How to Whitewash Wood

Updated February 21, 2017

Whitewashing is a traditional wood treatment that's now used to create a rustic effect. There are many methods to achieve a whitewashed look on wood. An effective method is to brush on thinned white oil paint and wipe off the excess. After applying a coat of shellac, you can finish the wood with a coat of paste wax. You can whitewash your interior woodwork, furniture projects or any other wooden piece in your home.

Mix one part paint to three parts denatured alcohol in a plastic container. Stir the paint and denatured alcohol until it's mixed. You may need to modify the ratio if the desired consistency is not achieved on the first try.

Apply a coat of the thinned paint to the wood, using a stain brush.

Wipe the wood across the grain, then with the grain while the paint is still wet to remove the excess paint. Allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours.

Apply a light coat of shellac using a stain brush. Allow the shellac to dry for at least 24 hours.

Sand the shellac with 320-grit sandpaper, followed by #0000 steel wool. Wipe the wood surface with a tack cloth to ensure that it's clear of any dust.

Rub paste wax into the wood using a cloth rag to finish the whitewash.


Experiment with the ratio of paint to denatured alcohol on a scrap piece of wood until you achieve the desired result.


Wear eye protection when sanding. Apply paint and shellac in a well-ventilated area.

Things You'll Need

  • White oil-based paint
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Plastic container
  • Paint stirrer
  • Stain brush
  • Roll, paper towels
  • Clear shellac
  • 320-grit sandpaper
  • #0000 steel wool
  • Tack cloth
  • Paste wax
  • Cloth rag
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About the Author

Jonah Morrissey has been writing for print and online publications since 2000. He began his career as a staff reporter/photographer for a weekly newspaper in upstate New York. Morrissey specializes in topics related to home-and-garden projects, green living and small business. He graduated from Saint Michael's College, earning a B.A. in political science with a minor in journalism and mass communications.