How to Whitewash Exterior Brick in 3 Easy Steps!

Last year we spent a great deal of time trying to spruce up the exterior of our home.  Hubby started the long and tedious process of painting the house (he still has some trim on the second floor to finish)-while I focused my attention on the concrete front porch floor and our deck.

Unfortunately, both projects I was responsible for FAILED miserably!

Yes, that’s right!  After a L-O-N-G, and very harsh winter-both the deck and the front porch required a complete do-over!

But that’s for another post.

Today I want to talk to you about something I’ve wanted to do to the brick base of our porch, ever since I saw it on an episode of Fixer Upper!

Fixer Upper house-German Smear

If you watch the show you might remember Chip calling it a ‘German smear’.

But after a closer look, I realized that wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  You can see that they rubbed off a great deal of the paint (or so I thought) on some bricks in this close-up.  Hence the name ‘smear’.


But then I found out that this technique didn’t use paint-it used mortar!  That put me WAY out of my comfort zone.

So  I began doing some research and found that whitewashing the brick was the way to go.

There are two techniques for whitewashing.

One requires a mixture of lime and water.

And the other requires paint and water (YES I LOVE PAINT)!

But remember my plan wasn’t to whitewash ‘inside’ our house-my task was to whitewash the outside brick.  Brick that is exposed to all the elements of living in Minnesota!

Heat-rain-wind-and yes-COLD!

After the debacle with our front porch and deck-the, the last thing I wanted to do was create YET another project for myself.  So I did more research.

And I came up empty.

Seriously!!  Has no-one who lives in sub-zero temperatures ever whitewashed their exterior brick?

It appeared not.

Brick Before

And it would seem this ugly brick wasn’t going anywhere!

Then it hit me!

Maybe there wasn’t a tutorial for the EXACT project I had to do-but maybe-just maybe I could take what I had learned thus far and made it work anyway!

The surprising thing?  Whitewashing our brick ended up being one of the easiest projects I’ve done on this house to date!

All that it took was 3 EASY steps and the following materials:

(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the link, at no additional cost to you.  All opinions are my own and I thank you for supporting this blog.  You can find more on my disclosure policy here.)

Soap and Water


Heavy Duty Hose Nozzle.

***We just bought this nozzle a month ago, because our power washer died.  It does the exact same job as that-and for WAY less money!


Kilz Premium Primer and Sealer-White

(This was recommended by a friend of ours who is a commercial painter.)

Plastic sheeting for spills

Now onto those 3 very simple steps!

Step One:  Wash and rinse brick thoroughly.

I can’t emphasize this step enough! Brick is very porous-and over time, it can collect SO much dirt and grime from rain and dust. (Trust me on this)  If not cleaned properly there isn’t a paint or primer out there that will seal properly.

All I used to clean the brick was plain old soap and water- and a sturdy wire-bristled brush.

Once I had all the bricks thoroughly cleaned-it was rinse time.  This is when that AMAZING nozzle came in quite handy!  Like I said above-the power is awesome-and what dirt I left behind from scrubbing, that nozzle definitely removed!

Step Two: Allow the brick to dry completely!!

Even though the brick may appear to be dry after only an hour-it isn’t!  Allow the brick to dry for at least 24 hours before moving onto step three.

Step Three:  Apply primer. (Without mixing with water)!

That’s right!  NO-water required for this step-and there are two reasons for that.

One-The primer is just the right consistency that you don’t need to thin it out.

Two-You, don’t want to dilute the primer.  To do so would mean that you’re diluting all the components that make it PERFECT for this application.

First application for whitewashing brick

My bad for not getting photos for the other two steps-but…..I finally remembered as I started to brush on the primer.  This shot was taken only seconds after I started.

Now let’s talk technique.  Truth is there really isn’t any foolproof technique to whitewashing.  It’s pretty much-brush on the paint as much or as little as you want.  That’s it!  Except there is one important thing to remember.  The lighter your brush stroke- and the less primer you apply-the more ‘pink’ your end result will look!  Yes, I said it.  PINK!  Not exactly what you want-am I right?

Brick After

But as you can see from the above picture-you don’t have to end up with pink bricks!  All I did was load up my brush (remember I put down plastic sheeting to protect plants, etc)  and used a criss-cross stroke with my paintbrush.  This ‘technique’, if you want to call it that provided an even distribution of the paint without having to go over the brick numerous times to get the same result.


From this photo, you can see that some of the brick is still showing through. That folks is whitewashing!  Because the bricks that didn’t cover completely are muted- and not IN YOUR FACE RED!

