How To White Wash A Table In Under 30 Minutes

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In this easy DIY tutorial, we’ll show you how to whitewash furniture without sanding to achieve a limewashed effect. I just love the power of paint and how it can absolutely change the entire attitude of a room!

White paint comes in all different types and there are enough techniques to write a massive paint encyclopedia. (Hey, maybe there already is one?!)

If you want to learn how to whitewash furniture without sanding, you’ve come to the right place! I’ll show you my favorite tips to get that lovely whitewashed wood look without using grit sandpaper, complicated paint ratios, or impossible-to-find chemicals.

whitewash-farmhouse-table

 

I’m basically a simple girl dreamer with simple needs and it only makes sense that my painting techniques are equally uncomplicated. I’ve tried all varieties of paint and it seems that I always fall back on traditional house paint or craft paint.

This is why I’m pretty much obsessed with this farmhouse table painting idea. I love the ease of it and how the whitewashed finish turns out every time I use this technique.

I’ve worked with all levels of projects and when push comes to shove I go for the straightforward. Our dining table is one that we built several years ago and I shared it in an updated TUTORIAL.

We scored the base that is from a Pottery Barn farmhouse table at a yard sale a long time back. The top had a lacquered ugly yellow finish that was really thick and the table was too small.
Off came the base and we used it to build a new tabletop. The base and legs were already painted in the creamy white that is still on it, so we didn’t do a thing with that.

I love the farmhouse look of the top that we built, stained and waxed, but it has been calling my name to lighten up for a long time!

pink wine glass

 

Can you whitewash over varnished wood?

The short answer is no. The varnish won’t apply the other paints to adhere to the wood and this is going to cause a problem later on. If you have a varnished wood table, you’re going to want to use another method of painting over it or try to remove the varnish beforehand. For this situation, I go straight to a chemical stripper and start from scratch.

Do I need to sand before whitewashing?

No, you don’t have to sand your wooden furniture before whitewashing. People do it because they think that it adheres better, but it is not necessary.
I didn’t do it with mine and it worked out perfectly.

How long will whitewash last?

This is just another reason why I love to whitewash a table with paint. If you take good care of the surface and area that it’s painted on, it’s going to last you for a really long time!

Do you prime before whitewashing?

To prime or not to prime! Well, in my experience priming depends on how you want your whitewash finish to look.
If you want your furniture to look rustic or have that farmhouse feel, you really don’t have to add a primer. Now, if you want a more solid and saturated color, then you should consider priming it.

How do you get whitewash stains off the floor?

After so many years of DIYs and giving new life to my old pieces of furniture, I noticed that whitewash stains are almost impossible to avoid during the painting process.

If you find that you’ve dropped some of the paint on the floor during your project, there are ways that you can get the wood stain off without worry. Warm water and dish soap can help to get a lot of it off and if it lands on a hard surface, you just need to let it dry first and then gently scrape it off or try to peel it off.

Whitewashing A Farmhouse Table In 30 Minutes

whitewashing a wood table
I would definitely recommend that you are 100% sure you want to whitewash your dining table if that’s what you are thinking. Once you apply this technique it’s not easy to reverse it without copious amounts of sanding down!

white wash a farmhouse table

I can’t even bring myself to call this a tutorial…it’s that simple to do. Whitewashing a wood furniture piece is not rocket science!
I used this paint by RUSTOLEUM and they also have a CHALKED PAINT, but I’ve never used their brand. It has good reviews, but in all honesty, I’m not generally a fan of chalky paint, but I’m a fan of milk paint and house paint. A whitewashed farm table is a beautiful thing and looks good everywhere, no matter your home decor style.
farmhouse table with whitewash
My favorite house paint is by BENJAMIN MOORE and if I were to use BM paint on furniture it would be my wall paint color WHITE DOVE since I already have it in the house.
I’m pretty excited to be working with Benjamin Moore this weekend as a color consultant at a local event!

How To Easily Whitewash Furniture

  1. Prep your wood furniture. Make sure to wipe down any dust and grease first. If it needs a bit of restoration, make sure to work on that first and then start the painting process.
  2. Grab a paintbrush and white acrylic paint. I would recommend using water-based paint.
    Try to avoid oil-based paint at all costs! You would have to thin it out with mineral spirits and that is pretty toxic.
  3. For your whitewashing mixture, you’ll need a diluted paint mix. I recommend watering down the paint in a small manageable bucket. (I like using a large plastic yogurt container).
    This helps to make the paint consistency perfect to nail the whitewashed look.
    For this table, I mixed about 2/3 paint to 1/3 water. This table had an original wax finish but I didn’t think that it was necessary to sand it off. To be on the safe side you certainly can give it a light sanding first if preferred.
  4. Using a paint brush, start painting! Use little brush strokes and try to go little by little in the direction of the wood grain of the boards, just like I showed you before in this tutorial: FARMHOUSE TABLE. Use the same instructions if your tabletop is one solid piece of wood or veneered. Try to avoid going against the grain of the wood.
  5. Paint a small area at a time. Before the paint dries, make sure to have a damp and clean rag on hand to wipe down the paint you just applied until it looks like a whitewash finish. Use a lint-free cloth for this step, to avoid messing up the final result. Have in mind that you may have to repeat this step in some areas if you’ve wiped off too much.
  6. Depending on what your end goal is in terms of style, you may want to consider adding a glaze or topcoat as a final touch. But, that’s up to you!
white wash table top with paint

Furniture Wax With A Whitewashing Technique

Here is the finished table! Although it sounds nearly impossible it truly took me maybe 20 minutes to do.
I’m going to let it cure for a day or two and then give it an additional coat of wax with my FAVORITE WAX. I’ve been using the wax for years and it’s the best and so incredibly easy to use!

