Whitewashed surfaces are popular in modern design and white wood stain is the perfect way to achieve this.
We have seen whitewashed surfaces becoming fashionable everywhere in the home from the ceiling to the walls, floors, and furniture.
While some people turn to white paint, white stain has advantages if you want to enhance the look of the wood grain rather than cover it.
In this article, we will review some of the best white wood stain on the market as well as show you some amazing home design projects using white wood stain. Be inspired to think beyond dark wood stains in a new way about your own interior spaces.
White Wood Stain vs White Paint
White wood stain and whitewash paint can be used to achieve the same general result, but these products are not the same. You need to evaluate your project based on our checklist to decide which product is better for your needs.
- Wood grain – White stain on wood enhances the natural grain rather than hides it. Paint covers the wood grain.
- Penetration – Stain penetrates deep into the wood to provide more protection. Paint provides a protective outer layer on the wood, but does not go deep under the surface.
- Appearance – Because stain leaves some of the natural wood grain showing, it gives wood a more rustic look. Paint covers the wood grain, so it makes the appearance more uniform and therefore, more formal.
- Adhesion – Stain adheres to the wood fibers white. Paint does not. Therefore, you can remove paint by stripping it, but in order to remove stain, you must sand to a deeper level.
Type of White Wood Stain
If you have determined that stain is the best for your project, there are two types of stain you should consider: oil-based stain and water-based stain.
Each has benefits, so it depends on what you are doing when deciding the best kind of stain to use.
Oil based stains
Oil-based stains penetrate into the wood and provide a more protective coating. Therefore, this kind of stain stands up better to outdoor elements like sun and moisture.
Also, oil-based stains do not raise the natural grain as much as water based stains. However, oil-based stains have a longer dry time and produce noxious fumes.
Water based stains
Water-based stains do provide a protective layer for wood, but it does not penetrate into the wood. This kind of stain works well for indoor projects as it dries in a matter of hours and does not produce the fumes the oil stains do.
The Best White Wood Stains
We have gathered some of the best white wood stain options for you to consider. Some are more subtle and may seem like a light tan color instead of white and others are a more vibrant white.
Also, these stains have different levels of opacity in that some might allow dark brown knots to show through and others have more coverage that is similar to white paint.
In addition, you should consider the type of wood you are finishing. For example, a wood like white oak has an even grain with few dark knots.
It will take less stain to get the white washed look for this wood than it will for a light yellow wood with knots like pine.
From the many reviews we have read, Varathane White Wash seems to be among one of the best loved white wood stains out there.
This solid wood stain has a more distinct white look than some other white stains. Also, it is more opaque allowing less of the wood’s natural tone to show through the surface.
This is an oil based white stain, but there are other water based versions of white stain to consider.
If you are looking to stain wood white in a way that is more subtle, try this Minwax wood finish. This is a semi-transparent oil based white wood stain that is much less opaque than the previous selection.
This is a subtle white stain that emphasizes the wood’s grain and makes the color of the wood lighter than it is in its natural state.
This thin white stain will change its look based on the wood variety for which you use it. For example, on a light yellow variety like pine wood, it will tone down the yellow cast and give it a light haze of white.
Varathane Antique White Stain is just the color it describes. It is a white with the look of slight age in that it has a subtle yellow tint.
In addition to its subtle white wash look, this stain does have a built in polyurethane, so it has a glossier finish than some of the other white wood stain options out there.
Unlike the other white wood stains in this list, this option is water based. Therefore, you can create a thinner or thicker whitewash based on your desire by adding water to this stain.
Also, because this stain is water based, you can use it indoors without breathing in harmful chemicals.
In its full strength, this stain provides a distinct and opaque look of white to surfaces where it is applied.
White Wood Stain Style and Ideas
If you aren’t convinced that white wood stain is an option you should explore, take a look at some of the ways others have used whitewash wood stain to brighten their home spaces.
White Wood Stained Ceiling
This beach cottage renovation from Judy Cook Interiors utilizes a light wood staining technique for this ceiling in the kitchen. The use of stain is apparent due to the subtle grain on the wood’s surface with the dark knots and red tones of the wood.
