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How To Whitewash Oak Cabinets For A Boho Chic Vanity Makeover

Our tastes are evolving, this includes trying to figure out ways to incorporate modern, light wood surfaces into our home decor. Our whitewashed ’90s oak bathroom cabinets turned out better than I could have hoped.

driftwood looking oak cabinets with gold handles.

The most challenging part of this DIY project was removing the past finishes. Once that was done, giving the oak a bleached look was relatively easy.

The Before Vanity

dark brown cabinets with gray wall and mirror in bathroom.

The first time we updated this bathroom, we added gel stain to the cabinets and painted a herringbone wall. But, like with anything, it was time for an upgrade, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcomes of this round of bathroom DIYs.

Supplies You’ll Need

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painter's tape, foam brush with can of white color wash on countertop.

How To Whitewash Oak Cabinets

There are several different ways to achieve a driftwood or white oak look in your home. Our cabinets worked because we had previously removed the darker gel stain from them.

Before You Begin

  • Remove any hardware and hinges.
  • Set up a workstation for drawers and doors is always a good option.
  • Tape out any areas you do not want to get the stain on. Add drop cloths to the floor.

Step 1: Remove Previous Finish

Not only did we strip the gel stain off, but we also sanded all the wood with 80-grit, 100-grit, and 220-grit sandpaper on our orbital sander. This removed most of the darker stain and also removed the previous honey/orange stain.

Full Gel Stain Removal Tutorial

We detail everything we did to strip the gel stain from our 90s oak vanity.

collage of wood cabinets being sanded.

Here, you can see how some of the previous stains are still in the grain. If we were using a fresh piece of wood, we would probably quickly apply a dark stain before adding the white transparent stain.

oak bathroom vanity with some doors missing.

Step 2: Paint The White Transparent Layer

Using a small foam brush, paint a transparent layer of Minwax.

hand holding small foam brush with white on it.

You can see how we completely covered the surface of the wood.

whitewash on oak cabinet drawer.

Step 3: Wipe Off

For our cabinets, we wiped off the layer after 2 minutes. You can experiment with how long you leave the stain on to achieve your desired look.

hand wearing glove with rag wiping off whitewash.

Step 4: Let Dry

Let your staining fully dry.

whitewashed oak cabinet.

Step 5: Add Polyacrylic

We applied 3 layers of Satin polyacrylic for our cabinets using a synthetic 2″ paintbrush. I lightly sanded in between layers for a smooth finish.

woman holding brush in front of cabinet with polycrylic paint can on floor.


  • One of the toughest areas to get to take the white stain was the side with particle board. To help with this, we sanded the side with 220 grit sandpaper to get extra tooth for the color to stick to.
  • You can repeat layering if you want the color to be more white.
  • Adding an extra stain color under the transparent layer is an option for different looks.
side of oak bathroom vanity with whitewash on it.
Sometimes, the sides of cabinets are made of particle board and may not take the stain like the front pieces.

Follow us on Pinterest, Youtube or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

Before and After Oak Bathroom Cabinet

oak vanity cabinet with dark brown gel stain and after whitewashed oak.

We can’t wait to share more about our DIY projects in this budget bathroom makeover! Stay tuned for all the details on one of our favorite room makeovers to date.

More DIY Bathroom Projects

Not only did we get a completely fresh look, but were able to work with what was already in this bathroom. We love it when we take a chance on a DIY and it works out better than we expected.

whitewashed oak bathroom vanity with gold handles and faucent, white counters.
We love the light oak cabinet against our light blue board and batten walls in this bathroom.

How To Whitewash Oak Cabinets

Give your oak bathroom cabinets a makeover by removing old stain and adding a white transparent stain for a unique wheatered look.
Print Tutorial
whitewashed oak cabinet.


  • Gloves
  • Foam Brush
  • Sand Paper (100, 220)
  • Rag
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Drop Cloths



  • Remove any hardware and hinges.
  • Set up a workstation for drawers and doors is always a good option.
  • Tape out any areas you do not want to get the stain on. Add drop cloths to the floor.
  • Remove previous finish by sanding with an orbital sander (if necessary). End with 220-grit sandpaper before adding whitewash.
  • Use a small foam brush to paint a transparent layer of Minwax. Completely cover the surface.
  • Wipe away stain with an old cotton t-shirt of rag.
  • Let your stain fully dry.
  • Apply 2-3 coats of polycrylic with a brush. Let each layer fully dry and lightly sand with 220-grit sandpaper before applying your next coat.


  • We left our stain on for 2 minutes before wiping.
  • Make sure your drawers, doors and cabinets are completely dust-free before adding stain or polycrylic.
  • You can repeat another layer of stain if you want your final outcome to be be lighter.
  • You can also put this transparent layer on top of other stain colors.
  • Experiment with your stains to get the outcome you want before beginning.

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