How To Whitewash Wooden Floors | A Guide

22nd January 2018

how to whitewash wooden floors, OSMO UK floor oils, wooden floorboards, pine floorboards, whitewashed wood floor

[Sponsored content]. Over the winter months, we’ve been working hard on project ‘strip the floors’, most of which were given an orange pine varnish treatment many moons ago. Rob managed to sand his office (pictured) which was previously carpeted and the kitchen in three dusty, sweaty days. Despite the fact the floors are in great condition for their age, I really don’t like having dark orange wood everywhere – it makes an already dark house feel darker. I did a fair amount of research into limewashing and whitewashing before jumping into this project, asking for recommendations from interior design friends who have done it before and they all came back with the same brand.

So, on a mission to brighten up the house and lift the floors, I’ve put together a guide on how to whitewash wooden floors in partnership with OSMO, makers of wonderful oils and waxes, elixirs for all kinds of wood treatments. A look synonymous with Scandinavian style, whitewashing creates a contemporary feel, highlighting the natural beauty of the wood grain. The best thing about it is that unlike painting the floor which will show up wear and tear over time, whitewashing is far less high maintenance.

Although traditionally done using lime or wood bleach which can be harsh (please don’t do that!), tinted wood oils are now a far less complicated option, nourishing and protecting the wood simultaneously. All these oils and waxes are environmentally safe, meaning fewer harsher chemicals and the wood can still breathe underneath. For high traffic areas it stands up well to abuse, is water resistant and is easy to clean. It also works brilliantly on pine flooring and a little goes a very long way.

Spot Check!

Before you get too excited and rush out for tools, please make sure you do a swatch test first. Check what kind of wood floor you have. Pine is generally an all-round winner for this effect with its naturally pale qualities, whereas darker woods will have a completely different result and are sometimes better left alone. If you’re desperate to lighten dark wood, I’ve read about a method called pickling that’s worth looking into.

Find an inconspicuous corner that you can sand back if you don’t like it, purchase a tester of the product and follow my prep and cleaning steps before applying. A small area won’t take long. Follow the drying times and then see what you think – has it been well absorbed and have you achieved the desired effect? If so, read on…

how to whitewash wooden floors, OSMO UK floor oils, wooden floorboards, pine floorboards, whitewashed wood floor

Sanded, cleaned, ready and waiting for whitewashing.

You Will Need:

• Vaccum cleaner.

• A good floor cleaner / stiff floor brush.

• OSMO Wood Wax Finish** in white (code 3111). A 750ml tin will cover approx 20 sqm.

• OSMO Polyx-Oil Tint** in white (code 3040).

• Soft, lint-free cloths (you can only use these once per application) or a soft, wide paint brush (OSMO also have wide floor brushes).

• Painter’s pot or tub to pour out the floor oil into.

• Gloves to keep your hands clean (it gets everywhere and it’s hard to clean off your skin!).

• OSMO cleaning solution.

**find your nearest stockist here

Before You Start – Prepare The Floor.

Make sure you’ve fully prepped the floor before you start staining it. This means removing any previous treatments with a heavy duty sander, repairing loose or broken boards and filling any gaps as Rob has done. You can find a step-by-step guide to sanding floors, including the prep from our previous project in the kids’ room. Ignore the knotting step – you’ll want to see all of the grain.

Next to clean the floor. Vaccum up any dust and debris first – you won’t want to be working this into the floor. Wash and dry the floor a couple of times until any marks and dust have lifted.

how to whitewash wooden floors, OSMO UK floor oils, wooden floorboards, pine floorboards, whitewashed wood floor

The floor as the white Wood Wax Finish goes on.

