How to Whitewash Furniture.
Centsational Girl Guest Posts!

I met Kate about 2 years ago.

Heyyyyyyy. Wait a minuteeeeeee. I’ve never met Kate. Ever. This Internet thing is weird, eh? I truly feel like we’ve met, but we never have. Hell. We’ve never even Skyped.

I consider Kate to be both my Internet friend and a little bit of a blogging mentor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emailed her with questions, concerns or conundrums.  Each and every time she’s emailed me back.  Usually with a response that goes something like this … Who are you and why do you keep emailing me?  Stop bothering me.  I’m painting something in between raising a family and saving the world.  Sheesh.

Somehow she agreed to do a guest post for me.  It’s amazing what you can get people to do for you when you sign your emails Design*Sponge.

Please welcome … Kate (Centsational Girl)!.







I have a theory, or a mantra, if you will and it is this:  White paint is the cure for all design dilemmas.  I ask you, what doesn’t look better with a coat of white paint?  Your walls?  Your trim?  Your furniture?  Your dog?  Well, perhaps ‘Fido’ was never meant to be a ‘Snowball’, but one thing is true, white paint is the instant cure for all the tired pieces of furniture you may own or have inherited from Great Aunt Myrtle.

Last year I scored a trunk at a thrift store for $15 bucks and decided it was the perfect piece to reinvent as a coffee table in our outdoor cabana space , but instead of ordinary paint, I chose a whitewash technique.


What is whitewash you might ask?  It’s the process of layering thin coats of watered down white paint to a wood surface to achieve a distressed look but it also allows the wood grain to show through.  Some call it faux, I call it fab because the technique accentuates the details of the wood, plus you never need worry about wear and tear, it adds to the appeal.  In my mind, the white + wood combo is a win-win and the look gives you an “old world distressed cottage-ish” finish and no one need know it costs pennies to pull off.  Here’s how.

Sand down any piece of furniture until the rough raw wood is exposed, a good orbital will help you do it in minutes.  Next mix up this formula:  2 parts white latex paint to 1 part water.  After you mix up the water and paint,  dip your brush into the mixture, wipe most of it off, then apply the paint in the opposite direction of the grain.  I know that sounds wacky and seems counterintuitive, but I found that if you paint in the opposite direction of the grain, the diluted paint grabbed onto the rougher edges a lot better.



After I was done I gave it a quick coat of clear outdoor Varathane to seal it and protect it from the elements.  Look how that fancy bowl of limes just pops.



Got a tired old piece of furniture?  Consider a simple whitewash technique for a simple fix in an afternoon.  Here’s a peek at even more whitewash goodness for inspiration:


Sources:  table, hutch, dresser, end table

Thanks so much Karen for letting me visit today!  Hope you’re off doing something equally relaxing and unsavoury.   xo  Kate


You can find Kate on her website Centsational Girl as well as writing the Centsational Style posts for Better Homes & Gardens


  1. Great post! Now I have the urge to white wash everything! Cats included.

    Also, I love that you spelled unsavourly with the “u.” I’m sure your spell check rebelled against that! Lol.

  2. eileen ovaclosa says:

    Karen who ?…JKJK…loved this post and How To !

  3. Sorry Kate, it is also possible to go to the dark side: vinegar and wire wool. Completely different look of course!

    • nancy says:

      wait Tricia, you can’t just leave it at that! how is that accomplished and what is wire wool? vinegar and steel wool???

      • Soak wire wool (steel wool) in one pint of white vinegar for a day or so and you get iron sulphate, which reacts with the tannins in wood to darken it. You can also char the wood with a blowtorch but I would rather keep my house… can’t be trusted with a blowtorch.

  4. Maddy says:

    Thanks Kate and Karen! You guys are ace. You should have a tv show like Iron Chef but Iron DIY’er. Or something. Anyway this is the perfect solution to my $10 cupboard and $20 sideboard I picked up recently. I was thinking a big bad bold colour but can’t decide on one. This will be a fab quick fix until I decide on said colour. Or I can just stick with the white wash forever! Does it look any good with other colours? Coralwash? Goldwash?



  5. Michelle says:

    Kate is awesome and you are both awesome at your whitewashing and what not!

  6. Langela says:

    I wonder if my dry, burnt tomato plants would look better whitewashed. Probably. Thanks for the post today.

  7. Barbie says:

    Very nice to meet you Kate, you really are quite Centsational!

