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What paint for whitewash?

Whitewashing is a popular and inexpensive way to freshen up walls and ceilings. It involves applying a thin coat of white paint or whitewash to cover up existing colors or stains. Choosing the right paint or whitewash is important to get the look and coverage you want. Here’s a guide to picking the best paint for whitewashing projects.

What is Whitewash Paint?

Whitewash paint contains white pigment suspended in a translucent base. It allows some of the underlying color to show through. Whitewash has a soft, muted effect compared to solid white paint. It’s great for creating a vintage, rustic or beachy look. Many whitewash paints contain chalk or lime for a matte finish.

Types of Whitewash Paint

There are a few main types of whitewash paint to choose from:

  • Latex or acrylic whitewash – Water-based paint with acrylic resin. Easy soap and water cleanup.
  • Oil-based whitewash – Contains white pigment in an oil base. Provides good adhesion and durability.
  • Limewash – Made from lime putty, chalk and water. Very matte, porous finish.
  • Milk paint – Whitewash made with milk protein, lime and pigment. Natural, low-VOC.

Latex or acrylic whitewash paints are the most common and easiest to use. Oil-based whitewashes are more durable. Limewash and milk paint create unique traditional whitewash finishes.

Choosing Whitewash Paint

Here are the main factors to consider when selecting whitewash paint:

Finish and Appearance

The finish and look of whitewash can vary depending on the paint formulation. Latex whitewashes have a subtle matte look. Limewash has a very matte, chalky finish. Oil-based whitewashes fall somewhere in the middle. Sample swatches on boards are helpful to get an idea of each paint’s final effect.


Some thick whitewashes cover fully in one coat. Thinner formulations require multiple coats for full opacity. Test coverage on a sample board or inconspicuous area. Opaque stains often require priming for adequate coverage.

Ease of Application

Latex and acrylic whitewashes clean up with soap and water. Oil-based versions require paint thinner for cleanup. Limewash and milk paint involve mixing powdered ingredients with water. Consider the prep work and cleanup required for the type of whitewash selected.


Oil-based whitewashes hold up to cleaning and scrubbing better than thinner, water-based versions. Limewash and milk paints are more delicate and porous. For high-traffic areas, choose an acrylic or oil-based whitewash.

Preparing Surfaces for Whitewash

Proper surface prep helps whitewash adhere evenly. Here are some tips:

  • Clean surfaces thoroughly to remove grease, dirt and loose paint.
  • Sand glossy areas to dull the finish so whitewash adheres better.
  • Patch any cracks, holes or imperfections with spackle.
  • Prime bare drywall, wood, metal and other porous surfaces so the whitewash goes on evenly.

Previously painted surfaces in good condition can be whitewashed directly as long as they are properly cleaned and de-glossed. Whitewash tends to show any imperfections, so take time to prep surfaces thoroughly.

Applying Whitewash

Follow these tips for whitewashing like a pro:

  • Use a high-quality brush designed for water-based paints.
  • Apply whitewash in thin, even coats and maintain a wet edge to prevent lap marks.
  • Let each coat dry completely before adding another coat.
  • Add coats until reaching the desired coverage and color effect.
  • Work in small sections for the best control over technique.

Rolling and spraying whitewash are not recommended as they eliminate the subtle color variations that make whitewashed surfaces unique. Brushing by hand creates the most authentic whitewashed look.

Achieving Different Whitewashed Effects

You can create different effects by varying whitewash application techniques:

  • Mottled look – Randomly leave some areas unpainted for a mottled effect.
  • Worn finish – Brush whitewash on heavily over corners, edges and raised details.
  • Light and shadowed – Whitewash vertical surfaces more heavily than horizontal ones.
  • Chippy texture – Chip off some whitewash in places after drying to expose wood or brick.

Experiment on test boards first until you achieve the desired worn, aged or textured look. The beauty of whitewash is that it allows the original surface to show through.

Sealing Whitewash

Whitewash paint can be protected and made more durable by applying a clear sealer on top such as:

  • Polyurethane
  • Acrylic sealer
  • Wax
  • Oil

Test sealers first before applying to the entire project. Multiple thin coats of sealer provide better protection than one thick coat. Allow whitewash to cure fully before sealing.


With so many whitewash paint options available, evaluate each in terms of the finish, coverage, application, durability and look you want to achieve. Properly preparing surfaces helps whitewash adhere evenly for best results. Apply whitewash in layers using brush techniques to create unique worn or mottled effects. Add a sealer for enhanced protection once the paint has fully cured. With the right whitewash paint and application method, you can give your walls, ceilings or furniture a fresh vintage-inspired look.

Whitewash Type Finish Coverage Application Durability
Latex/acrylic Subtle matte Good Easy water cleanup Moderate
Oil-based Mid-sheen Excellent Mineral spirit cleanup Very durable
Limewash Very matte Requires multiple coats Some mixing required Low
Milk paint Matte Good Some mixing required Moderate