How to Whitewash Dark Furniture

Whitewashing is a popular technique for giving furniture a new lease on life. It is an effective way to transform dark and outdated pieces into something bright and fresh. The process involves applying a white or light-colored paint or stain to the surface of the furniture and then wiping it away with a rag or brush to create a subtle, translucent effect that lets the natural grain of the wood show through.

How to Whitewash Dark Furniture

Whitewashing is an affordable and relatively simple DIY project that can be done with just a few basic tools and materials. With a bit of patience and careful attention to detail, you can achieve a beautifully distressed or shabby-chic look that will breathe new life into your old furniture.

Whether you’re looking to update a tired dresser, spruce up a bookshelf, or add some rustic charm to a dining table, whitewashing is a versatile technique that can help you achieve your desired aesthetic. In this article, we will take a closer look at the steps involved in how to whitewash dark furniture, as well as some tips and tricks to help you get the best possible results.

Can You White Wash Dark Furniture?

Yes, you can whitewash dark furniture! Whitewashing is a great way to give your furniture a new look without having to completely strip it and start from scratch. To whitewash dark furniture, you will need the following supplies: white paint, water-based sealer, sandpaper, foam brush, rags or cheesecloth. First, prepare the surface of your furniture by lightly sanding it with sandpaper.

This will help ensure that the paint will adhere properly. Next, mix together your white paint and water in a 2:1 ratio; this will create a thin wash which is best for whitewashing. Apply the mixture using a foam brush and cover all of the wood surfaces evenly with long strokes. Allow the coat to dry completely, and then apply a second thin layer if necessary.

Once your furniture is completely dried, you can use a rag or cheesecloth to buff it and give it a vintage look. Finally, seal the wood with a water-based sealer to protect it from damage and dirt accumulation. With these easy steps, you can transform your dark furniture into a beautiful whitewashed piece!

Use Water-based Sealer to Protect

Can I Paint Dark Wood Furniture White?

Yes! Painting dark wood furniture white is definitely possible. The key to successfully painting dark wood furniture white lies in the proper preparation of the surface and the use of high-quality paint products.

First, you will need to clean the piece thoroughly with soap and water or a degreasing cleaner to remove any oils that may interfere with the paint adhesion. Then, use either a chemical stripper or sandpaper to remove any previous finish from the surface of the furniture. Once your piece is stripped and you’ve wiped off any dust that was created, it’s time to prime the wood so that your white paint will adhere properly.

You can use a latex primer for exterior or interior surfaces. Let the primer dry thoroughly before you begin painting. Now it’s time to choose the right paint. For the best results, select a high-quality, oil-based paint in an eggshell or satin finish that is specifically formulated for furniture.

Using a good quality brush and working in small sections, apply the paint with even strokes. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying another one. Finish by lightly sanding between each coat and making sure the surface is smooth.

10 Methods How to Whitewash Dark Furniture

1. Clean and Prep the Surface

The first step in any painting or staining project is to properly clean and prep the surface. Use a gentle cleaner and a soft cloth to remove any dirt, dust, or grime from the furniture. If there are any scratches or dings, sand them down until the surface is smooth.

Once the surface is clean and smooth, apply a coat of primer to help the whitewash adhere properly. If you are using wood filler, apply that first and allow it to dry completely before moving onto the primer. However, if the furniture is made of a non-porous material like metal or plastic, you may not need to use any primer.

Using Wood Filler

2. Choose the Right Paint or Stain

There are many different types of paint and stain that can be used for whitewashing furniture. Choose a paint or stain that is designed for use on wood and has a light color, such as white or cream. You can also use a clear stain or a tinted stain that is lighter than the original color of the furniture.

Although some people like to use latex paint for whitewashing furniture, it is usually not the best option because it does not penetrate into the wood as deeply as other types of paint. However, if you choose to use latex paint, make sure to apply several coats for a more effective result.

3. Mix the Whitewash Solution

To create the whitewash solution, mix equal parts of the paint or stain with water. The amount of water you use will depend on the desired opacity of the finish. If you want a more opaque finish, use less water. If you want a more translucent finish, use more water.

Mix the solution well to ensure that the paint or stain is fully incorporated. While you can use a brush to mix, an electric paint mixer is ideal. To avoid any lumps, ensure that you scrape the sides and bottom of the container as you mix. Additionally, it is recommended that you pour the mixture through a strainer before applying.

Use a Brush to Mix

4. Apply the Whitewash Solution

Using a brush or roller, apply the whitewash solution to the furniture in even strokes. Be sure to work in small sections, as the solution dries quickly. Once you have applied the whitewash to one section, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any excess.

This will create a more subtle, translucent finish. Repeat this process until the entire piece of furniture is whitewashed, and let it dry completely. Once finished, you will have a beautiful whitewashed piece of furniture to be proud of.  Although the process may take some time, it is well worth the effort to create a beautiful and unique piece of furniture. 