  8. Cindy says:

    I’ve got a great old bench. I’m doing this today! Thanks!!

  9. Great job Kate! At the vintage furniture store I used to work in White was always the color of choice It just seemed to bring out the details in the piece that you just couldn’t see before and it always sold twice as fast when painted white versus a color!

  10. Patra says:

    You two are my favorite bloggers so I LOVED this cross-over event 🙂

  11. Alex says:

    What awesome thrift stores does she go to to get trunks like that? I would fall off my chair with happiness! I’m in awe of her furniture painting abilities.

  12. Angela N says:

    I am just about to do this to a table that I inherited from my in laws. It is that orange 70’s colored wood. I thought if I sanded it a bit and white washed it, it might look better. Here’s to hoping!!

  13. Janelle says:

    The Art of Being Centsational! Thanks for the great post – I have just taken the Annie Sloan chalk paint plunge and have instantly become a hopeless ascp addict…must try this whitewashing technique, now. I am painting everything in my house…even the kids are starting to look a bit nervous if I get too close to them with a paint brush. Enjoy your cottage time, Karen – hope you have some “true pies” while you’re up there.

  14. Centsational Girl says:

    Thanks for having me friend, always glad to visit with you! xoxo Kate

  15. Gayla T says:

    Hi Kate, Who is that Karen everyone keeps referring to? I love the trunk and what you did to it. I would never have gone against the grain although I do that in most of the other areas of my life. You would think it would have occured to me that I should expand into some positive areas but at my age I’ll just paint all my furniture white. Thanks for the tutorial.

  16. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Love it Kate..You and Karen are the best!!!

    • Nancy Blue Moon says:

      And Miss Karen..I hope you are sitting on your butt relaxing and not up trying to make-over the cabin..Eh???

  17. Laura Bee says:

    Lovely! I had an old metal trunk for a coffee table in my first apartment, but would have loved this instead.
    So true about white-I have painted four things (that I can think of)in my house white in the last year. I’m looking at the ugly yellow thing that holds our phone with a new idea now. But I hate stripping furniture. Need a quick & dirty tutorial for that.

  18. Kelli says:

    Wow…not typically a fan of whitewashing (in any sense of the word) but that really is one ‘centsational’ looking after! Looks awesome in the cabana!

    Karen hope you are enjoying your favoUrite drink, watching the coloUrful sunsets wherever you are…

  19. Brenda j says:

    Hey Kate….Welcome to our side of the invisible line!
    Having been a follower of yours for some time, it’s lovely seeing you helping out and sharing here too.

    White-washing always has creates such a great country clean appeal and finish. Love it.


    Brenda from Oshawa, Ontario

  20. Pamela says:

    Love both techniques but my favorite is turquoise over white, next
    I discovered copper, metallic gold, and covered with turquoise, and

  21. Pamela says:

    my favorite is turquoise over white, then distressed and varnished.

  22. Have you looked into the *real* whitewash technique? I was reading about it in an old Harriette Beecher Stowe book from the 1800’s and now Im fascinated! It just consists of a Lime and Water solution and it has antibacterial properties. Im looking at painting my chicken coop with it! Here is more:

  23. Great job done by you white washing furniture always gives shiny and new look . I also recently tried it for my old wooden chairs and also some painted with wooden color now they are amazing and looking new.

  24. Jackie says:

    I am desperate and hope you can help. I used the steel wool/vinegar mixture on a red oak table and it is almost black! Is there a way to remove this stain off the table? Thank You!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jackie. There are a couple of things you can try but both are a bit of work. You can either try to use a very weak solution of bleach on your table, or you can try sanding it off. As you know (now) vinegar and steel wool darkens wood because of a chemical reaction. On a side note … maybe you’re just shocked. Maybe the table actually looks good? ~ karen!

  25. Jackie says:

    Thanks, Karen, but no, it looks awful. Do you think citristrip would work? Its a natural stripper made from orange peels. I have used it for paint removable and it works great. If not, I will try the bleach. Thank you for your help.

    • Karen says:

      I’m not entirely sure Jackie. Stripping is used to strip things off the top layer of wood as opposed to going down really deep. The only thing you can do is try a test spot and see what happens. Depending on how deep the vinegar penetrated sanding really may be the best option. I’d try that first just to see. ~ karen!

  26. Jackie says:

    Can a wash be done in an off white instead of white? When I’m distressing furniture I use off white as I prefer that color. Thanks, Jackie

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