Whitewashing Brick After

And yet I LOVE how the color varies in spots.  Almost like it just naturally has worn over time.  The bonus is that now my rusty old milk can doesn’t clash with the red brick anymore! And an even better bonus is that I was able to add some rustic charm to our exterior without big $$$ and very little time and effort!

Whitewashing Brick

I apologize for only showing half of our front porch for this post but I’m currently working on a project for the other half and I don’t want to spoil it.

I promise to share the entire porch next week-along with a closer look at the concrete floor and how I fixed it for GOOD this time!

So what do you think of our whitewashed brick?  Would you dare to ‘paint’ yours?  I’d love to hear!  Leave me a comment or send me an email!

Blessings and hugs,


73 thoughts on “How to Whitewash Exterior Brick in 3 Easy Steps!”

    1. Wow, so the primer is the paint! That makes it easy, not having to find the right paint type, brand and color!! Amazing. I have red brick that I hate, horrible 1980’s dark red. I will get my courage up to try this!

    2. Thank you for stopping by, Di. I’ve been away from the blogging world for awhile, so I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. Yes, you are correct. I used a good quality primer and that’s it. Wishing you awesome luck on your project.

    3. I am in the same boat now. I really want a more uniform see through wash. I can’t believe no one has a solution with paint (although this is a close second). I wonder if used the 50/50 water paint then a sealer if that would work?

  1. My daughter and I were just talking about this today at an auction. The outside of the house was a dark red and brown brick and across from it was a house with white brick. She said she would paint the brick if she bought that house. Keep us posted as to how well this holds up. Great job!

    1. Thank you so much, Meredith! I’m right there with you! Who would have ‘thunk’ it was that easy!!! I’m hoping to share the rest of the porch later this week!!

  2. It looks great! You did a lot of hard work and it shows!
    I do feel the need to mention the “chemical” aspects of lime vs paint, though, just to be fair.
    Lime is calcium, combined with carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. There may are may not be a few trace minerals present. It’s completely natural, although it can harm you if you breathe in the dust or expose your skin too long. Most paint (with a few exceptions) contains solvents, ammonia and formaldehyde. On the other hand, Kilz premium primer is pretty safe. It contains lime, titanium dioxide and a specific type of finely ground rock.
    All that having been said, I like using paint too! Just wanted to be fair to lime 🙂

    1. Thank you, Bonnie! As for the lime-you learn something new every day-and I just did! I had no idea that’s what lime was made of! Good to know for future projects!! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment, Elizabeth! I do not see why it couldn’t. Depending on how much traffic would be walking across the brick floor, I would maybe look into some kind of poly (for outdoor) just to make sure it seals well and is protected. It would also depend on what type of weather you have. If it’s in the Midwest like I am, would you have to shovel the walkway? I know our painted decks have suffered immensely, and we just gave them a fresh coat last spring. Hope this helps. BTW-even after all the snow and rain we have had, the whitewash is holding up well!

  3. how is the whitewash holding up? i am a bit hesitant to use primer because it is designed to be tacky. that is why paint adheres to it so well. has yours collected dirt or dust?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Connie. So far the whitewash is holding up quite well. I live in the Midwest, so currently we have had a LOT of rain and snow. I was a little concerned about so much moisture and cold temperatures, but (crossing fingers) it looks the same as it did when I first applied it! 🙂

  4. Hi C.D., Did you use white paint and water for the whitewash and how much of each did you use.? Where can I see pics of your house?

  5. How did this paint hold up in more humid areas of the country? I’m close to the Gulf of Mexico about 20 mins from the beach… What to do this to my ranch style home extra month.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Kurstyn. As for your question. Well, I live in Minnesota, but trust me it get’s pretty humid here in the summer. So far it has held up quite well, and it made it through a very cold and blustery winter too. No chips-nothing. Crossing my fingers!

  6. Thank you so much for the tip of using the primer. I was nervous about getting the right mixture of water and paint, so I have been afraid to try it. Now I think I will this summer. How long do you think it took you to clean the bricks? And how stiff of a wire brush did you use?

    1. I’m so glad you found the post helpful, Kathe. As for your question. Cleaning the bricks took me about four hours from start to finish and I used a medium range wire brush. I hope that helps. Good luck with painting your brick!

  7. Great post! It was very helpful. In your opinion, how difficult would it be to apply this technique to brick that does not have a flat facing? My home has brick with a strange ridged design that seems to be fairly deep. I am not sure if brushing would be the best option or if it would be too time consuming. Your thoughts?

