How to Whitewash Plywood

How to Whitewash Plywood (3 EASY Techniques)

I’m always looking for unique ways to paint and stain wood, but following the tried-and-true methods consistently gets boring after a while. So when I came across whitewashed plywood, I knew I had to try creating this on my own.

I’ve used a few whitewashing methods to create some fantastic whitewashed plywood furniture, and I’m here to help you do the same!

Plywood can be whitewashed using whitewash pickling or a paint-water mixture. In either case, the substance is applied to the plywood using a paintbrush. Once it’s had time to dry, it should be coated with polyurethane or polycrylic so it’s strong and long-lasting.

What Is Whitewashing?

If you want to bring out your wood’s natural beauty—specifically, if you want to highlight its wood grain—then you should try whitewashing.

Whitewashing doesn’t only accentuate the wood grain; it also makes the wood lighter and more rustic.

Virtually any kind of wood can be whitewashed, but raw, unfinished wood (like plywood) is best for whitewashing.

Unlike applying clear stain, which accentuates wood’s color and grain, whitewashing brings out the wood’s natural beauty without making it glossy.

Whitewashed furniture is often found in homes with traditional decor, though homes with a modern look can incorporate whitewashed furniture as well.

You can even white wash floors by using the right technique!

Why Do People Whitewash Plywood?

Whitewashing Plywood

People whitewash plywood for a variety of reasons. That said, plywood is often whitewashed because this process gives it a unique texture. Plus, whitewashed wood is affordable and versatile.


Whitewashed plywood often has a unique look and feel, in large part because DIY methods are employed to create it.

And because you can get both the tint and texture you want, it’s possible to really express your creative vision in your project by whitewashing.

If you’re going for a tropical look, you can achieve this look by creating whitewashed beach wood.

Whitewashing is one of the best ways to make plywood look good and I highly recommend it.


Whitewashed plywood is a cheaper option for those looking for finished plywood.

Its low cost is mainly because DIY methods are often used to create it.

All you need are some paint brushes, a couple lint-free rags, and other materials (depending on the method you choose). But no matter how you choose to whitewash plywood, it’s likely you won’t spend over $100 to do so.

When compared to traditional staining and painting, whitewashing is a more affordable option and it’s pretty easy to do.


Whitewashed plywood’s ability to go well with a range of decors is another thing that makes it attractive. It can find a place in both traditional and modern decors, provided it’s surrounded by complementing furniture.

Specifically, it can give off rustic vibes as well as minimalist, eco-friendly vibes.

How to Whitewash Plywood with Minwax Whitewash Pickling

There are several methods available to those who want to whitewash plywood, and below I discuss three that I’ve used to great success.

You don’t have to use the specific products I recommend, but I’ve found these products to be better than similar competing products.

Materials Needed

1. Sand the Plywood

Grab your plywood and give it a quick sand. If you’re using high-grade plywood, you probably won’t have to sand it. Run your hands over the surface of the plywood to determine whether or not sanding is necessary.

Note: If you want your plywood to have a rough, whitewashed texture, skip this step.

2. Apply the Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

Once your plywood has been sanded, use a paintbrush to apply the pre-stain wood conditioner. This will ensure the wood is totally smooth and also help the stain set quickly.

3. Apply the Wood Stain

Once the pre-stain plywood conditioner is dry, apply the stain. Do this slowly so you don’t oversaturate the plywood.

After applying stain to a section of the hardwood, wipe the excess stain away with one of your rags.

Repeat this process until the entire piece of plywood has been stained.

Once all the plywood has been stained, let it sit for several hours.

4. Apply the Minwax Whitewash Pickling

Use a different brush to apply the whitewash pickling.

Apply this substance just how you applied the wood stain, i.e. split the plywood into sections and paint one section at a time.

As you apply the whitewash pickling finish, gently wipe it off with another lint-free rag until you achieve the tint you desire.

Note: If you want the wood to look more rustic, gently sand the wood after the whitewash pickling has dried.

Minwax 618604444 Color Wash Transparent Layering Color, White Wash, 1 Quart
  • Adds a touch or age & character to bare or already stained wood
  • Apply over oil or water-based stain with a synthetic or foam brush, stain pad or rag.
  • Dries in 1 hour. Endless coats in just one coat.

