Best White Wood Stain and How It Looks On Different Woods

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Get Smarter On Architecture and Design

Get the 3-minute weekly newsletter keeping 5K+ designers in the loop.

Enter your Email to Sign up


One of the major parts of woodworking is selecting the best finish for your wood. It has become pretty popular to either paint or stain furniture. If you're wondering how to stain wood white, using the best white wood stain might be the perfect option.

What is a White Wood Stain?

A white wood stain is a stain used to whitewash wood, where whitewashing is the process that allows you to improve the brightness of the wood without having to cover the grain pattern. The techniques used in wood staining are different depending on the type of wood you're working on.

Ideally, whitewashing is best suited for pine, and there are methods of applying the white stains without losing the grain of the wood in the process. Nowadays, there is a wide range of white stains available in water-based and oil-based forms.

Water-based stains will dry up quickly and disperse fewer odors and fumes. Cleaning up is also easy when using water-based stains because you only need water and soap. On the other hand, oil-based stains need a longer drying time, and they often have hazardous fumes, and this is why you should only use them in open areas.

After doing research on the white stains available in the market today, we have found that there are types of stains that are ready to go in a can and are available in a wide range of stores, with no additional tinting involved. Here are some of the best white wood stain options available;

1. Minwax Wood Finish Half Pint, Simply White

Minwax 618604444 Color Wash Transparent Layering Color,...
  • Adds a touch or age & character to bare or already stained wood
  • Apply over oil or water-based stain with a synthetic or foam...
  • Dries in 1 hour. Endless coats in just one coat.
  • Water based formula cleans up with soap and water
  • Available in 3 beautiful colors.

The Minwax Wood Finish Simply White features a darkened tone of white oak wood and a slightly added white streak. On pine wood, this stain gives the lightest whitewash. This means that if you're looking for a subtle white stain or wash, then this would be a great option.

It can soften the wood tone and color while ensuring that any grain is not masked as semi-opaque stains do. As a result, you can clearly see the color undertones of the wood, but they are not very pronounced. For example, the green, which is normally pronounced in Poplar, will turn to a more warm gray.

For oak species, this stain gives an amazing Cerused look. The Simply White Wood Finish is a great option if you're looking for lighter white wood stain options. It will slightly lighten the wood's natural tone and ensure all the natural grain pattern shows through.


  • Easy to apply.
  • Deeply penetrate the wood pores.
  • Professional results guaranteed.
  • Oil-based white stain
    It goes a long way.
  • Gives a rich and beautiful color.
  • Great value for money.


  • A long drying time.

2. Varathane Premium Fast Dry Oil-Based Wood Stain, Quart, Antique White

Varathane 297424 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain, Quart,...
  • Ideal for use on all interior wood projects: furniture, cabinets,...
  • One-coat coverage, fast-drying oil based formula
  • Dries to the touch in just 1 hour and covers up to 275 square...
  • High performance stain system enhanced with nano pigment...
  • Highlights natural wood grain to reveal wood's beauty

The Varathane Antique White Wood Stain will settle in the wood grain quite well. It is known to make the white oak more pinkish in tone. This is one of the strongest whitewash looks for pine since it provides great coverage in only two coats.

As one of the best white wood stain options, it is also a very light and thin white stain which implies that it only gives a hint of white and allows the natural grain of the wood to shine. Unlike the Simple White wood finish, this one comes with a glossier finish.


  • Great performance on stain system.
  • Fast-drying oil-based formula.
  • Great for all interior wood projects.
  • Enriches the natural wood grain.
  • Easy to use.
  • Penetrates deep into the pores of the wood.
  • Doesn't require a wood conditioner.


  • Applies extremely lightly for some types of wood.

3. General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Quart, Whitewash

General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Quart,...
  • High-quality pigments produce rich, dark colors; Can be...
  • Indoor use only; Formulated to provide workability similar to oil...
  • Low odor, low VOC, water cleanup and noncombustible
  • Create custom colors by intermixing GF Water Based Wood Stains or...

General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain, 1 Quart, Whitewash boasts a thicker consistency that enables more control over penetration, helping to reduce blotching on softer woods. This innovative water-based wood stain can be used on any bare wood or stripped surfaces to give beautiful clear wood tones.

It can be easily cleaned up using soap and water. Moreover, the natural color of the wood stain can also be used as a Pre-stain conditioner. It also comes with other 15 wood-tone colors making it a perfect wood stain for your furniture, flooring as well as other applications.


  • It can either be sprayed or hand-applied.
  • The workability is similar to oil-based stains.
  • Low odor.
  • Easy to clean up.
  • Non-combustible.
  • High-Quality pigments.
  • Great coverage.


  • The stain might give a much cooler color on some types of wood.

White Stain Options on Different Types of Wood

1. White Oak

The white oak wood may have a slight yellow tone with dark brown knots, which means that the Antique white stain will barely show up. However, from all the wood stain options, the General Finishes Stain applies perfectly to the white oak.

It perfectly settles on the white oak wood grain giving the most natural look and interior stain color. The Simply White stain may darken the tone of the white oak with an added white streak, but it is not very natural looking.

