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How to whitewash wood panels

Updated February 21, 2017

Old wood panels can be instantly updated with a good paint job. Whitewashing wood panels can take old or worn panels and give them new life. Whitewashing also adds a rustic cottage charm to wood panels. With a little bit of white paint homeowners can whitewash their own wood panels.

Clean the wood panels with a mixture of water and dish detergent. Wipe the panels down with a clean rag or sponge. This will help to clean the panels and better prepare them for painting.

Lightly sand the wood panels with fine grit sandpaper. Using an electric hand sander will speed up the process. You do not need to completely sand the wood panels, just enough to "roughen up" the surface of the panels in preparation for the paint. Once you have finished sanding, vacuum the panels and wipe them with a tack cloth.

Decide what kind of whitewash finish you want for your wood panels. Applying an opaque whitewash finish will require a different painting technique than a pickled finish where the wood grain shows through the paint.

Apply a thin coat of latex painting primer to the wood panels with a paintbrush. Brush the primer onto the panels and allow it to dry completely. If you want to see the wood grain show through the paint you may want to skip this step and not apply the primer.

Paint the wood panels with white latex paint. For a whitewashed appearance, apply the paint with a paint brush in several thin coats, letting each coat dry before applying the next.

Allow the wood panels to dry for 24 hours before returning furniture and artwork to the room. Do not apply a polyurethane finish to the panels as the finish may yellow the whitewash finish over time.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Dish detergent
  • Clean rag or sponge
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Electric hand sander (optional)
  • Vacuum
  • Tack cloth
  • Painting primer
  • Paintbrush
  • White latex paint
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About the Author

Cadence Johansen is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about travel, marriage, family relationships, caregiver support, home improvement and money. Johansen has been writing professionally since 2008. She holds a master's degree in family studies from Utah State University.