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How to whitewash furniture

Whether it’s a table or a wardrobe, find everything you need to know about whitewashing furniture here.


house painting ideas - white paintbrush on pot of white paint with grey background

Key steps:

To whitewash furniture, follow these key steps:

  1. Prepare the wood – this might mean pre-varnishing it or sanding down.

  2. Apply the whitewash paint and then remove with a rag or towel.

  3. Once dry, repeat the process until you have the effect you desire.

Upcycling furniture is all the rage these days. Whether you’re painting wood, upholstering a vintage chair or putting some glamour back into an old rug, a little bit of effort can give even the shabbiest of pieces a new lease of life. Whitewash furniture is an increasingly popular look and luckily whitewashing is a pretty straightforward method for upcycling old wooden furniture. Here’s everything you need to know.

Practice on a spare piece of wood before you start on your furniture. Practice makes perfect when it comes to whitewashing.

How to whitewash wood: what you’ll need

  • A large paintbrush (not a roller).

  • Sandpaper.

  • Basic white paint – doesn’t have to be fancy.

  • A large roll of paper towels.

  • A bucket.

  • Water.

  • Protective clothing for you and sheets for the room.

How to whitewash pine wood

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If you want to know how to whitewash pine or other common woods here is the technique to use:  

  • Clean to wood with a thick, rough bristled brush and cold water.

  • Always scrub in the direction of the grain.

  • Aim to remove all dirt and dust.

  • Let the wood dry.

  • Sand down any pine knots with sandpaper.

  • Mix six parts white paint to one-part water in a bucket.

  • Apply the paint to the pine in the direction of the grain.

  • Remove any excess paint with paper towels.

  • Let it dry then do multiple further coats if required.

How to whitewash pallet wood

Pallet wood is a similar process to pine, but it’s important to be aware of a few extras before you start:

  • Pallet wood has been used for other purposes so may have stains or marks, check it over thoroughly before you begin.

  • To get a really antique look from pallet wood it is often worth staining with varnish and letting it dry before applying the whitewash.

  • Consider how dark you want the stain the be. The darker it is the more the natural grainy-ness of the wood will be apparent, but also the more coats you will need to do.

How to whitewash furniture with chalk paint

Chalk paint is a type of paint that can be used to give a chalky appearance. This can be good for creating aged and vintage looks. You can buy chalk paint, but there are easy ways to make it yourself. Simply mix:

  • 1 cup of white latex paint.

  • 2 and a half tablespoons of plaster of paris.

  • 1 and a half tablespoons of cool water.

This can then be used in the same way as regular whitewashing paint, creating interesting and classy aged looks on furniture.

Those are the key techniques when it comes to whitewashing furniture. Give it a go and see if you like the effect on your furniture. It gives a really classy, vintage look and feel so can be a great option for that antique wardrobe or bed that just needs a little sprucing up.

Originally published