    1. Thank you, Courtney. I’m glad you found the post helpful. As for your question. I don’t see why this technique wouldn’t work on your ridged design. Granted, it would probably be a bit more time-consuming. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

  8. This is great! I want to try it on my 60s ranch. How do you think it will work on a deeply grooved brick (like a fork was used to scribe it)? Have you had any probs with peeling or chipping? Thanks for advice!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and I’m so glad you enjoyed my post, Mary! As for your question. I think this technique will definitely work on grooved brick, but it may take a bit more effort. First, you would need to make sure you get all those ‘grooves’ clean so that the paint will adhere. If you’ve got an old toothbrush hanging around that would be perfect and no $! Secondly, depending on the depth, you might need to get a smaller paint brush to get into those grooves to coat well. Lastly, thus far, (crossing fingers) I have had no peeling or chipping on our brick. And that’s surprising because this past winter was pretty brutal. I hope this helps! Good luck with your project.

  9. I live in Minnesota! We’ve whitewashed our brick fireplace and now we’re really hoping to white/gray wash our exterior brick- didn’t know if it would hold with our winters, so I’m thankful I found this post!

    Would you recommend I add water to primer IF I still want some color to pop through (what we did with interior brick). Or would it make the solution less durable?

    1. Yah for a fellow Minnesotan! I’m so glad you found my post helpful, Cleo! As for your question. Yes, I would definitely have some concerns about diluting the primer and it’s bonding components with water. Maybe you could try ‘blotting’ instead of painting to allow some of the brick color to show through. I also wanted to show some of the original color, but unfortunately, it started to look pink in those spots so I just put another coat over. Regardless, good luck with your project and thank you for stopping by!

  10. Hi I live I. Texas and I too saw the show where Chip did the German Smear… I have on my house what is called mexican brick and it has a tendency to chip and so I have to put a sealer on it … was wondering if it did this if it would seal it enough to keep it from chipping

    1. Hello, Prissy and thank you for stopping by. As for your question. I’m not familiar with the type of brick on your home, but I can say that after a thorough inspection this summer, the brick on our home has held up quite well. In fact, I even sprayed it down with the hardest pressure on our hose earlier this summer while cleaning off our porch and the paint didn’t peel or chip. I was over the moon happy because like I said in the post, the last thing I wanted to do was make more work for myself by having to paint the brick annually. I hope this helps! Good luck and I pray that you and yours are safe during these horrific hurricanes.

  11. Does the original color of the brick matter such as a golden wheat color brick but has some black weathered look to the original color so whitewashing I thought would be a solution what do you think

    1. I am by no means an expert, Dave, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. As I mentioned in the post it is all about coverage. Initially, I wanted some of the red brick to show through but it ended up looking pink. I definitely didn’t want that, so I used a thicker coat to avoid that look. I hope that helps. Good luck, and thank you for stopping by!

  12. Using a power washer would seem faster and easier and no soap or brush. Do you think that would be enough? Have hated my pink brick for years!

    1. I am right there with you, Jan! Pink brick is definitely not a pretty sight. As for the power washer-We didn’t have one, but even if we did I would have been leery to use on our brick. Power washers can be a bit too ‘powerful’ if you get my drift. I was afraid it may damage-especially since the brick is so old. Best of luck on your project and thank you so much for stopping by!

  13. Thank you so much for this! I have been looking for ideas to change my red brick but wasn’t interested in just painting it. This looks much better!

  14. About how long did it take for the whitewashing step? I have a 2,000 square foot brick exterior home I would love to do this! You did great and it sounds fairly easy I just want to know how much time you spent 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Ashlyn! WOW! The area I whitewashed was definitely smaller than what your project entails. I’m not sure if this technique would be the best solution for you. As for how long it took me? If memory serves me it wasn’t more than an hour to do the actual whitewashing.

  15. Thank you for this! We recently moved to the South into a larger brick home. We love the more stately look of painted brick, but having left high maintenance wood siding behind us, are chastising ourselves at the idea of making a no-maintenance surface a maintenance-needed surface. That said, I wonder if this finish, over 30, even 40 years, might not simply “wear” like a charming patina. Thoughts?

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post, Julie. As for my thoughts. Well, I too was worried about the extra maintenance painting the brick might entail as well, but so far (crossing fingers) I haven’t had any need to even do a touch-up. Of course, if I did, the area is not very large so it wouldn’t be an issue really. An entire house might be a bit different. There are other options of course. German smear, etc, but they are more costly. Hope this helps.

