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Whitewashed Wood Can Transform Your Space
Whitewashed Wood Can Transform Your Space
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Whitewashed wood is classic. The brightening treatment instantly freshens up any space without sacrificing the textures and lines of natural wood grain. Whitewashing techniques are easy to perfect, with several methods to suit all budgets. The best part? This charming paint treatment celebrates imperfection, making it the perfect project for beginners. Update old cabinetry with a clean whitewash application, or add a relaxed beach vibe to your patio decor. If you can paint, you can whitewash like a pro.

01

Get started with the right materials

Whitewashing supplies are affordable ferrerivideo / Getty Images

The whitewashing technique coats wood and other surfaces with a layer of watered down white paint, giving it a cozy, weathered look. Start with sandpaper or a power sander to prepare the wood and a broom, vacuum, and microfiber cloth for cleanup. You'll also need water for thinning water-based formulas or turpentine for oil-based paints. Apply whitewash using a paintbrush or roller, and finish with a protective clear coat.

02

Prepare the surface for staining

Sand wood before whitewashing sturti / Getty Images

No matter what medium you use to achieve that clean, white finish, the results will look best if applied to a raw wood surface. Remove as much existing paint or finish as possible if you're refurbishing old wood. If you're weathering new lumber, consider leaving the surface rough to create an aged texture. Sweep and vacuum your workspace completely before continuing to the next step, wiping away any residue with the wet microfiber cloth.

03

Mixing the correct ratio

Test whitewashing mixtures AegeanBlue / Getty Images

The ratio of white paint to water or turpentine depends on the finished look you're hoping to achieve. For more opaque coverage, mix two parts paint with one part thinner. To attain a more translucent wash, use one part paint and two parts thinner. Experiment with various dilutions in an inconspicuous spot or on a scrap piece of wood to find the right look.

04

Apply whitewash with a paintbrush

A modern whitewash is smooth TriggerPhoto / Getty Images

Apply your perfect whitewashing mixture to the wood in the direction of the grain. Work in small sections at a time, blending for consistent coverage and removing any drips before they dry. Use a paint roller to create a uniform, smooth appearance, perfect for a modern or minimalist aesthetic. A coarse-haired paintbrush is better for emphasizing the rough brushstrokes typical of traditional whitewashing techniques. Use a wet microfiber cloth to remove excess paint and reveal more of the wood grain.

05

Seal with a clear protective coat

Whitewashed wood needs protecting Tatomm / Getty Images

Allow each layer of whitewash to dry completely, then sand with fine-grit sandpaper before applying the next coat. Once it looks as you intended, complete your project with a protective varnish to preserve the wood and finish. Oil-based varnishes tend to yellow over time, so look for a non-yellowing or water-based one to maintain the crisp look of your whitewash.

06

Pickling wood for a similar effect

Pickled whitewash emphasizes wood grain Scukrov / Getty Images

A pickling whitewash is similar to the traditional technique, but the result subtlety highlights the natural wood grain without obscuring its character. Sand rough surfaces with high-grit sandpaper, then apply a pre-stain before the pickling stain to create a smooth surface. Use a damp towel to remove the excess color and to reveal as much of the wood's natural surface as you desire. The result is a softened white finish that is less formal in appearance yet still sophisticated.

07

A crème wax finish

Crème wax seals wood, too andreygonchar / Getty Images

Water-based wax stains come in a variety of hues and can help you achieve the cozy charm of a whitewash with less work. Apply the creamy furniture wax with a lint-free cloth or a clean brush to raw wood, working it into the crevices of the grain. Avoid using paper towels to remove the wax, as they can leave lint behind. Depending on the size of your project, the wax can get a bit pricey. The good news, however, is that it's also a sealant, so you won't have to apply an additional protective coat.

08

Wax and scraping techniques

Scraped whitewash is rustic ugurv / Getty Images

Add texture to your whitewash with an attractive, distressed finish. Before staining, rub a piece of clear or white wax along the high points and knots of the wood grain. Then, apply whitewash over the wood surface, wiping it off before it dries completely. The wax prevents the wash from absorbing completely into the wood grain, creating a rippled surface texture. For a similar, more rugged approach, scrape the whitewash from the wood surface with a paint scraper as it dries.

09

Add a vibrant color

Add a pop of color efetova / Getty Images

If you love the look of whitewashed wood but yearn for a hint of vibrancy, try mixing a color wash. Add a small amount of colored paint to a plastic cup, diluting it with water until it has a very runny texture. Apply the color wash with a paintbrush or a wet rag, spraying with water from a spray bottle to create a more transparent stain.

10

Accessorize with whitewashed crafts

Whitewash accessories for subtlety CatLane / Getty Images

The whitewashed effect isn't limited to shiplap walls and refurbished dining sets. You can practice your skills on smaller crafts before moving on to large projects. Try a scraping treatment on a picture frame for Mother's Day, or color wash an old jewelry box to give it a chic makeover. A whitewashed wooden bowl provides a nice contrast for colorful fruits and flowers and makes a lovely centerpiece.

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