I can’t wait to set the table for some fun posts to share coming your way soon!

whitewashing techniques dining table
Another post that I recently shared in the chair image below, shows you an alternate technique. See it HERE.
how to white wash furniture

Do you have a piece of furniture that you would like to lighten up by whitewashing? Let me know if you have any questions!

How to whitewash a farmhouse table in 30 minutes

This post was originally published in January 2017 & has been updated in January 2023

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52 Comments

  1. Carol Watson says:

    This looks great. Is it possible to do this on already whitewashed furniture that just needs a touch up?

  2. What did you use for the paint? You noted you grabbed a brush and your favorite acrylic paint but I wasn’t sure what paint you meant. I have a friend who wants me to white wash a credenza for her and this is the look she wants. Thanks for any info!

    1. Hi Michelle. I linked the paint that I used within the post, so if you click on that you’ll see the specifics. It’s my favorite for lots of projects!

  3. Could you seal it with poly acrylic instead of wax?

    1. Hi Jena…I think that you could, but I like the look of wax and haven’t tried it. Maybe do a small underside test area first?

  4. What kind of wax do you use?

    1. Hi Debby! The wax that I always use is linked in the instructions in the post. Have a great day!

      1. I don’t know how old this post is, but that link on your favorite wax doesn’t go to anything. Can you tell me what the wax is?

          1. Valerie green says:

            I’m having the same issue it takes me to Amazon but gives no suggestions

      2. The link takes you to Amazon but is an advertisement for a dietary supplement

        1. This post is several years old and links change. What product are you looking for?

  5. I’m excited to try this for a desk. Right now the poplar wood is completely raw. Do I need to finish in any way before whitewashing it?

    The wax you mentioned was to finish it after the white washing process, yes?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Every wood is going to absorb things differently Mia, so if it were me I’d try it on a small inconspicuous area first. Yes, waxing would be last and with raw wood you might need a few coats.

  6. You said you used acrylic paint but the link to the rustoleum is LATEX paint.

    1. It is water based and not oil based paint. Cleans up with soap and water and can be diluted. Check the Amazon questions and answers and thanks for stopping by.

      1. Love the way your table turned out. Could you show a picture of the wax you use? The link is not working. Thank you

        1. Hi Nicole…this is an older post so the link was changed apparently. Here you go…I still love and use this wax today!
          https://amzn.to/3wLxDuG

  7. Hi , Can you do a whitewash finish in a cream paint with more beige tones? If yes what BM Color works well for this? Thank you. Gayle

    1. I’m not a beige lover personally, but I do love the Rustoleum brand American Heirloom color paint (comes in a spray AND a can).

  8. Hi Janet,

    Have you ever whitewashed with Rustoleum Champagne metallic paint? It is water based too. Would love to see results!

  9. Thanks! I just asked another question about Rustoleum Metallic in Champagne! ???

  10. What is the best type of sealant for a dining room table that I just white washed? I know you mentioned wax but does it hold up over time vs Polyacrylic?

    1. Lexi…just catching up here and wanted to answer you. I prefer wax and not a sealer personally, and it does hold up beautifully in my experience. Just maybe give it another coat of wax every couple of years if necessary.

  11. Did you have to do anything to prep the wood in advance? Sanding, deglosser, liquid sanding? I have a credenza made of pine with great knots and wood grain but it’s stained in a glossy dark brown. I think a whitewash would be perfect for lightening it up, but I’m not sure what to do to prep the wood.

    1. Hi Liz. I would give it a light sanding just to be on the safe side. Then wipe it down with a cheesecloth or better yet…a tack cloth. Good luck with your project!

  12. Danni McLaughlin says:

    Hi. This is an older post, so I am hoping you see this. I found you bc I was looking for a pretty easy approach to a table I just bought, but it’s a little darker than it was in the pictures. It’s antique and so it’s porous enough that I think I can just do paint and water, maybe a little glaze and rub on, rub off. The reason I want to rub some lighter pigment in is bc it’s a little more of a ‘red/cherry/mahogany’ stain and I want a more neutral color, ideally. Have you had any luck taking ‘red’ stains’ down a notch or two with white wash? I have used that ‘arid plains’ + Glaze recipe on lighter wood and gotten amazing results. If worse comes to worse, I can paint this table, it’s pretty gorgeous no matter what. Just hoping you might have tried this already.