2. Pinewood

Pinewood is a light yellow wood with golden grain lines, and the whitewash can easily cover it, leaving only a little grain showing. This is why we recommend the Simply White and General Finishes wood stain if you're looking to get a subtle white stain or wash.

However, if you're looking for more coverage and the strongest whitewash look, the Varathane Antique White Stain will provide you the perfect results in just two coats.

3. Cypress Wood

Cypress wood is naturally red-toned, and a white stain will tone it down. In addition, a whitewash will cover up the wood, allowing only a bit of grain to pop up. The Simply White and Antique White wood stains will slightly tone down the red tones but still allow it to look like a cypress.

4. Birch Plywood

Birch Plywood has a light tan color and a golden grain wood finish. A whitewash may make the wood appear white with a subtle grain. The Birch Plywood will only add a little bit of white filter. None of the stains look terrible, and it is just a matter of preference.

5. Standard 2×4 Wood

A standard 2×4 wood is a light wood with dark knots. A whitewash will give it a white look and allows the knots to remain darker. Simple White and Antique white will give subtle whites that will tone down the yellowness. However, if you're looking for full coverage, then you should consider using paint.

White Stain Vs. White Paint

If you want to whitewash on paint, then the whitewash paint method is preferred because using a stain over paint or any other surface with a sealant might not work well because it won't be able to enter the wood.

On the other hand, to whitewash on stained wood without a sealant, then you can make use of a white stain or a white pain. However, with any method you choose, the results will be different depending on the base stain color, which means you should always test it out before.

Here are some reasons or instances where you should apply white stains instead of white paint;

  • Ease of use- The prepared white stains do not require any advanced tinting or mixing, making it an easier option to use.
  • Improve the wood's grain- When working with a more expensive wood like white oak, you can make use of the white stain to improve the wood's grain. Unfortunately, Whitewash paint doesn't provide wood grain enhancement benefits as much as a white stain would.

The major benefit when it comes to white paint is that you can make it thicker and increase the opaqueness of the finish. This is because you can mix less water with the white paint to get a thicker whitewash and improve the opacity of the whitewash.

How to Use a Wood Stain to Whitewash Wood

If you're looking to revive an old piece of furniture or improve the brightness of a room, a white wood stain is a perfect option. It is really easy to apply when compared to paint. Here are a few steps you need to follow;

  1. Sanding to get rid of the existing finish on the wood and expose the fresh wood that is underneath. As much as sanding by hand is possible, if you're looking to get quicker results, then you should consider a power sander.
  2. Apply a wood conditioner if need be to help the stain absorb more evenly and perfectly. However, wood conditioners are slightly less important when it comes to white wood stains in comparison to dark wood stains.
  3. Apply the stain using a lint-free cloth or a smooth paintbrush in the direction of the wood grain.
  4. Allow it to rest for about five minutes or more, especially for oil-based stains, then use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess.
  5. Leave it to dry before applying the next coat, and repeat the process for all other coats depending on your preference.
  6. Allow it to dry and once it has completely dried, seal it! The sealant will provide an additional layer of protection between the wood and elements such as rain, sun, hot substances, or sticky hands.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on White Wood Stains

1. Can I make a whitewash with paint and water?

Yes. A lot of people tend to make their own whitewash by simply watering down the white paint. The major benefit of this is that you can control how opaque you want your whitewash to be. It is also a great and free option if you already have white paint and you only require a bit of it.

However, the challenging part is mixing because it is quite tricky to mix correctly. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to color match if you need to touch something much later. Nevertheless, if you're looking for easy-to-use and high-quality white wood stain options, then the pre-mixed white wood stains will come in handy for your DIY wood furniture project.

2. Can I whitewash a stained wood?

Definitely, it has become quite popular to whitewash on a block of stained wood. For example, you can do a dark and more solid wood stain and, on top of it, add a lighter whitewashed look. This provides an amazing antique look to wood furniture and is definitely worth a try.

3. Can you put wood stain over white paint?

While you can stain or whitewash wood over paint to create a unique look on wood furniture, you should note the results won't be an authentic stained wood grain look. Furthermore, staining a painted wood is a much more difficult process in comparison to staining a block of raw wood. This is why it is recommended to strip off all the paint first before applying the stain or whitewash.

4. Can you use a white stain on Pinewood?

A whitewash wood stain will apply perfectly on pine wood. Find the best whitewash wood stain and apply it using a brush. The application of the whitewash brightens up the wood finish or surface without concealing the grain pattern.

However, if you're looking for a more opaque look, then applying white paint may help increase the brightness of the room. The downside of this is that it may block and hide the natural grain pattern of the wood.

5. What can you do if you stained wood too dark?

If the wood stains that contain lacquer, varnish, or a water-based binder make the wood become too dark, then they are a number of ways you can try to remove the excess color. For example, you can get the best thinner for the stain or a lacquer thinner or acetone to remove some color. However, the only best option is to remove some color because these stains are much more difficult to lighten compared to dye stains.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.