Step One – Applying The Wood Wax Finish

Stick on some protective gloves and decant a little of the Wood Wax Finish into a pot for easier access. Apply the wax oil in a thin coat along the grain with your brush or cloth, working it gently into any knots and cracks. Remember a little goes a long way. Allow twenty minutes soaking in time, then use a clean, lint-free cloth to gently rub away the excess wax oil until you’re happy with the tone. You’ll need to do the floor in sections so that you have a safe space to kneel while you do this part – otherwise you’ll step on it while it’s wet. This may mean leaving yourself a small path clear to the door whilst you wait for the rest of the floor to completely dry before you can finish the rest.

TOP TIP: Because some floor oils turn yellow over time, OSMO has recommended applying a white oil tint as a top coat after the initial wax finish.

Step Two – Applying The Polyx Oil Tint Top Coat

Once the floor is completely dry, check that you’re happy with the tone. If you feel it could be a little whiter, repeat step one. Next to apply the Polyx Oil Tint which will protect your base coat and prevent it from yellowing over time. Decant a little of the oil tint into a pot and do the same as in step one with either a soft brush or clean, lint-free cloth. At this point, you can either coat the entire floor, working your way back towards the door (don’t maroon yourself!) and leave it to fully dry, or repeat in section and work off the excess. The Polyx-Oil Tint is a translucent white which will add ever so slightly to the finished colour with a subtle sheen. I didn’t bother to remove any excess as I was happy with the finish so I left it to dry after applying a thin coat.

how to whitewash wooden floors, OSMO UK floor oils, wooden floorboards, pine floorboards, whitewashed wood floor

Finishing with a single coat of white Polyx-Oil to prevent the floor from yellowing over time.

And that’s it! Yes, it’s pretty hard work – you’re going to have to get sweaty for this job, but the finished result is well worth the effort…

how to whitewash wooden floors, OSMO UK floor oils, wooden floorboards, pine floorboards, whitewashed wood floor

A beautiful, fresh canvas in Rob’s office. Look at that whitewashed floor…

What do you think? Got any questions about whitewashing? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help.

Can’t wait to show you how our kitchen floor turned out and the difference the whitewashing has made to the feel of the room!

Written in collaboration with OSMO who have kindly supplied product in exchange for this post.

Photography © Tiffany Grant-Riley

Obviously a lot of work went into this Tiff and it shows! The finished floor looks fabulous.

Wow – the floors look fantastic and clearly well worth all that effort! xx

Beautiful! I used to work in the flooring industry and Osmo were always highly recommended – and you can see why here. Great instructions too. Karen x

The floors look amazing, such hard graft though! Well done!

Oh I love this effect Tiff – so very you! Can’t wait to see the rest of the house come together 🙂

What a big job but it looks great and well worth the effort. You can now fill it with lots of goodies!!

I’ve never been brace enough to try something like this but the result it beautiful. Well worth the effort.

Hi, the floor looks beautiful and i think we will do exactly this in our bedrooms. Can i ask, did you fill the gaps between the planks with a wood filler and has that cracked or moved at all? Not sure whether we heave the gaps and just fill the smaller holes etc. Thanks!

Hi Calli, yes, we did fill the holes using the sawdust from the floor sander mixed with a filler glue. In this room, it has stayed put BUT in the kids’ room over time it has moved. I would almost suggest leaving the gaps unless they’re huge (in which case replacing the plank is probably a better suggestion). Otherwise, just fill the smaller holes.

Great post hear!
Been trying to find a good white dye / oil that would be good for my bathroom floor.
I have a white acrylic mastic inbetween the small joints and gaps. Will this mastic be ok with this Osmo was and oil white wash method?

Hi Phil, I can’t guarantee how well the Osmo will adhere to the mastic so it might be worth doing a patch test somewhere inconspicuous or getting in touch with them directly. Hope it works!

Hi, we have bought new raw pine wood for our flooring. To follow your method do we have to sand again once laid or can we just vacuum, wash and leave to dry and follow your steps?

Hi Sarah, hard for me to say without looking at it but if it’s raw, untreated pine, it might need a light sand off before you clean it just to take off the rough surface and any dirt that won’t lift with a clean. Good luck!

