How to Do Washed Oak Cabinets

Updated November 21, 2016

The term "washed oak cabinet" refers to an oak cabinet that has been covered with a coat of thinned paint to give the cabinet a subtle tint while allowing the natural grain of the wood to show through. The most common colour used is white, as in white-washed cabinets, but you can use any colour you choose or even apply a wash over a solid coat of paint to cover the wood grain and create a dramatic paint effect.

Sand the oak cabinets with 200-grit sandpaper. This will roughen the surface slightly and help the paint adhere to the wood.

Mix equal amounts of white vinegar and water in a small container. Apply this mixture to the cabinets with a rag to clean the cabinets and remove any greasy residue that may have accumulated over time.

Thin any colour of latex paint by mixing three-parts paint and one-part water.

Brush the thinned paint onto the exterior of the cabinets with a 6-inch stain brush. The brush strokes do not have to be perfect, just cover the cabinets with paint.

Take a clean rag and wipe the wet painted cabinets from the top to the bottom. This will remove brush strokes and some of the paint so that the natural oak shows.

Repeat applying and wiping the thinned paint until you have reached the desired level of coverage.

Apply two coats of water-based polyurethane clear coat to protect the paint and give the cabinets a shiny finish.


If you would like to completely cover the wood grain of the oak cabinets, apply two coats of latex paint to the cabinets after washing them with a vinegar mixture. Allow the paint to dry completely after each coat and then apply a paint wash using a different colour of paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Latex paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Rag
  • Polyurethane clear coat
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About the Author

Kittie McCoy has been a freelance writer since 2008. She is also a part-time personal trainer and licensed entertainer in Las Vegas. She enjoys sharing her love of physical fitness and experience in the entertainment industry via her writing.