How to whitewash wood furniture

Updated April 17, 2017

Transform old solid wood furniture items into eclectic pieces by whitewashing them. Ideal candidates for this painting technique include chairs, desks, chests, tables, dressers an bookshelves. Whitewash mismatched furnishings with common or complementary design traits and make them look as if they belong together. Each piece will take on a soft, matt, hazy finish that lend them a distressed and delicate quality. Add artsy handles and knobs to your whitewashed furnishings when possible.

Mend areas of the furniture in need of repair before you begin. Use wood glue, nails, or wood cement to ensure that your items are structurally stable and ready for whitewashing.

Prepare the surface of your furnishings for painting. Remove any coats of paint or varnish with sandpaper or a sanding machine. Your pieces are ready for whitewashing when their natural wood grain is visible.

Secure white latex paint, a disposable container and a 4-inch brush at a hardware store.

Keep old towels and rags nearby. Accidental spills during the whitewash process can be easily cleaned up with old rags.

Find a well-ventilated, dust-free work area. If you choose an indoor location, such as a garage, open its doors and windows. Choose an area free of circulating dust, however, out of the path of wind or drafts.

Lay a fabric or plastic sheet down in your work area. You may need more than one sheet if you are whitewashing more than one piece of furniture.

Place your furnishings onto the protective sheet. Leave enough space to freely move around each piece of furniture you are whitewashing.

Dilute latex paint with water in the disposable container. Mix one part paint to eight parts water.

Use nine parts water with one part paint for a milkier-looking whitewash.

Add more than nine parts water to create a dappled effect. A dappled effect has a spotted and patchy appearance.

Apply one layer of wash with the 4-inch brush. Practice on a piece of scrap wood if your hand isn't steady. Use a stroke that runs in the same direction as your wood furniture's wood grain.

Leave some of the natural wood exposed as you apply the first layer.

Dry the first coat before applying the second one. Allow it to dry for roughly 24 hours. Cover the remaining whitewash while the furniture is drying.

Apply a second coat. The look of your whitewash effect should now be apparent. Allow this second layer of latex paint and water to dry for 24 hours.

Coat the whitewashed wood with a protective layer of polyurethane varnish. Use matt polyurethane varnish. This varnish will preserve your work without a glossy finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Sanding machine
  • Glue or nails
  • White latex paint
  • Disposable container
  • 4-inch brush
  • Towels and rags
  • Fabric or plastic sheet
  • Matt polyurethane varnish
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About the Author

Christina Hadley holds a Bachelor of Arts in design. She writes copy for an assortment of industries. Her work also appears in the "Houston Chronicle" small business section. Hadley is a UCLA-certified computer professional. The British Museum recently featured one of her digital images in an exhibit.