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How To Whitewash Tile

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Tile is a great way to add texture and color to your space, but sometimes stone or clay tile might feel a little too bold looking for the design you are going for. A great way to lessen this is by whitewashing the tile, and we've researched the best ways you can whitewash your stone, saltillo, or travertine tiles.

You can whitewash tiles using different methods. Typically, you can whitewash tiles by painting over them using paint, or in some situations, you can also use limewash. This will depend on the type of tile you will be whitewashing, as well as the location where the tiles will be used.

We know that learning about different methods of whitewashing tile can be a little overwhelming. Fortunately, we've listed down ways on how you can whitewash different kinds of tile. Keep reading this post because we will also share tips and tricks for keeping your whitewashed tiles looking their best.

Large brush, which artisan used to clean surface of decorative tiles from dust, stands on desk in foreground, close up, side view, How To Whitewash Tile

How To Whitewash Tile

travertine tiles texture

Whitewashing is the process in which tile or other materials' surface is lightened to give them a different look. Generally, you can whitewash anything from wooden furniture to cabinets and even clay or stone tiles.

There are many different methods of whitewashing, but originally, it was done by mixing lime paint and water to whiten and lighten the walls. This mixture would get absorbed into the wall, and it whitens the surface to give the wall a softer, brighter look. These days, this method has now been called "limewashing" as whitewash can also be done using water-based paints.

Whitewash Mixture

whitewashed tile

Creating a whitewash mixture for your walls and tiles is pretty simple. To create this mixture, you simply need to mix a 1:3 paint-to-water ratio to give you a thin and translucent whitewash coating. If you want to make it thicker, or you want to create a texture that looks distressed, you can do a 1:1 paint-to-water mixture. This ratio is what most people use on tiles.

Tiles are typically used on flooring or, in kitchens, most often seen on backsplashes. They can be made of different materials, but the most commonly used ones are made of stone or clay. While they are great and look fantastic for a very long time, some of them feel quite dated or too dark because of the natural color of the tile.

Stone tiles are made of what their name dictates—stone. This all-natural, non-manmade material is very durable and can withstand wear and tear. Stone tiles typically come from different stones like granite, slate, marble, sandstone, limestone, and travertine.

Saltillo tiles, on the other hand, are made of terracotta and it is a popular product created in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. These tiles come in varying shades of red, orange, and yellow, prominent in the rich hues of terracotta. These tiles are also very porous and it requires sealing every once in a while to keep them from absorbing too much moisture.

How To Whitewash Tile Using Paint

Gypsum tile based on casts of ancient bricks, covered with whitewash, side view, close up. Workflow in interior workshop. Hobby and professions concept

Generally, you can whitewash stone, travertine, or Saltillo tile using paint. Since these materials are porous, it's important to strip off excess sealants to allow the whitewash mixture to seep through the tile. Here are the steps on how you can whitewash tile using paint.

Materials Needed:

  • Tile cleaner or mild detergent
  • Tile stripper
  • Staining pads
  • Paintbrush
  • Work towels or soft rags
  • Water-based latex or chalk paint
  • Paint containers
  • Water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Tile sealant

Instructions:

1. Strip the sealants and clean your tiles

If your tiles are quite old and very dirty, it would be a good idea to strip off the old sealant from your tiles. 

Get this tile stripper on Amazon.

Otherwise, you can simply clean your tiles with warm soapy water or a good tile cleaner. 

Check out this tile cleaner on Amazon.

2. Create a whitewash mixture

Depending on the look of the whitewash that you would like, you can mix different ratios for your mixture. Take your paint container and mix your latex paint and water together. A good starting point for the whitewash mixture is a 1:1 paint-to-water ratio. This ratio is good for a basic whitewash that isn't very translucent.

Adding more water to the mixture will make your whitewash lighter and might cause more drips. Take note of this if you are planning to make your mixture thinner.

3. Apply the whitewash

Using your brush, apply the whitewash mixture to the tile one small section at a time. Use x-like brush motions to evenly cover the surface and to keep the thin mixture from dripping too much. Working the whitewash one small section at a time will make the coverage more even.

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4. Wipe the excess mixture

Using your staining pad or some soft rags, wipe away the excess mixture one small section at a time. Do it after you've applied the paint for a few minutes to give your tile that distressed, textured look. Brush on and wipe off consistently and slowly until you've covered the entire surface.

See this staining pad on Amazon.

5. Wait for the layer to dry

If you are planning to layer different colors for your whitewashed tile, make sure to wait until the first layer is dry. Whitewashing over the first layer will surely mix the two colors together, and the result may not look good. It is best to wait at least a day to work on a new layer to make sure that everything is completely set and dry.

6. Seal the tile

Stone and clay tiles are very porous, and it is important to seal them to prevent more moisture from being absorbed. After you have whitewashed the entire surface, use a good tile sealant to ensure that your brand new whitewashed tiles will not fade quickly.

How To Whitewash Tile Using Limewash

Limewashing is inevitably the original method for whitewashing. This is done by creating a limewash paint, and you can simply do this by mixing hydrated lime with water. If you wish to add a little more color, you can add some pigments to your limewash paint.

Materials needed:

  • Tile cleaner or mild detergent
  • Masonry brush
  • Work towels or soft rags
  • Hydrated lime
  • Paint buckets
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Rubber gloves
  • Caulk

Instructions:

1. Clean the tile

Just like whitewashing, clean the tile using warm, soapy water or with a gentle tile cleaner. If your stone or clay tile is a little too dark, you can opt to do the first layer of translucent whitewash to your wall. 

2. Make the limewash

Make a limewash paint mixture by mixing 1 part of hydrated lime with 1 part of water, and mix them together in the paint bucket. This will give you a putty-like consistency. Slowly add more water until the mixture resembles that of thick cream. If you wish to add color to your limewash paint, add as much pigment as necessary.

3. Apply the limewash paint

Fill a spray bottle with water. Dampen the tile with water by spraying the wall before application. Using a masonry brush, apply the limewash paint in multiple coats using feathery strokes. Work in small sections and allow the limewash paint to try every 2o minutes. 

Limewash is meant to be applied sparingly and gradually. Work in parts and do the first layer to determine if the look suits your tile already. If not, add another layer until you are satisfied with the final finish. Limewash will lighten quite dramatically as it dries, so have some patience and wait until applying the next layer to your tile.

Can You Strip Whitewash From Tile?

Laying gypsum tiles in rows on the wall with male hands. Home repair.

Some homeowners are not fans of whitewash on tile and prefer to see the real, earthy color of their stone and clay tiles. Fortunately, most whitewashed tiles can be stripped off using tile strippers and quite a bit of sanding. This will bring back the original color of the tile, although it might be a little lighter than it originally was. 

Final Thoughts

travertine tile texture

Whitewashing tile is a great way to update your old stone or clay backsplash or floors. Depending on the method you choose to do, a whitewashed tile will make your space look brighter because of the lighter color. Make the most out of this redecorating project by doing it yourself and have fun with the results of using whitewash to freshen up your walls.

Are you looking to redecorate the tiles in your home? We've got some great posts that might interest you:

11 Awesome Tile And Grout Color Combinations

11 Creative Ways To Cover Holes In Tiles