Although different from the whitewash of old, a mixture of latex paint and water gives a similar effect. The whitewash mixture allows the grain of the wood to show through, producing an antique look to walls, trim or furniture. The process adds brightness to the wood without hiding the beauty of the grain.
Make the whitewash from two parts latex paint and one part water. Mix enough to complete the project rather than risk having to duplicate the mix in a second batch. Apply the mix with a brush, and wipe off the excess to create the whitewash appearance. The amount of color left on the wood during the whitewash process depends on individual preference. Adding more water and wiping soon after application leaves little of the whitewash look on the wood.
Covering the Whitewash
After the latex paint whitewash dries, apply a clear finish. This protects the surface from wear and waterproofs the surface. Use water-based or latex finishes such as acrylic varnishes. Allow the clear finish to dry for at least 24 hours before using the piece of furniture.
Historically, whitewash served to protect fruit trees from damage from the sun during the winter. Sunlight reflected from the snow produced sunscald on some types of trees. Using a mixture of half water and half white latex paint, applied to the tree trunks, prevents the sunscald and is an adequate substitute for the mixture of water, salt and hydrated lime used in the past.
Color washing is similar to whitewash, but it utilizes colors other than white. For color washing, mix one part latex paint to nine parts water. Apply two coats of the color wash mixture, and allow it to dry before coating with a clear varnish or finish. In some cases, a darker color is used for the second coat to produce a distressed look on the piece.