  16. I am sooo excited I found your site. I am buying a house that has red brick on the bottom half and cedar siding on the top. I wanted to make it look somewhat French Country and was thinking about using stucco over the brick, but this seems way easier and I LOVE the look. You did a great job!

  17. So we are considering doing this to our red brick. We started with paint first, but after I read your post where you used primer, using paint was not the way to go. Wish I would’ve looked some posts on here first. The problem is that we have off white siding above the red brick and it didn’t look right. So I repainted the red brick with the same color. So maybe with a new fresh coat of the red brick and using primer instead of paint, maybe I can try again and see how it turns out.

  18. I would like to try this to a brick paver patio – we bought a fixer and while I like that they put a patio against the house, the pavers they used don’t match our brick which is sort of a white/gray. We don’t want to spend the cash to pour stamped cement or redo it, so I thought I would try this out.

    In the meantime, the commenter above discussed lime and I learned something. I also didn’t know Kilz had lime!

  19. With all the foot traffic as well as direct rain sun etc. on the horizontal surface, will this process work on brick steps? If not, any ideas?

    1. Hello, Peter! Thanks for stopping by! As for your question. I’m not sure how long the product I used would hold up under a lot of foot traffic. As for weather-related issues so far (crossing fingers), it has held up to sun, rain, snow, and blizzard-like temps without any peeling or flaking. You might want to check in to some other products specifically made for foot traffic. I’ve heard some good things about a product called Sure Step which is made for concrete floors so I’m assuming it would work for steps too. I hope that helps! Good luck!

  20. Which specific Kilz product did you use? There are a handful of exterior- & masonry-compatible ones to choose from.

  21. Thank you for posting this article about whitewashing brick. I have been searching for information on how to do this. It seems from all of the other comments that this would work in any climate. I’m just curious as to how well it has endured overtime?

    1. I am so glad you found my post helpful, Kimmie! As for your question- the answer is surprisingly well! I say this because thus far it has endured a couple of brutal winters, rain, sleet, and a great deal of humidity without any chipping. I thought by now I would have to at least touch up some spots but (crossing fingers) not this summer! Thanks for stopping by! Have a blessed day!

  22. Thank you so much for you reply. I think I’m going to give it a shot. I’m totally inspired! We have a 70’s multi brown colored brick, the kind of brick that looks hand made, Sort of messy looking bricks, with tile roof, Kind of Mediterranean sytle.. It’s a beautiful home but soooo 70’s. I really want to paint it or something. So thanks so much again for the idea. I love it! I’d love to send a before and after.

    1. Absolutely! I would love to see how it turns out! Also, I’ve seriously had so many emails and comments on how my brick is holding up so I’m thinking I’ll do an update post so folks can see current photos of our porch. Good Luck with your project!

  23. We have a dark stone house we would love to modernize with this same method – based on your experience, do you think that would work? I’ve been in contact with some paint manufactures asking about this process (before I saw your post) and they told me it voids their warrantee on the paint – seems like they should be embracing this very updated (yet, classic) look.

    1. Hello, Stephanie! I TOTALLY agree with you. Painted brick is truly a classic look. But I do have a couple of concerns with using this technique on a darker brick. One-color. What I mean by this is even on our light brick, the first dapple or two of paint/primer made the brick take on almost a pink tone. UGH! So you really have to use a heavy hand to ensure you get the tone most folks would be going for. Two-with that said, you will be using a LOT of paint/primer for an entire house and that could get spendy and time-consuming. But there is a solution that might work so much better for your home. I recommend reading this post from fellow blogger Lauren. They did use a professional and I’m not sure what your cost would be. In the comments, Lauren does say it cost $7000-$8,000 in her area, but it could be less/more in yours.

      I hope this helps, Stephanie and thank you so much for stopping by!

  24. We have a 1960s rambler with a multi – colored brick front in MN. Quite a few years ago, I took white brick paint and painted only the bricks that were a really dark color. I have wanted to do all the bricks. After reading this, I will do it. I am pressure washing the bricks today and will use Kilz paint on the bricks tomorrow. I am so excited to know of this method! Thank you for sharing!

    1. I’m happy to say, Dee that yes, it is holding up quite well! Haven’t even had to touch it up yet! Thanks for your question and stopping by!

  25. Hi there! Thank you, thank you for posting. I live in Minnesota, and I felt the same way about ordering that lime wash. I just wanted to PAINT. You are funny too! I’ll let you know how it turns out!.

    1. Thank you so much, Margaret! You definitely have to have a sense of humor when you’re fixing up these old homes! So glad the post was helpful! I can’t wait to see your completed project!

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