Whitewashing used to include the use of caustic lime to corrode the top layer of wood, giving it a rustic, chalky appearance. These days, we don't have to be that harsh to create whitewash finishes. You can even whitewash faux wood, if you do the proper amount of preparation. Whitewashing faux wood is simple, whether you are lightening an entire room or one small piece of furniture.

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Whitewashing is more fun than Tom Sawyer claimed.

Step 1

Squirt three or four healthy dollops of mild dishwashing soap into a bucket of warm water. Thoroughly wash down whatever faux wood you intend to whitewash, even if it is a whole room. Clean surfaces will turn out better in the process. Let it dry completely.

Step 2

Sand the item—or walls—gently with 120-grit sandpaper. Work with the faux grain and keep a very light hand. You are not stripping anything, you just want to give the primer a little extra texture to cling to.

Step 3

Wipe away the sanding dust with a clean, lint-free shop cloth.

Step 4

Apply a thin coat of primer, using a paint roller. There are many different kinds of faux wood, so you will need to find a primer that will adhere to your particular kind and that also is compatible with latex paint.

Step 5

Let the primer dry thoroughly according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Step 6

Add some water to your off-white latex paint. You may have to play with the proportions a little to get the exact look you want. The more water, the thinner and more sheer the whitewash will be. Aim for a consistency like cream. Heavy cream, not skim milk.

Step 7

Paint your walls or item with a roller or a sponge brush, depending on the size of the project. A flat-finish latex paint is best at reproducing the chalky look of authentic lime-based whitewash.

Step 8

Let the paint dry completely—preferably for 24 hours.

Step 9

Seal your whitewash with two coats of water-based latex varnish. Let the first coat dry completely, according to the manufacturer's instructions, before applying the second. A regular paintbrush works best with varnish.

Step 10

Let the varnish cure for at least 24 hours before hanging artwork on a wall or using a piece of whitewashed furniture.