How to Lime Finish Wood

The technique of lime finishing wood has been around for centuries. Whether refinishing wood flooring or wanting a decorative touch for a wood frame, using a lime finish will create a bleached, whitewashed effect. Chlorinated lime bleach dissolved in water is the original technique, but can often be caustic. Below are directions for how to achieve this look safely without lime bleach.

Start with natural wood for this project as it works best. If necessary, sand the wood back to its natural state.

Combine water with an off-white flat latex paint. Using paint with any type of gloss will detract from the true lime finish look. The final product should be similar to thick cream.

Take a wet sponge and moisten the surface to be lime finished, working in one small area at a time. This will allow the paint mixture to go on more evenly.

Use a second sponge to apply the diluted paint over the dampened section. Changing pressure on the sponge will give a varied look to the final product. Work in a criss-cross pattern as quickly as possible, making sure to keep the edges of the work moistened with water.

Repeat Step 4 until the entire project is completed. Do not overlap the finish. Get about an inch from the previously glazed surface and then blend in with another sponge or a dry brush. Let dry.

Apply 2 coats of water-based varnish.


The thicker the paint is applied, the more true to an authentic lime finish the end result will be. The more diluted the paint mixture, the more the project will appear pickled or white washed. Use a water-based varnish, as oil-based ones will yellow with time.


Wear gloves during this project. The paint mixture may pull resin up from the wood and give a pinkish tinge. If necessary, apply a water-based sealer first and sand in the direction of the grain with 220-grit sandpaper.

Things You'll Need

  • Off-white paint
  • 2 sponges
  • Water
  • Dry brush or sponge for blending
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