. For a smoother finish, however, you want to move your brush in longer strokes so that any bristle marks would fade.

If you have any uneven spots, before they dry up, you can use a dry sponge to blend them in the same quick and light manner.

Seal the paint

seal

Once the last layer of your paint has dried, you’ll want to sand off any bumps or uneven spots and then to preserve the paint, you’ll want to seal it off.

To do that, you’ll need a water-based sealant. Oil-based sealants tend to change their color by time and may give your furniture a yellow hue as they age.

Simply apply the sealant with a brush or sponge in long even strokes and wait for it to dry before moving your furniture back to its place.