How to Whitewash Wood in 3 Simple Ways!

In this step by step guide with video tutorials, we will explore 3 super easy techniques to whitewash wood, and some beautiful examples of whitewashed wood floors, walls and furniture.

Here’s a summary of the 3 whitewash wood techniques:

Easy tutorial & video on how to whitewash wood to create beautiful farmhouse white washed floor, shiplap wall & furniture on pine, pallet or reclaimed wood!
  1. Diluted paint method to create a smooth whitewashed wood finish. This is the easiest technique.
  2. Scraper technique to white wash wood with lots of textures in one easy step.
  3. Candle method to create distressed shabby chic style whitewashed wood.

The 3 whitewashing techniques will create different looks on different types of wood, such as smooth pine wood, pallet wood, and reclaimed wood. They are all really easy, quick and fun!

* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .

farmhouse whitewashed wood shiplap wall

Some of the most timeless and beautiful designs are born out of necessity. Whitewash is one of them. Traditionally, white wash is actually lime wash:  a mixture of salt, water and hydrated lime used as an economical and easy way to make a farmhouse look clean and bright.

In modern times, when we recreate the whitewashed look, it is usually done with diluted white paint, which is what we will be using in the tutorials today. However, I am so curious about real lime wash I may just have to try it soon! 🙂

To see these 3 white wash techniques in action, check out the video tutorial below!

Materials for white washing wood:

( Some of the helpful resources are affiliate links. Full disclosure here. )

vintage farmhouse white washed wood floor
A detailed guide on where to find pallets and how to work with pallet wood.
If you want to work with reclaimed wood, here’s a detailed guide on where to find pallets and how to work with pallet wood!

Technique 1: how to whitewash pine wood or other smooth finish wood using a rag and diluted paint

This is the easiest way to white wash wood, and the most commonly used. It is good for all types of wood, and easy to do on both floors and walls.

water diluted paint to stain wood white, look like bleached wood

Many types of wood we get from hardware stores have a smooth finish surface, for example: 2x4s, common boards, plywood, etc.

This whitewashing method is good for both smooth and textured wood. It creates a clean, refreshing and bright look, great for modern, farmhouse, or Scandinavian style.

The beauty of white wash vs white paint is that the wood grain shows through and adds a richness to the finished piece. The whitewashed wood plank wall in the photo at top ( source) from a modern farmhouse bathroom is a great example.

whitewashing wood with diluted paint, wood grain showing through, with example of scandinavian modern wood wall

First dilute the white paint with water, to a consistency of heavy cream. Dip a rag  into the paint and wipe it onto the wood surface. Use it as a white wash stain. Repeat with another 1-2 layers if you want it to look more white. Let dry between layers.

You can also use a paint brush. I like the rag because it creates a very even whitewash stain without leaving brush strokes.

Update: I just put together 30 great examples of my favorite Pallet Wall and Shiplap Wall tutorials and inspirations you can check out here!

30 best DIY shiplap wall and pallet wall tutorials and beautiful ideas for every room. Plus alternative methods to get the wood wall look easily! - A Piece of Rainbow
30 favorite DIY Pallet Wall and Shiplap Wall tutorials and inspirations.

Technique 2: how to white wash reclaimed wood in one easy step using a scraper

white washing reclaimed wood, vintage farmhouse style

This method is incredibly fun! It works best on wood with lots of surface textures, such as reclaimed fence wood. Use this method when you want to create a rustic and aged look such as a plank wall made with old barn wood.

Clean the wood with soapy water and a brush. Let dry.

diluted white paint and scraper on textured reclaimed wood, vintage farmhouse shabby chic style

The Decoart Americana Outdoor Living Picket Fence White paint is the perfect consistency for this technique. If your paint is too thick, dilute the paint to a consistency of crepe batter.

Now the fun part: pour paint onto the wood surface. Take a scraper and scrape the paint along the wood grain.

Some paints will be soaked into the grooves. Let dry and we have a piece of rustic white washed wood!

beautiful farmhouse whitewashed  wood plank wall

The beautiful aged barn wood plank wall example above is from here.

