How to Whitewash Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Whitewashing a ceramic tile backsplash can refresh the look of your kitchen or bathroom. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to update the space without a full remodel. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to whitewash ceramic tile.

What You Need

  • Drop cloths or old sheets to protect floors and countertops
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint roller (optional)
  • Paint tray
  • White latex paint – flat or eggshell finish
  • Painters tape (optional)
  • Sandpaper or steel wool – fine grit
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate) or other degreaser
  • Clean cloths and water

Prep the Area

Before painting, you need to properly prepare the tile and work area:

  • Clear countertops and remove items from backsplash area. Cover floors, countertops, and appliances with drop cloths.
  • Wash the tile with TSP or other degreaser and warm water to remove any dirt, grease, or soap scum. Rinse well and let dry.
  • Lightly scuff sand the glossy tile with fine sandpaper or steel wool to help the paint adhere.
  • Clean and dry the tile again after sanding to remove any dust.
  • Use painters tape to mask off edges along countertops, cabinets, or appliances if desired.

Apply the Whitewash

Now you’re ready to whitewash the tile:

Step 1: Apply Base Coat

Use a paintbrush to apply a thin, even base coat of white latex paint over the entire backsplash area. Avoid heavy drips or brush strokes. If using a paint roller, use a thin nap roller.

Let the base coat dry completely before moving to step 2.

Step 2: Apply Whitewash Coat

For the whitewash effect, water down some white paint in a roller pan or paint tray. Thin it out to about the consistency of milk. You want the paint to be thin enough to apply unevenly.

Using a clean paintbrush, apply the thinned paint over the base coat. Brush it on lightly and unevenly so some of the original tile color shows through in spots. Work in small sections.

To get varying coverage, use a combination of brush techniques – light strokes, dabbing, dry brushing. Let some of the base coat show through.

Apply a second thin, uneven coat if desired to lighten and soften the look.

Let the final coat dry 24 hours before using the backsplash.

Maintaining the Whitewashed Tile

  • Use gentle cleaners like dish soap and water to clean. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
  • Reapply whitewash paint every 1-2 years as needed when it starts looking dingy. Lightly sand glossy areas before reapplying.


How do I get an evenly whitewashed look?

Focus on keeping your brush strokes light and irregular. Apply thin coats of diluted paint and don’t overbrush one area. Some variation creates the washed out effect.

What kind of paint should I use?

Latex paints offer good adhesion on tile and are easy to work with. Flat or eggshell finishes give a chalky look. Avoid high-gloss.

Can I use a paint sprayer?

Yes, an airless paint sprayer can be used to apply the whitewash coats for a more even effect. Use light passes and keep sprayer moving.

How long does the paint last?

Durability depends on usage, but you can expect 1-2 years before touch ups are needed. Avoid using harsh cleaners that can prematurely break down paint.

Should I coat the grout lines?

For best adhesion, it’s best to apply paint over the grout lines as well as the tile. Keep coats very thin to avoid filling in grout.

Can I use dark paint colors?

Yes, you can use any color paint for a washed out effect. Darker colors may require extra coats for opacity.


Whitewashing ceramic tiles is an easy DIY project that can give your backsplash or walls a fresh, beachy vibe. With proper prep and using thin, uneven layers of white latex paint, you can achieve a light, airy look. Take your time applying the whitewash coats. Be sure to properly prep and clean the tile first for best paint adhesion. Renew the whitewash every year or two to keep your space looking updated.