5. Apply Polyurethane or Polycrylic

Once the whitewash pickling is dry, use your third paintbrush to apply a protective layer of polyurethane or Minwax Polycrylic so the plywood doesn’t yellow later on. One coat should do the trick, but you may want to apply a second coat for a more durable finish.

That’s the final step!

How to Whitewash Plywood with with Paint-Water Mix

Materials Needed

  • Plywood
  • 3 paint brushes
  • 1 lint-free rag
  • 1 cup of white paint
  • 1 cup of water

1. Sand the Plywood

With this method, sanding the plywood before you apply the paint-water mixture is important, as paint adheres better to a smooth surface.

2. Apply Primer for Plywood

Grab a primer that’s ideal for plywood. Zinsser and KILZ both make good primers for plywood.

Apply the primer using one of your paint brushes and cover the entire area. Let it soak into the wood so the paint adheres to the plywood better.

Let the primer dry.

3. Create the Paint-Water Mix

Now it’s time to create a paint-water mix using the cup of white paint and the cup of water.

Note: If after mixing, you decide you want the mixture more thick, apply more paint; if you want a more translucent mix, add more water.

4. Apply the Paint-Water Mix

Use another paint brush to apply the mixture to the plywood. Paint in small sections, wiping off excess paint with your lint-free rag as you go.

Note: If you don’t want a pronounced shade of white, stick to one or two coats. If you want the whitewash finish to really stick out, apply three to five.

5. Apply Polyurethane

Adding a layer of polyurethane with your remaining clean paint brush is the final step. The layer (or layers) of polyurethane will serve as a barrier, protecting the paint so the finish looks good for a long time. Similarly, the number of polyurethane coats will depend on what you’re looking to create. Adding another coat will give you a thicker, more durable finish.

How to Whitewash Plywood with White Paint & Wax Candle

Tips for Whitewashing

Materials Needed

  • Rough plywood
  • 1 paint brush
  • 1 lint-free rag
  • 1 cup of white paint
  • 1 white wax candle

1. Rub the Wax Candle Over the Rough Plywood

Grab the wax candle and begin to rub it on the surface of the plywood. If the plywood is particularly rough, it’ll take off a fair amount of the candle, which is what you want.

It’s best to use a white or cream-colored candle, as the wax from these candles won’t affect the white paint later on.

You can rub the wax candle over the entire surface, half of it, or small sections; if you want a distinct amount of texture, rub the candle over the whole surface and make sure plenty of wax sticks to the plywood.

2. Paint the Plywood

It’s best to not use primer before painting. That’s because using primer will negate the texture created by the candle wax.

Instead, paint over the wood slowly and watch how the paint and wax combine to enhance the texture of the plywood.

If there are spots which show excess paint or wax, simply wipe these spots with your lint-free rag to remove the excess.

You should apply only one or two coats if you want a rustic look; apply three to five if you want a prominent white finish.

Note: Regardless of how many coats you use, the texture created by the plywood’s roughness and the wax candle will be discernible both close up and from a distance.

Wondering how to stain birch plywood? Check out my guide to learn how!

3. Apply Polyurethane (Optional)

After you’re done painting and you’ve let the paint dry, you could add a layer of polyurethane. You’ll need another clean paint brush to do this.

If you’re going to do this, you should use as little polyurethane as possible to preserve the candle wax finish. If you apply too much, it could over-smooth the surface and negate everything you did to create the unique texture.

However, providing polyurethane in the right amount can make the surface glossy and accentuate the candle wax finish.

Tips for Whitewashing Plywood

Don’t Use a Ton of Whitewash Pickling or Paint

When whitewashing plywood, remember that less is more. That is, your main goal should be bringing out the grain—not saturating the wood with whitewash pickling or white paint.

Use Primer or Pre-stain Wood Conditioner

Not using primer or pre-stain wood conditioner can accentuate the whitewash finish. On the other hand, paint that’s applied to an unprimed surface will be more prone to chipping, peeling, etc.

Here are some more tips to white wash wood correctly!

Final Thoughts

In the end, creating whitewashed pine plywood isn’t hard. All you have to do is paint the plywood with whitewash pickling or a water-paint mixture and you’ll have whitewashed plywood in just a few hours.