How to Pickle Wood

Give wood furniture a gorgeous whitewashed look with this simple painting technique. It will look beautifully aged in no time!

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly

Floors, tables, and chairs with pretty patina and whitewashed finishes are in high demand thanks to the growing popularity of modern farmhouse design. Whitewashed furniture looks just as cozy in country, contemporary, and cottage homes. Achieve an aged finish on a new furniture piece with our wood pickling technique. This method uses diluted white latex primer to lightly coat the lumber while still showcasing the wood grain. The result is a surface that is subtly coated in paint, allowing the natural grain to shine through. Take a look at our steps below to learn how to instantly age wood using the pickling method.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Drop cloth
  • Disposable gloves
  • 4-inch paintbrush
  • Towel or rag
  • Stir stick
  • 2-1/2-inch paintbrush


  • Painters tape
  • White latex primer-sealer
  • Water
  • Polyurethane


  1. Sand Surface

    Using a manual sander with medium-grit sandpaper, scuff up all sides of your furniture piece or wood to open the pores. This will allow the latex primer to soak into the wood. Sanding will also take away any coating or paint already on the wood. Be sure to work with the grain. Once surfaces are smooth and any finishes have been removed, wipe away sawdust with a tack cloth.

  2. Prep Materials

    On your piece of furniture, cover any hardware and areas you don't want to be painted with painters tape. If you choose to remove hardware before working, be sure to clearly label the parts. This will make it easy to reassemble once you're done. Now is the time to lay out a drop cloth to protect your work surface. Once your work area is prepared, mix one part white latex primer-sealer with three parts water.

  3. Stain Surface

    Before beginning to paint, put on rubber gloves. Using a 4-inch paintbrush, apply a patch of the pickling solution to your furniture piece. Using a clean, dry rag, rub the pickling solution into the wood against the grain. Then use a fresh rag to wipe with the grain to remove the excess. Repeat this sequence, working in patches to cover your item evenly. Be sure to stir the mixture each time you apply so the paint doesn't settle at the bottom. You'll likely need to do several coats until you've reached your desired coverage. With each coat, your piece will become more and more saturated. Once you've finished painting, remove any painters tape and let dry overnight.

  4. Apply Clear Coat

    Once dry, it's time to seal your pickled wood. Stir a can of polyurethane clear coat with a stir stick. Do not shake polyurethane. Pour some into a lined paint cup, then use a 2½-inch paintbrush to evenly coat the entire surface of the piece. Let dry overnight, and repeat if necessary. Reattach any hardware.

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