It echoes both the opaque white cabinets and the dark stained wood floor and blends with the soft colors of the gray/blue tile. If you like this look, choose a stain with a medium opacity like Varathane’s Antique White
White Stained Wood Shed
Are you looking to elevate a rustic outdoor space like a shed? Consider white stain as a way to make the rustic and unfinished look charming and unique. In this example, the decorators applied white wood stain over raw wood to achieve a rustic look. They used a stain with deep opacity like Varathane’s White Wash.
“White” Wood Floors
When you see white wood floors, it sometimes sounds like the term is a misnomer. Many white wood floors are not “white” but rather a pale wood color. Others are more white, but it depends on the look you want.
The white wood floors in this California bedroom use white oak wood with a light white wood stain. This creates a pale or pickled look that is popular right now. If you like this, use a subtle white stain like Simply White from Minwax.
White Stain Wood Shiplap
With the rise of farmhouse style, shiplap walls have become a popular style choice for many people. This wood feature adds more texture and interest to standard sheetrock walls. In this room from Coburn Design Build, they created a room with lovely multi-dimensional walls of shiplap and wainscotting.
The shiplap is stained white wood that allows just a little of the natural wood texture to show. In contrast, the wainscotting has a glossy paint layer that hints at no natural wood grain. If you like this look, use an opaque stain like Varathane’s White Wash.
Whitewashed Walls in Modern Design
They are painted in a white/light gray tone that minimizes the wood grain but does not eliminate it altogether. In fact, the wood grain gives the walls and floors a subtle texture that works well for the natural beach look. For white stain with a hint of gray, try Warm Birch from Minwax.
White Stained Dresser
One good way to change the look of a piece of furniture is by using white wood stain on it. However, white stain will not work over an existing finish, so you must sand it in order to take it down to the raw wood for stain to adhere.
For this dresser, the designer used a white stain on the lower portion and left the top shelf with the natural finish. This gives the dresser a casual style that works well in coastal or cottage design. For ease of use, use a water based stain like Whitewash from General Finishes.
Pickled Kitchen Cabinets
Pickling is a process to lighten the color of natural wood. You can achieve a similar look using one of the more subtle whites of the white stain arsenal. The wood in the lower and side cabinets in this kitchen from Parks & Lamb, has a pickled finish that is subtle and sophisticated.
This works well in this transitional style kitchen. They blend with both the white cabinets and countertops, as well as the dark stain wood floors. For a pickled look, use Simply White from Minwax.
If you can’t decide just where to use your white stain, why not consider the entire room? That is the approach of Blakes London when they took on this Scandinavian-style remodel of this London kitchen. They used an opaque paint on the ceilings and brick walls, but they used white stain on the walls, cabinets, and herringbone floors.
The multiple levels of coverage and the varying shades of white give the room depth and texture that one color would not provide. For more coverage use a color like Whitewash from General Finishes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
Can you get a white wood stain?
Yes, there are many varieties of white wood stains for you to choose. The most common brands are Minwax, Varathane, and General Finishes. These are available at your local DIY store like Home Depot and Lowes. Also, they are all available to order from Amazon.
Can you put white stain over dark stain?
White stains are unique in style and brighten the look of wood. You can use white stain over dark stain if there is no top coat barrier on top of the dark stain. However, if there is a top coat of any kind, the white stain will be able to penetrate, and it will not stick.
What is the most popular wood stain color?
The most popular wood stain color is a medium toned to dark brown like Dark Walnut or Jacobean.
What is the difference between whitewash and white stain?
Whitewash is made by mixing up equal parts water and paint. This differs from stain because paint cannot penetrate into the wood like stain does. In addition, paint provides a protective layer to the top of the wood, but does not condition it and protect it by binding to the wood fibers.
What is the whitest color wood?
The whitest natural wood variety is holly. Yet, if you are looking to use white wood for your floors, the best choice is white oak wood.
White wood stain is the perfect way for you to freshen the look of your home. Stain is easy for anyone to use and takes just a few hours to complete a small project.
You can use it to brighten walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture and create a look that is interesting and unique.
So pull out your tools for your next DIY project or plan for a new feature in your home. With white stain, the possibilities are almost endless.