Ceramic backsplashes are common in many kitchens for protecting the wall surface from grease, water, and other food prep materials. Additionally, many homeowners desire an aesthetic value in their kitchens through the use of ceramic tile.
However, you may decide that it is time to update the look of your kitchen. But, rather than doing a costly demolition project to replace the tiles, you can whitewash them instead.
Read on to learn about the steps you need to take to whitewash a ceramic tile backsplash.
How To Whitewash Ceramic Tile Backsplash
To prevent mold and mildew from building up on surfaces such as bricks, walls, barn sides, fences, and more, whitewash is commonly applied. The composition of standard whitewash contains masonry lime, water, and different chemicals, which is different from what is used for standard paint.
To create a vintage or weathered look, whitewash can be used for aesthetic purposes inside the home. You do not necessarily need to buy a special whitewash paint when using it for decor purposes. You can create the look on your own.
Materials You’ll Need
- Degreaser cleaner
- Soft sponge/cloth
- Putty knife
- Tile caulk or putty with application tool if necessary
- 100-grit sandpaper or sanding block
- Sponge paintbrushes (at least 2-inches – set of 2 or more)
- Small bowl for creating the whitewash
- ½ cup liquid measuring cup
- 1 tablespoon measurement tool
- White epoxy paint (or paint formulated for use on ceramic tile)
- Safety gear – mask and gloves
- Protective area tarps/newspaper or painter’s tape
1. Clean the ceramic tile
Kitchen backsplashes are prone to “splashes” from prepping and cooking food as well as water splashes from the sink. Dust and minuscule debris will stick to grease on the tiles, so you must clean the tile before doing any painting.
Use your soft sponge or a cloth and wipe down all of the tiles in a circular motion with a tile degreaser or mild soap solution. Rinse the tile with water and a clean sponge or cloth until all of the degreaser or soap is removed. Allow the tile to fully dry before the next step.
2. Repair cracks and chips with putty or caulk
Cover the countertops with tarps or newspaper. You may wish to use painter’s tape to edge off areas around the tile. Consider wearing gloves and a mask to protect yourself from the chemicals and fumes. Open the nearby windows for a well-ventilated work area.
If the tile needs repair, fill in any cracks with tile putty or caulk. Make this application as smooth and flat as possible for ease in the next step. You need a smooth surface for the best results when applying a whitewash. Allow this repair work to dry according to the putty or caulk instructions.
If you are painting a textured tile backsplash, you should still repair any cracks, keeping in mind that you want those areas to match the overall patterning of your tile.
3. Gently sand the tile
Ceramic tile typically has a glaze on it, making a smooth surface that paint may not adhere well to. Additionally, any repair work may be slightly raised out from the tile surface.
To create a flat and more porous surface for painting, you will need to use the 100-grit sandpaper or block to flatten and open up the surface. Lightly sand in a circular motion using consistent pressure.
Use clean water with a clean sponge or cloth to rinse away all of the sanding dust for a clean surface.
4. Mix the epoxy paint and water
You will not use a primer, since the intent of whitewash is for some of the original colors to show through in a muted form.
Wear gloves and a mask again if needed.
In a small bowl mix a ratio of ½ cup of white epoxy paint with 1 tablespoon of water. Consider mixing in small batches, measuring each time to get the same density of paint as well as rationing the amount you use each time.
Epoxy paint or paint formulated for use on tiles makes the surface durable and washable.
5. Apply the whitewash to the tiles using sponge paintbrushes
Use one of the sponge paintbrushes for use directly in the bowl. Dip this brush into the mixture to absorb up some paint. Then, use this brush to lightly apply paint to the other sponge paintbrush. The first brush is the “wet brush” and the second one is the “dry brush”. This technique gives you much more control over how much paint is applied at once.
Use the dry brush to apply the paint first to all of the grouted areas as well as any deeper points for textured or uneven tile surfaces to ensure that the whitewash gets into all areas. Gently sweep up and down and back and forth to “dry rub” the paint into these crevices. Add more paint to the dry brush with the wet brush as needed.
Repeat the same brushing techniques when adding whitewash to the full tile surface. However, for the larger areas try dabbing and blotting instead of sweeping along straight lines as you did with the grout lines and edges.
A paint roller is not recommended since it will make the surface too even and you want the rustic and weathered look that hand-painting with sponge brushes will give you.
Allow the paint to dry for at least one full day.
For a visual example, please look at this video from YouTube:
Please also check out our article: Can You Paint Ceramic Tile Backsplash?
For optimal results consider the following tips and logistics for using a whitewash technique:
- When to Paint Tiles: You may be tempted to paint the tile backsplash before installing it, but you really should do it after. Any paint should be applied after installation for an even and consistent look across the grout and connecting points.
- Chalk Paint: Chalk paint on tile backsplash is a popular choice for creating a rustic look. You can use the same sponge technique to apply this paint to your tiles, keeping in mind that it may not be as durable as epoxy paint.
- Other Areas to Whitewash: Now that you’ve learned how to whitewash kitchen tiles, you may wonder how to whitewash a tile floor. This is possible as long as you use the appropriate tile paint. Keep in mind, though, that floor tile gets much more wear and tear from foot traffic. You may need to seal the tile, which will result in a shiny look instead of a more rustic one.
- In addition to a kitchen backsplash, you could also whitewash a tile fireplace using the above-mentioned steps. You could even try a whitewash on a tumbled marble backsplash.
- The options can seem limitless, but you may want to try the technique on a sample piece or hidden spot of tile, stone, or brick to see if you like the overall look first.
Advantages of Whitewashing
Whitewashing tile and other surfaces offer a variety of advantages for the homeowner. Let’s take a brief look at what these are:
- Whitewashing offers a new and updated clean look.
- Whitewash is thinned paint, so it is less likely to peel or flake away like thicker paint.
- This technique is budget-friendly. You will use less paint overall, and you get a new look without costly renovations.
- Whitewashing is easy to do once everything is prepped.
- The thinner paint dries more quickly and your kitchen will be ready to use in no time.
- It may make your kitchen space feel bigger and brighter since lighter colors such as white open up a space.
- Whitewashing can be used on multiple surface types, as long as you use paint made for use on that material.
- Epoxy paint used for the mixture is long-lasting, washable, and durable.
- Whitewashing requires low maintenance, needing cleaning only when soiled from grease, liquids, or other debris.
Disadvantages of Whitewashing
Whitewashing may not be appealing to some homeowners for the following reasons:
- The color white can show marks and grease more easily, meaning you will need to clean the backsplash more often if messes occur more frequently.
- It takes longer to apply since you use small sponge paintbrushes instead of a roller.
- You may not personally like how whitewashing looks.
This how-to guide will help you to create a beautiful whitewash look on your ceramic tile backsplash. All you need to do is:
- Clean the tile
- Repair and sand the tile for an even surface
- Mix the white tile paint with a little bit of water
- Apply the whitewash with a dry sponge paintbrush
Whitewashing is a cost-effective way to give your kitchen space a new look without breaking the budget.