    1. Hi Danni. The problem with wood finishes that have a red base is bleed through. Sounds like you already know this, but if you want to give the whitewashing a shot I would give it a sanding first. My gut feeling is that it will need to be sealed with Kilz and then painted, but worth trying.

  13. I purchased a second-hand table on a single pedestal. I’m pretty sure the table top is made of poplar and the pedestal made of elm. It was described as Antique Whitewash. However, the pedestal is lighter than the table top. I wanted to lighten the grey looking poplar table top, to restore the whitewash look. The table top feels and looks like raw wood and very porous. Any suggestions please?

    1. I would suggest turning the table over and trying the process first on the underside…if at all possible. See if it works out for you.

  14. I think i’m going to try this on my table this weekend. Thank you so much for the idea. I have been looking to do this for a while just dont like the long process ideas. I would love more ideas like this as well

    1. Hope that it worked out for you and I’m impatient with some processes as well!

  15. Hi, What about the legs- what did you paint these (not whitewashed, correct?).

    Also, my top is painted in black chalkboard paint, will I need to paint white over it and then whitewash? Please advise.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Hilary, Correct…the legs are painted white. I would advise painting the the black chalkboard paint first or stripping it with something like Citristrip. Hope this helps!

  16. Hi i have a question? I have a coffee table that has a very dark stain with a polyurethane on top.. How can i get out of sanding and lighten this table up by white washing it?

  17. Hi! After whitewashing a kitchen table can you use polyurethane instead of the wax? Also the table I purchased has the base painted in a matt white paint which I don’t like, what do you recommend for removing the paint?

    1. Personally I’m not a fan of polyurethane, so I’m probably the wrong one to ask. To remove paint I generally use a product called Citristrip. Good luck!

  18. Hi Janet, I really appreciated this article and hope to give it a try, but I was hoping you could answer a question that has nothing to do with whitewashing. I have been wanting to drape my dining chair with a sheepskin for a while but have been unable to find the right one. I love the one you have pictured. Would you mind sharing which it is and where you were able to find it? Thank you!!

  19. Amanda Eich says:

    How do you clean the table since you can’t use household cleaners on a wax finish?

    1. I use household cleaners (Simple Green usually) and this post is several years old. No problem at all!

  20. Hi Janet, great article! How does wax hold up as a whitewash finish for a kitchen table, or side tables, that will see a lot of food/drink, aka condensation, possible spills, etc.? (I purchased Behr Wax Decorative Finish before I saw your article – let me know if there would be a difference in terms of my question of Behr versus the Briwax you used.) Thank you so much! Mary 🙂

    1. Thank you Mary! I have used Briwax on several dining tables and they hold up very well. Not sure about the Behr brand though, since I haven’t used it.

  21. I’m new to refinishing and my project I have now is a kitchen table. I sanded the top since I wanted to stain that, but no matter what stain color I use it turns more red than I want. Can I lightly whitewash over an oil base stain? Hoping to tone down the red.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Amy. You could try this technique with the gesso and see. It does have stain blocking power but without seeing your specific table it’s hard for me to tell.

  22. Tessa Geudens says:

    Hello Janet and co-painters 🙂
    Thank you so much for this very helpful post Janet. Beautiful result!
    My name is Tessa, from Belgium, and I do a little painting here and there. Usually furniture with blending chalk paints.
    However, now I have another project on my hands! I want to redo an entire staircase. It is in good state (structure), though pretty messed up by the construction guys that did the walls.
    I want to do a white wash on it.
    It is a staircase from the 50s, varnished, and I’m pretty sure it’s a bleeder.
    So, I fear I will need to get rid of the varnish first. It’s quite a surface. Would you advice a chemical stripper? or sanding?
    Then, for the bleeding, I think I need to stain/bleed through/block prime it, right? As I don’t want another colour coming through my white wash except for the natural wood, I was thinking about a transparant blocking primer. Would you advise this too??

    Will then the white wash have a good effect on the primer?? the same as it would on bare wood?

    After the white wash, I think, given that it is a staircase, I will need to give it quite some top coats.
    what would you advise here? PU?

    I would like to use water based paints (for the smell and toxicity etc) but I’m not sure if this is a good idea and as strong as oil for a staircase?

    Also, if you think white washing is a bad idea for a staircase, please also just tell me 😀
    I see a lot of staining on stairs, but I would like to make it lighter, not darker, while keeping the wood grain.

    many questions, I know… thank you so much for any help or advice!
    Much appreciated!

    Tessa

    1. Tessa, I would not advise white washing a staircase as it will likely get all scuffed up and not look so good quickly. Maybe try totally stripping it and then using a wood bleach to lighten it up instead. That’s what I would try if it were my home. Hope that helps!

      1. I have floors and stairs that were done in a “distressed white” paint that is deliberately a bit splotchy and it looks great. It has worn very well over time.

  23. Can I whitewash wood cabinets the same way without sanding or stripping the dark stain?

    1. I’m not sure that I would do this technique on cabinets. If you want to try it, perhaps do a test on an inside portion that is inconspicuous first.