How to Whitewash Stained Wood? (Easy DIY Project)

You can whitewash bare, finished, or stained wood. So. how to do it?

To whitewash a stained wood, apply diluted off-white latex paint or white chalk paint over the wood. These two paints will give you a rustic whitewashed appearance when dry.

If the stained wood is sealed with a waterproof sealant, such as polyurethane or lacquer, you must remove it before whitewashing. If you don’t, the paint won’t stick over it. 

Things To Know

You can whitewash stained wood. To do so, sand the existing stain with fine-grit sandpaper and apply a few coats of whitewash over it. This will give the stained wood a rustic finish. 

However, whitewash offers minimal protection to the wood. If exposed to water or footwork, the finish will get removed and expose the wood to these elements. This is a more decorative than protective finish. Homeowners use whitewash to archive a rustic, antique, and whitish tone on the surface, not to protect it.

However, you can seal the whitewash with a sealant, such as polyurethane. The sealant will produce a glossy clear coat that protects the surface from moisture, scratches, and other damage.

Whitewash vs White Paint (For Stained Wood)

Whitewash Vs White Paint (For Stained Wood)

White paint and whitewash have similar features, but both finishes are different. Let’s check their difference:

The Formula

White paint is made from pigments, resins, solvents, and several additives. The formula of the paint is synthetic and gives the finish improved features and durability. On the other hand, whitewash has a natural formula made of water, masonry lime, and chalk.


You can apply white paint using a roller, paintbrush, sprayer, or rag. However, if you aren’t experienced enough, you can get bad brush strokes in your finish.

On the other hand, you can apply whitewash with a paintbrush. You also have room for mistakes since whitewash contains zero resins and won’t show streaks or imperfections.


White paint is more durable than whitewash. That’s because white paint is formulated with extra additives that make the finish resistant to different elements. 

But, whitewash requires less maintenance and can last for several years. That’s because it has a rustic appearance that doesn’t show imperfections. This means that even if most of the coating is removed, you wouldn’t notice. 


White paint offers a shiny and thick appearance. The white paint will completely cover the wood grain if used over stained wood. On the other hand, whitewash offers a rustic dull, and off-white appearance. If used over stained wood, it gives the stain underneath a rustic look/finish. It’s a perfect finish for antiques.

Stain Dry Time Before Whitewashing

Wood stain must dry for 24 hours before whitewashing. This gives the stain enough time to dry and harden to withstand sanding and support a whitewash coating.

However, the dry time of the stain depends on the type (water or oil-based), room temperature, number of coats, and humidity levels. The stain will take longer to dry during moist conditions because its solvent takes longer to evaporate.

To know if the coating is dry enough for whitewashing, sand it with fine-grit sandpaper. If the sandpaper gets clogged, the coating isn’t dry enough. If the sandpaper moves freely, the coating is dry enough. 

If you whitewash too soon, the finish won’t dry; it will turn sticky and have a patchy-look appearance. That’s because the solvent that hasn’t evaporated will keep the coating wet, and if you apply a new coating over it, the whole finish will turn sticky.

How To Whitewash Stained Wood?

To whitewash wood stain, sand the surface, remove the dust, and apply the whitewash coating. 

Here are the tools you need:

  • A paintbrush
  • Fine sandpaper
  • White latex or chalk paint
  • Masonry lime
  • A paint bucket
  • A turning stick or paint mixer
  • Paint stripper (optional)

Here is how to do it:

1. Sand The Wood

Sand The Wood

If the wood stain is sealed, remove the sealant. Sealants are often waterproof and form a glossy finish that prevents liquid from penetrating their coatings. To remove a sealant from wood, use a paint stripper compound or sand it off. 

After removing the sealant, sand the wood with ultrafine-grit sandpaper. Ultrafine-grit sandpaper will remove imperfections from the surface and create a smooth surface for the new coating to stick. After sanding, remove the dust and clean the surface. 

2. Prepare The Whitewash

Prepare The Whitewash

Next, prep the whitewash:

  1. Mix 1 part of latex or chalk paint with 2 parts water.
  2. Stir until the mixture is loose and leave it to settle. 
  3. You can also mix chalk paint with masonry lime and salt. 
  4. Mix equal parts of chalk and masonry lime and dilute with water.

3. Apply The Whitewash

Apply The Whitewash

To apply whitewash over wood, use a paintbrush. Avoid using a roller or a rag because they won’t offer good coverage. While brushing the whitewash, brush along the wood grain, not against it. You must apply 2-3 coats of whitewash.

Optionally, you can seal the finish to make it last longer. Polyurethane or spar varnish are two common sealants you can use. 


Traditionally, only white paints were used to achieve a whitewashed rustic appearance on wood. However, you can also use colors like grey, ash, off-white, cream, vanilla, and eggshell.

The trick is to dilute the paint enough with water to become light and white before applying the mixture to the wood. All of these paint must have a flat or eggshell sheen. You can also add masonry lime to make the wood look better.

However, bright paints like blue, green, or yellow can never produce a whitewashed appearance, regardless of how well you dilute the paint. Also, you must avoid using oil-based paints because they have lots of oily deposits and won’t give a dull rustic look. 

Final Words

In summary, you can whitewash stained wood by applying 3 coats of it over the wood. If the wood stain is sealed, you must remove the sealant and then apply it. 

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

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