Whitewash Stained Finish

One of the first things many people do before moving into a newly purchased house is to refinish the wood floors. In other words, pickling a retro table would feel off because the modern feel of the style contradicts the antique feel of the finish. But, I love it on my daughter’s floor (not the color as much as the ease of care and people/earth-friendliness of it). Depending on the species of wood you use, and its grain patterns, you may want to wipe down the entire project with a wet sponge. Once it’s applied, the white stain allows the grain to show through, but it tones down the yellow look of the pine.

I think the jar I use is 28 oz and I dissolve one steel wool pad in it. When you test it, if it seems too concentrated (turns the wood too orange/red after the wood is dry) then add more vinegar to the solution. There is no set ratio…I usually fill a plastic cup with 1/4 to 1/2 white paint, and then add a little less water than paint. Until recently this technique involved taking ordinary paint and thinning it down to create a white stain. It’s just like painting with regular paint expect that it’s a lot thinner, so you won’t be able to load as much onto the brush. The custom cabinets shown here were made from reclaimed oak, then finished with a whitewash and a clear protective finish.

When doing multiple sanding and finishing cycles, do not re-sand the wood until it is completely dry. To test the results of these variables, ask your refinisher to apply some stain to short lengths cut from a new piece of flooring made from the same wood species. I typically whitewash with whatever white paint I have on hand, since I keep a pretty good stock of that.

The common thing to do is to bleach the pine wood using a process of lye and oil; that gets you a pale finish where the texture and knots of the wood still peek through the veneer. Turn to Minwax® to add rich color and durable protection to your wood project in a single step. I’ve also read about using beach or oxalic acid to lighten the wood and remove the tannins but haven’t tried it yet. The stain penetrates the wood and will require a painful amount of sanding to remove. For an off-the-shelf solution, check out General Finishes Whitewash from our sponsor Rockler, at under $20 a quart. I haven’t tried white washing yet although I’m thinking about doing it on a dresser, hmmm.

You won’t find many store bought” pieces of furniture that go to this level of work, but then again most commercial finishes look flat and unsophisticated. Although certain stains are sold under the name pickling stain, technically, pickling is a method not a finish. My personal preference is to build and buy solid wood furniture whenever possible and practical since you have more finish options. You can probably sand the table down to a lighter color without sanding it down to bare wood.

I built a dining table and used fir and pine for a dresser (did not use the oxidizing solution), but used a different type of wood for a piece of furniture and the oxidizing solution did not work. Ferric acetate reacts with tannins which are naturally present in varying concentrations in wood, much more in hardwoods like oak and maple, and less so in softwoods like pine or fir. If the finish wasn’t rock-hard, I suspect my butter knife and fork could cut through it! I am actually wondering about the water based floor finish you use as your top coat. Different wood species will produce different results, as will different boards of the same species.