Technique 3: how to create shabby chic style whitewashed look with the candle method

Shabby chic, distressed, chippy paint. These words are often used to describe a charming aged peeling paint finish often seen on vintage furniture and decor pieces.

Anthropologie worthy DIY cabinet or door knobs that look like hand painted designer ceramic knobs! Download beautiful designs to make your own set easily! - A Piece of Rainbow
You can see a good example of this finish in the photography background of these 5 minute DIY designer knobs.

Take a clean piece of wood and a candle. The wood I used here is from an old pallet. It has a little bit of texture. This method will work with any type of wood.  Rub the candle at random spots on the wood.

chippy white paint on wood, vintage chalk paint style

Paint the wood white. Let dry completely.

Use a rag and wipe the surface with some pressure. The paint will come off where the wax was rubbed onto the wood. How easy is that?

use candle to create white washed distressed paint on wood

Below is an example of beautiful white washed wood floors ( source ). To be precise, they are actually ceramic tiles made to replicate distressed painted wood.

how to make new wood look like old weathered wood

If you want to use this technique but only have new wood, you can start by making the new wood look aged by staining them with diluted paint or home made wood stains that are easy to make and very long lasting! See recipes here.

how to whitewash pine, pallet or reclaimed wood

Which technique do you plan to use? You can see in the above photo that each one produces a different look! If you make anything from the tutorial, tag us on instagram @apieceofrainbow. We always love seeing what you create! =)

See you next week!

82 Comments

  1. I’m thinking of doing the first technique. Do I need to put any kind of finisher paint/gloss after painting?

    • hi Lexcie! no need to add finish if you use the wood indoors or in covered area outdoors. otherwise a coat of outdoor sealer can help protect the wood from rain and sun. 🙂

  2. Hello! We have an entire basement that is clad with barn wood – like actually taken from a barn that was being torn down and nailed in place on every wall in our basement. So it looks like a barn. We even have two of the original barn doors. (We inherited this look when we bought the house). Can I use the second method you listed without taking the boards off? If I take them off I will ruin them, and don’t particularly want to replace an entire room right now, I mostly just want to look I look cleaner and brighter. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • Hi Sarah! Yes you can! I would test a little corner to ensure the painting-scraping works well with the paint thickness working vertically. Otherwise method 1 should work nice too, with a very quick sanding after paint dries to reveal the old wood texture if you prefer! 🙂

  3. Love your ideas! I’ve very tempted to try the whitewash technique on a dark stained shiplap wall that we have. It is a pine wall that is stained mahogany. Any advice? I’ve never done anything like this before! Thanks in advance…

  4. Great article. Thanks, very helpful advice. The easiest recipe for whitewashing boards is lime mixed with salt and water. A member of the forumhouse.ru Temra does not advise to process the walls of the house with purchased slaked dry lime – the walls will get dirty. Use quicklime: it is quenched, salt is added (salt as an antiseptic for wood strengthens its composition and gives shine), and the walls are whitened with this solution. In a state diluted with water, lime can be stored for a very long time, the main thing is to prevent it from drying out by constantly adding water. If the slaked lime is still dry, all the moisture has evaporated, then you will have to throw it away. Good luck!

  5. Bonjour Ananda,

    Quel magnifique tutoriel. MERCI a vous. j’ai une question : quelle méthode pour des meubles de cuisine équipée en mélamine blancs ?

    MERCI d’avance.

    Isabelle

  6. I have a tv cabinet that is a walnut finish can I white wash on top of a store bought piece of furniture.

    • hi! most store bought furniture has a finish that repel paint and stain. a light sanding would help, and i would test it on a not so visible area first to see how much sanding is needed.

  7. BRAVO cela redonne vie au bois . Ces méthodes sont ‘elle valables sur des poutres au plafond?Les poutres blanchies redonneraient de la clarté à mes pièces sans abîmer la beauté du bois.
    Merci

  8. I tried to find an answer but can you do white washed with wood that is already painted or stained? It’s a dark greyish color. It might be pretty trying to do white washed to it with some of that color in background? I thought I could use sandpaper then wash it before using your rag or scraper method? Thanks for the help!

