How to Whitewash Knotty Pine

Updated March 23, 2017

Knotty-pine panelling is thick tongue-and-groove panelling made from real wood planks, rather than photo-laminate, which is why many people do not like to replace it. But you can save it while also transforming it. Whitewashing, also known as liming or pickling, can transform dated knotty-pine panelling for far less than installing new tongue-and-groove panelling. Newly whitewashed knotty pine generates light and lends a fresh, contemporary mood to panelled rooms.

Sand the panelling to remove old sealer and grimy build-up. Start with coarse sandpaper and work down to a medium grit.

Work open the woodgrain with a brass-bristled brush. Pine does not have a pronounced grain but brushing it can help to open up what grain there is, especially around the knots in knotty pine.

Sand the panelling with 220 grit garnet sandpaper until it is smooth.

Wipe the panelling with tack cloth until it is clean and smooth. Tack cloth, which is resin coated, works better than vacuuming.

Work in manageable sections of a few panels at a time, and use a wad of cheesecloth to rub liming wax into the wood's grain, using overlapping circular motions. The wax collects in the crevices between the panels and in the grain.

Rub the panelling with ultra-fine steel wool to remove excess wax immediately after applying it. Repeat process of applying and removing to the next few panels.

Use a lint-free cloth and mineral spirits to buff away any residual haze. Apply the mineral spirits to the cloth, and then rub it into the panelling after letting the initial coat of wax dry for five minutes.

Apply clear paste wax, according to the directions on the can, after you have finished whitewashing and buffing all the panelling. Allow to dry for four hours.

Wipe finishing oil onto the panelling after wax has dried to give the panelling a protective coat. More coats will result in a shinier surface.


A harsher grade of steel wool may discolour the wax.

Things You'll Need

  • Coarse- and medium-grit sandpaper
  • Soft wire brush
  • 220 grit paper
  • Tack cloth
  • Cheesecloth
  • Liming wax
  • Ultrafine steel wool
  • Lint-free cotton rag
  • Mineral spirits
  • Clear paste wax
  • Finishing oil
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About the Author

Cat Reynolds has written professionally since 1990. She has worked in academe (teaching and administration), real estate and has owned a private tutoring business. She is also a poet and recipient of the Discover/The Nation Award. Her work can be found in literary publications and on various blogs. Reynolds holds a Master of Arts in writing and literature from Purdue University.