Hi here in England we don’t have Osmo of any kind,so not sure what we can use. Looks great tho.Linda x

I’m about to use Osmo on my living room floor, I believe an older method is using lye lightening price for softwood and then use woca whitening, I believe this is hard work to Plly and maintenance is hard work!

Hi Linda, you can indeed order Osmo in the UK. If you go the Osmo UK website you’ll find a stockist there.

Hello. Enjoyed your post and seeing the beautiful result. We bought a fixer upper with wood ceilings that had darkened in an orange sort of way. We had them stripped and we like the lighter natural tone. All the sealer options tend to darken the wood a little. The house is near the coast so now we’re considering a whitewash effect. Would the tinted oil work on ceilings?

Hi Glenn, your fixer-upper sounds like an interesting project! I chose Osmo because, like you, I didn’t want to use a treatment that would eventually yellow or darken the pale tones in the wood – their products don’t do this as far as I’ve experienced. It’s worth getting in touch with them to ask if you’re unsure but definitely try a sample first if you can. Good luck!

Hi – I was just wondering how your floor had worn using the Osmo white products, particularly in high traffic areas? I’m looking to do our floors in the hallway and kitchen. Thanks!

Hi Steph, I think I might have to do an update on this post as I have lots of questions about our floors! We’ve given my husband’s office floors and our kitchen the same treatment and I have to be honest and say that over time, the Osmo will wear in high traffic areas. I’ve even considered re-applying it with a little more white than I did before. I’ve not washed it with anything chemical but over time you start to see wear in front of the oven and sink. Hope that helps?

We had a large bedroom which had a thick glossy orange look to the pine floor and have spent the large couple of days sanding down. We loved the effect we had after sanding, but knew it needed treatment and have applied a very thin layer of Osmo Clear Matt Oil/Wax. However we seem to have had an orange tint return, certainly not as bad as before, but not quite what we hoped for. Having found and read your comments we I guess should have gone for the tints range and the whitewash look. Have you any suggestions (that avoids us having to re sand) which may help us get a slightly paler look back into the wood.

Hi Ian, argh, sorry to hear your floors have picked up a tint again, how long ago did you do it? I think by nature of the product, most oils, tints and varnishes tend to yellow/orange over time so certainly using a white tint will help counteract that – you can use as much or as little as you like for the desired tone. Unfortunately, I don’t have any solutions to amend what you have without stripping it back but perhaps contacting Osmo directly for advice might turn up something? Best of luck with it!

[…] in the 1800s and lovingly renovated in 2004, it features herringbone parquet floor treated with Osmo matt wax and high ceilings. Deep windowsills typical to most buildings of this period are just the right […]

Hi, thank you so much for this post. It has been very useful and helpful.
Can you use clear Polyx Oil- High Solid instead of the tinted white?
Thanks Jackie

Hi there,

Your floor looks great! I am thinking of going with this finish in a high traffic living room/kitchen area instead of the clear finish (3044), which is there already and is a bit yellow. Would your finish be a bit more challenging to keep clean in such an area?

Thank you.


Hi Gabriel, it’s not really too much of a bother to keep clean but I would recommend considering rugs or runners over the top of the floor as they finish does wear over time.

we just puRchased a home with pine flooring and Are planning to refinish with a white washed look. ITs been a feW Years sinCe your project, Have you had any yellowing After Using the osmo system? The general consensus seems to be pine will always yellow over time no matter the finish but We Are having trouble finding any long Term reviews.

H Nicholas, after three years I can honestly say that the Osmo hasn’t yellowed at all – you’ll see I used two products to ensure this. On the other hand, it has lifted in higher traffic areas in our kitchen which, while normal wear and tear is expected, I had expected it to last a little longer. So it’s definitely worth considering rugs and runners in areas that create more foot fall. Hope that helps!