Whitewashing is an inexpensive painting technique that has historically been used to help preserve and protect wood. Because whitewashing accentuates the natural grain in wood, the painting technique has also been used to showcase wooden furniture and has found its way onto all types of wooden surfaces, including floors and panelling. Although whitewash looks good both indoors and out, traditional whitewashing is best left for outdoor uses as it will rub off on people and animals who touch it if left unsealed. While this may be all right for a barn or a fence, a modified whitewash recipe is typically used indoors and on furniture.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Chemical paint stripper
- Rubber gloves
- Dust mask
- Measuring cups
- Hydrating lime
- Large bucket
- White paint
- Damp rag or broom
- Clear polyurethane
Prepare the surface you plan to whitewash by sanding away any rough spots or flaking paint. If you are whitewashing something other than a piece of furniture, such as a barn or a fence, it is not necessary to sand the entire surface smooth. Old paint, however, should still be removed before whitewashing.
Sweep away the debris left behind after sanding. You can do this with a damp rag if you are painting something small or with a broom for bigger objects.
Mix the whitewash. For a traditional outdoor whitewash, combine two qts. of hydrating lime, one lb. of salt and two gallons of water in a large bucket. For a more permanent paint job and for indoor use, mix two parts white paint and one part water.
Apply the whitewash with a brush to the surface you are painting. Paint the whitewash using long brush strokes that go in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Whitewash dries very quickly, so complete your work in small sections. If you are whitewashing furniture and want the wood grain to show through the wash, use a clean rag to wipe some of the whitewash back off while it is still wet. Continue applying coats of whitewash until you are satisfied with how your whitewashed item looks.
Create a distressed look, if desired, by lightly sanding the whitewash after it has dried.
Apply two coats of clear polyurethane to prolong the life of the whitewash. This step is typically reserved for indoor whitewashing and whitewashed furniture. Barns, fences and other outdoor items do not need to be coated with polyurethane, but will need to be painted less often if they are. Remember to rub the first coat of polyurethane lightly with an abrasive nylon pad or low-grit sandpaper before applying the second coat.
Tips and warnings
- Traditional whitewash washes out of clothes easily. Whitewash made from paint, however, may be more difficult to remove from clothing.
- Wear rubber gloves and a dust mask when working with lime, as it is a corrosive substance.
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