5. Apply a Second Coat (If Needed)

If the first coat of whitewash is not opaque enough, you can apply a second coat. Wait for the first coat to dry completely before applying the second coat. Be sure to use the same application method as before, and wipe away any excess with a clean, dry cloth.

If you decide to add a second coat of whitewash, be sure to allow adequate drying time before using the furniture. Once your furniture is completely dry, you can enjoy your newly whitewashed piece of furniture! However, be sure to dust and treat it regularly to keep it looking its best.

6. Sand the Furniture (Optional)

If you want to create a more distressed or rustic look, you can sand the furniture after the whitewash has dried. Use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the surface, focusing on areas that would naturally wear over time, such as edges and corners.

Use Fine-grit Sandpaper

This will give the furniture a more weathered, vintage look. To finish, wipe away any dust with a dry rag. Although not necessary, this will help to give your furniture an even more unique appearance. Make sure to do this step outdoors, as sanding can create a lot of dust.

7. Seal the Finish

Once the whitewash has dried completely, it is important to seal the finish to protect it from wear and tear. Use a clear sealer that is designed for use on wood furniture, such as polyurethane or wax. Apply the sealer in even strokes, working in small sections.

Allow the sealer to dry completely before using the furniture. Taking the time to seal the whitewash finish will help it to last for years. To keep the finish looking its best, periodically apply a coat of sealer as needed. With regular maintenance and care, your white-washed furniture will remain beautiful for many years.

8. Experiment with Different Techniques

There are many different techniques that can be used to achieve different looks with whitewashing. For example, you can use a dry brush technique to create a more textured finish, or you can use a washcloth to create a smoother, more even finish. Experiment with different techniques to find the one that works best for your desired look.

Also, make sure to practice on a piece of scrap wood or other material before applying it to your furniture. This will help you get the hang of the technique before you apply it to your valuable furniture. Once you have perfected your technique, whitewash away! With a little patience and practice, you’ll be able to give your furniture an eye-catching new look in no time.

9. Use a Stencil or Masking Tape

If you want to add some interest or design to your whitewashed furniture, you can use a stencil or masking tape to create a pattern or design. Apply the tape or stencil to the furniture before applying the whitewash, and then remove it once the whitewash has dried. This will create a contrasting effect and add some visual interest to your furniture. Be sure to use a paint brush with a small tip so that the whitewash can get into any creases or details in the stencil.

Use Masking Tape

10. Combine with Other Techniques

Whitewashing can be combined with other techniques, such as distressing or glazing, to create a unique and personalized look for your furniture. You can use sandpaper to distress the furniture after the whitewash has dried, or you can use a glaze to add depth and dimension to the finish. Experiment with different combinations to find the look that best suits your style. With some creativity and patience, you can transform the look of your furniture with a simple whitewashing technique.

Some Common Mistakes When Whitewash Dark Furniture

1. Applying Too Much Pressure when Brushing on the Whitewash:

When applying the whitewash, don’t press too hard when brushing it on. This can cause the whitewash to bleed into areas you don’t want it and create an uneven finish. Instead, use a light touch and brush in one direction until you achieve the desired look.

2. Using Too Much Whitewash:

Using too much whitewash can create an overly opaque finish that may not be what you were aiming for. Start with a small amount of whitewash and add more as needed to get the desired coverage and effect on your furniture.

3. Applying Too Many Coats:

It is tempting to keep adding coat after coat of whitewash if you are not happy with the initial results; however, this can often lead to a heavy and chalky finish that looks unnatural. It is best to apply multiple thin coats of whitewash until you have achieved the desired effect, rather than one thick coat.

Apply Multiple Thin Coats

4. Applying Whitewash Directly Over Unprepared Surfaces:

It is important to ensure your furniture is properly prepared before applying whitewash. This includes sanding down the surfaces and removing any wax or dirt that might be on the surface. If you skip this step, you may find that the whitewash does not adhere properly and can easily chip off, leading to an uneven finish.


In conclusion, whitewashing dark furniture is a great way to brighten and update a room. Whitewashed furniture can create a beachy-chic, cottage vibe in any home. It’s an easy DIY project and the cost of materials is minimal.

Whether you choose to brush or spray application, practice on some scrap wood first. Finally, study the directions carefully so that you’re prepared ahead of time. So now that you know how to whitewash dark furniture, why not give it a go today? With just a little bit of time and effort, you can create stunning, statement pieces for your home!

Photo of author

Adrian Green

Adrian is a woodworking hobbyist and has loved Woodworking since he was 10 years old. Back then in childhood, his father used to have a furniture shop. He used to help his dad and learned a lot from him about how to fix woodworking furniture, basic carpentry knowledge and also about how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others.

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