How to Whitewash Hardwood Floors

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how to whitewash hardwood floors

Finishing hardwood floors is a great way to customize your home and make it your own. 

Even though it’s not as common as it once was, whitewashing is still a good finish option. It gives a rustic, country look to your hardwood flooring that can be incredibly appealing. 

In this article, we will walk you step-by-step through the whitewashing process. 

By following this guide, you can give your hardwood flooring a rejuvenated look. You can also help protect it from harm through years of use and abuse. 

Learning how to whitewash your hardwood floors is a good way to spruce them up. Plus, you can save some money by doing it yourself and protecting the wood from future damage. 

Whitewashing Hardwood Floors: Basic Idea

Whitewashing your hardwood floors is a fairly simple process. If you follow our step-by-step guide, you can make sure you are doing it safely and correctly. 

  • Prepare the area
  • Remove finish
  • Lay the whitewash
  • Detail with floor paint
  • Add a sealer or top coat

Why Whitewash Your Hardwood Floors?

why whitewash your hardwood floors

If you want to renew the flooring in a room, there are a lot of options. Painting and staining are common, but whitewashing is becoming more and more popular. 

With the advent and renaissance of the country home look, whitewashing is coming to the forefront. It has an austere, rustic look that will still be at home in any modern house. 

It is also good for adding texture and depth to your flooring that paint or stain can’t provide. 

With a new coat of whitewash, your floors can get a new look and be protected. By adding a polyurethane coat over the wash, they will have an extra layer of defense against scratches and gouges. 

Prep the Area

Before you begin, you will want to clear the area that you are applying the whitewash to. 

Remove any baseboards or trim moulding. This will eliminate the need for taping and give you a cleaner look. 

You will also want to remove any furniture and get the entire room clear. Accidental spills and splashes happen and you don’t want your furnishings in the room when they do. 

Sweep and mop the floors thoroughly. Dust particles and dirt can affect the way the whitewash dries and ruin the texture. 

The cleaner and smoother the flooring is, the better the coat of whitewash will adhere to it. 

Remove Existing Finish

If your floors have an existing finish like paint or clear coat, you will have to remove that. 

The best way to do this is with an orbital sander. A power sander will do much of the work for you and can help save your arms and shoulders. 

Work with the grain when sanding off the old finish. This means only sanding in the same direction of the grain, which is usually lengthwise. 

Sanding against the grain can create gouges and scratches that will be difficult to remove. They will also show up in the coats of whitewash. 

Once you have sanded the entire floor, sweep and mop up any excess dust. 

Apply Whitewash

apply whitewash

Choose a white stain that is approved for the type of wood your flooring is made of. Most flooring will be compatible with any type of wood stain, but it is best to make sure. 

Apply the stain using a sponge and apply it to a 2×4 foot area of the flooring. Before it has a chance to set, wipe off the stain with a different dry sponge. 

The effect of this technique will be a transparent white color that lets the grain of the wood shine. You should be able to see the texture of the wood but with a white overlay. 

Continue this process throughout the entire area of the floor until you have done the whole room or home. Let it dry completely overnight. 

Detail with Paint

Using a darker gray paint, you can apply detail and depth using a dry brush technique. 

This technique involves dipping a brush into the paint and wiping it dry on cardboard or cloth. 

Once you have dried the brush, you can apply the small amount of paint over the grain. This will give your flooring some depth and texture that will make the grain pop. 

Add a Top Coat

After the dry brushed paint has completely dried, add a polyurethane top coat to the entire floor. 

This top coat will protect the delicate whitewashing and detailing. It will also protect the wood underneath and keep it looking nice for much longer. 

Keep the top coat even and thin to allow for proper drying. Let it set for at least 48 hours before moving any furniture back in and reattaching your trim moulding. 


faq how to whitewash hardwood floors

  • Are whitewashed floors popular?

Whitewashed floors are getting more popular every year. 

The country home look has become incredibly fashionable and whitewashed floors are an essential element of that style. On top of this, they are also a simple, inexpensive way to rejuvenate your hardwood flooring. 

  • What is the best floor paint for wooden floors?

An oil based floor and deck paint will be a good choice for any type of hardwood floor. 

It is durable and bold and will stand up to a lot of abuse. It will also seep into the grain of the wood much more than other types of acrylic or water-based paint. 

  • Can I wax a painted floor?

If you have a top coat on your painted floor, waxing is not a good idea. 

It will be difficult to rub into the floor and is not necessary due to the protection of the top coat. Your best bet is to keep your painted floors swept and mopped on a regular basis. 


Whitewashing your hardwood floor is an easy and inexpensive way to get a new look in your home. It will bring out the grain and natural patterns in the wood while adding light and color. 

If you want to change things up but don’t want to cover the wood completely, it’s a great option. 

Photo of author


Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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