  9. eugénieduchet@gmail.com
    j’aimerais peindre le parquet en blanc je pense que la technique à la bougie est la plus belle ( je lave depuis longtemps ce parquet qui était ciré avant il est maintenant tres mat et je pense qu’il est possible de passer le blanc ) je vis à Bruxelles pensez vous que cette peinture soit trouvable ici ? Merci c’est tres beau

  10. Love your whitewash!
    We have an old parquet floor that I would like to do but it has quite a glossy finish to it. Even the parquet tiles in the box that are left over from previous owners have the same shine. Is this going to have to be sanded in order for the whitewash to stick? Ugh the mess. Or are there floor sanders that suck it up at the same time?

  11. I just read this post ( it was linked by another blogger ) and I LOVED it !!!! I am so wanting to try this with different types of wood on different projects.
    BUT….my biggest attraction was the one where you said it was ceramic tile made to look like wood. I am “BEGGING” you for any further information you can give me, link me to…provide me with. I have the worst tiles in my kitchen and dining room….they only can be described as old Italion terra cotta orangy brownish looking type. (AND you should see what is on my counter and back-splash ). I do not have the funds to remove or replace them; so if ‘painting them’ is an option…I HAVE to try it. I was just thinking of a dining room makeover…but now I want to start with the tiles IF it is possible…so any information you can offer; I would so greatly appreciate. Thanks in advance !!!!

    • hi laura! that was a sample tile i got a few years ago and no longer made. if you google ” white distressed wood porcelain tile” there are many great choices to buy!! 🙂

      • I am sorry but what I am looking for is a way to PAINT my tiles to look like wood tiles….I do not want to buy anything..or replace the ones I already have….. I have tried google….pinterest…etc..and I do not see anything that is helpful to me. I have been ‘led’ back to you on a few occasions. What should I try typing in the search bar? I just keep getting actual ’tiles’ that are looking like wood….not A WAY to PAINT them. Thanks again in advance.

  12. Love the examples provided for each technique. Plan to use reclaimed pallets to blank my ceiling but will be white washing the wood to keep the room light.

  13. Wow! What a great tutorial! Thank you so much! I do have one question… When you mention diluting the paint, that is with water, correct?

    Thanks again for the wonderful advice! This is great!

  14. I would love to do this on an outside table. I’m assuming I would need to seal it since it will be in the sun. Do you have any suggestions on what to use to seal it?

    • Have used white paint over projects that were old and the stain actually came through and made the paint have yellow spots. I’ve since learned if you have an issue with that you can seal the piece with something like Zinsser clear shellac spray then paint over it with whatever technique you are using. I’ve also heard you can use this product if you have a “smelly” piece of furniture (cigarette, musty smells) and it will help with that.

    • hi tracy, i think so, but i would test and practice some on a few pieces of scrap wood with similar texture, before working on the vintage wall! =) also keep in mind that if you don’t like it or make a mistake, you can wash it off within the first couple of minutes and start over!

  15. Thanks for sharing how to do this. Saving this page for later. My husband is going to make some wood boards for our site, so this will be very helpful!

  16. I may have to try this in the future. My dad is going to make me a farmhouse table, and I may use this technique on the chairs. Not sure yet. Painting furniture scares me LOL.

  17. I have used the white vinegar with steel wool method. I let it sit for about two weeks and strained through a cloth. I poured it into a spray bottle and used it on a cheap light wicker laundry basket from the Dollar Store that I paid two or three dollars for. It turned into the prettiest shade of golden brown. I now use it for some of my throw blankets.Think I’m gonna have to try some of the other methods.Thanks!

  18. Wow this is such a neat DIY project with wood. I have a ton of plywood and white paint left over from a project that I’m definitely going to be rolling my sleeves and trying this.

  19. I have loved white washed wood for years and I have done quite a few pieces and you are right it is easy and fun, you really can’t make any mistakes as long as you remember to dilute the paint.
    You did a great job on the tutorial and I always look forward to your posts. I always learn something new, like the candle method, can’t wait to try that
    Thank you so much, for all your DIY tips and tutorials and decorating tips.

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