How to Whitewash Furniture

how to whitewash furniture

Do you have an old piece of furniture wasting away in your basement? Maybe it is a coffee table from an old apartment, or a nightstand no longer in use. The piece probably looks worn out, and you likely consider it useless. Maybe you considered donating it but concluded that nobody would want it. At least, not in its current condition.

Fortunately, it is easy to revitalize old furniture for another era. In this blog, you will learn how to whitewash furniture — a simple process that revives old, wooden surfaces by highlighting their unique grains to achieving a timeless look. When you are finished reading, you will be able to breathe life into old furniture using a few simple tools: a paintbrush, a rag, and a whitewash solution.

What is whitewash?


At this point, you are probably wondering: What does it mean to whitewash furniture? The answer is simple: whitewashing, or “pickling,” is a painting technique that allows you to highlight the grains of a painted wood surface. These simple DIY projects not only revitalize wood, but they truly bring out the unique textures of each piece.

Despite being effective, the whitewashing process is easy to complete. That’s why it is a favorite among builders and DIY handypeople alike. The process requires just a few simple tools: sandpaper, a paintbrush, and a whitewash solution. The solution is available in a ready-made form at local hardware stores. Or, you can make it the old-fashioned way — simply mixing paint and water.

Benefits: Why whitewash furniture?

There are a number of benefits to whitewashing old furniture. Some are aesthetic, as the finished piece will look great, display deep wood textures, and add a timeless charm to your home. Others are financial, or environmental, as knowing how to whitewash furniture is a sustainable practice.

When you whitewash furniture, you not only create a new piece of furniture that can enhance any living space but revitalize an old piece that might otherwise have gone to waste. As such, it is more environmentally-friendly than purchasing a new piece. As homeowners, anytime we can reuse, or revitalize old products, instead of buying new, we should. Those little acts will eventually add up.

Process: How to whitewash furniture DIY

Now that you understand the value of whitewashing, you are probably eager to learn how to whitewash furniture. Below we walk through the process step-by-step. Our goal is to empower you to bring wood furniture back to life, and to achieve an elegant, environmentally-friendly finished product.

  • Prepare the area.
    • Before getting started, prepare the area where you plan to work, and be mindful of your surroundings. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area and install newspapers or cloth underneath your working area.
  • Sand the old piece of furniture.
    • Next, lightly sand the piece of furniture thoroughly. Be mindful of any paint or lacquer on it, and be vigorous if necessary. When you are finished, wipe the piece with a clean cloth to remove any dust and residue.
  • Prepare your whitewash mixture.
    • If you purchased a ready-made whitewash solution, you are all set.
    • If you are making your solution the traditional way, start by mixing paint and water at an equal ratio. (You can use any latex paint — ideally, some leftover white paint you have laying around.) Then vary the ratio depending on your personal preference.
  • Use a brush to apply the whitewash solution.
    • Dip your brush into the whitewash solution. When you remove it, remember to wipe against the sides of the container to reduce splatter. Finally, brush over the piece, using long strokes to apply the whitewash to the furniture. You have to work quickly, as the mixture dries faster than standard paint, but you should cover the piece entirely.
  • Clean the furniture.
    • While the piece of furniture is damp, wipe away excess whitewash to reveal more of the original wood grains. If necessary, you can use a sponge to clean hard to reach areas. Remember: whitewash furniture has a weathered look, so it is impossible to make a mistake. With that in mind, feel free to be creative.
  • Apply a second coat–if you wish.
    • Applying a second coat of paint, or even a third, is optional. As mentioned, there is no incorrect way to whitewash furniture. Simply continue applying coats until you are happy.
  • Add protection.
    • Finally, it is a good idea to add some protection. Apply a clear, water-based sealer, or natural tongue oil, to your newly-revitalized piece of furniture. That will help keep the whitewash effect looking in-tact for years to come.

Ready to get started?