How to Whitewash Bare Wood with a Latex Paint and Water Mixture

I’ve been whitewashing furniture before I even knew what whitewashing was. I’ve used a whitewash technique to lighten dark wood, to reduce the “orange or red tones” on a piece of furniture and to give a raw piece of wood some color. Whitewashing can also be called “pickling wood,” although some people would say they are two totally different techniques. Let me show you how to whitewash bare wood with a latex paint and water mixture.

Stick around to the bottom of the post where I’ve shared some other amazing furniture flips!

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There are loads of paint products on the market that are made specifically for whitewashing. Some of these products are liming wax, white gel stains, and pickling stains.

While these products work well, I’m sharing the old way to whitewash or pickle wood; with regular old white paint and water.

Let me show you what I’ll be whitewashing. A friend gave this crate to me because she was about to throw it away. I kept it a while and almost gave it away myself. I’m so glad I didn’t.

the wood before white wash

It’s a simple wooden crate. You can see where the two top slats have come off.

the wood before white wash

There are so many uses for wooden crates. Not too long ago I rounded up ways to repurpose them. Why did I ever think of getting rid of this?

Materials needed:

whitewash wood materials

How to whitewash bare wood with latex paint and water

  1. Mix white paint with water; 1 part white paint to 1 part water.
  2. Apply the paint solution in the direction of the grain with a paintbrush or lint free cloth.
  3. Use the lint free cloth to wipe the excess paint away.
  4. Continue this process until you are pleased with the finish.
  5. Apply a sealer after the whitewash is dry.

Note; if you are looking for a more opaque finish, try using more paint and less water. If you are looking for a more translucent finish, use less paint and more water.

Always test a small area before completing the entire project. Don’t forget to wait until it fully dries before deciding if you need another coat because it will look completely different once the paint dries.

Easy right? Like I said earlier, there are a ton of products on the market that will “whitewash” a surface without having to mix your own paint. When it’s this easy, why not whitewash it yourself?

Side note; most “pickling” techniques (when working with stain) call for wiping against the direction of the grain when working with oak wood. This ensures that the paint or stain seeps way down into the pores of the wood. This doesn’t apply to this project because it’s not oak wood and we aren’t using a stain.

Side note #2; if you are looking for a weathered white wash look, I’ve shared a few different techniques for that. I’ve created a post for a DIY weathered wood look on a smooth surface (like laminate) and also how to create a weathered wood look on new wood. The last post about DIY weathered wood techniques uses a product you never would think to use! I of course have video tutorials on both.

Let’s walk through how to whitewash again with pictures.

  • Mix the paint solution 1 part water to 1 part white paint.
stirring the diluted paint mixture for white washing
  • Apply paint to surface in direction of grain with a paintbrush.
applying the first coat of white wash
applying second coat of white wash
white washing
  • Make sure to wipe excessive paint with lint free cloth in the direction of the grain. Also watch out for drip marks.
drips on the wood from the white wash
wiping away the white wash
whitewash wood

I’m loving the way the old crate is looking now. It’s brighter and looks more finished.

white washed wood

I love how the whitewash finish highlights the wood grain.

How to whitewash unfinished wood video

How to Whitewash Wood or Pickle wood with Latex Paint and Water mixture

One of the benefits of whitewashing any wood surface is that it highlight the wood without hiding the wood grain. This can also be called pickling wood.

Generally, whitewashing is referring to a pine wood surface while pickling is referring to an oak wood surface.

how to whitewash wood

Almost done! Funny how a little paint can transform a simple wooden crate.

After the paint was dry, I used a Polycrylic spray sealer.

The last thing I did was add a few cabinet pulls to really “jazz” it up.

I used gorilla glue to attach the pulls to the wood.

My intentions were to use this as shoe storage. I quickly changed my mind when I realized how well it could work as blanket storage in our living room!

how to whitewash wood

Maybe I should have used a little wood filler or putty to cover up the holes, but it adds to the rustic vibe right?

how to whitewash wood
whitewash wood

If you are curious about my chippy blue antique barn door, it’s a staple in this room and I love it!

how to whitewash wood

How to Whitewash Bare wood

How to Whitewash Bare wood

Learn how to whitewash bare wood or how to pickle bare wood with this simple white paint and water mixture. This is so easy it doesn't require an expensive paint or stain. 

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost 30 dollars

Materials

  • White paint (any type paint will do)
  • Water
  • Paintbrush
  • Lint free rags

Instructions

  1. Mix white paint with water; 1 part white paint to 1 part water.
  2. Apply the paint solution in the direction of the grain with a paintbrush or lint free cloth.
  3. Use the lint free cloth to wipe the excess paint away.
  4. Continue this process until you are pleased with the finish.
  5. Apply a sealer after the whitewash is dry.

Notes

If you are looking for a more opaque finish, try using more paint and less water. If you are looking for a more translucent finish, use less paint and more water.

I hope this looks as easy as it was to complete. Thanks for following along friends. Don’t forget to check out my other friends furniture flips below.

Lindsey**

5 thoughts on “How to Whitewash Bare Wood with a Latex Paint and Water Mixture

  1. It is pretty amazing how white washing CAN take the orange and yellow colors out of the wood! Thank you for your tutorial- and adding those handles was a great idea!

  2. I love it! As an owner of 2 furbabies, I immediately thought you had made a bed for a small dog. Appreciate you sharing the technique!

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