Q: I have a red brick fireplace that I'd like to whitewash, but I don't really want to paint it. What do you suggest? – Jeanette, Daytona Beach, Florida

A: Steve Thomas replies: There are a couple of different strategies you can try. One is to use a latex stain, which you would want to paint on and then wipe off. But there's no real guarantee how your brick will absorb the stain and how it will look. Before doing your whole fireplace, I recommend going down to your local paint store with samples of your bricks and trying a few different things. Try the latex stain approach first: Paint it on, wipe it off, and see what it looks like. Then have the person at the paint store mix up a really heavy-bodied oil-based stain, then thin it down and apply that (either by brush or roller) and wipe that off. If it's latex, you'll thin it with water. If it's oil, thin it with paint thinner or turpentine.

There's also a "pickling" mixture you can try, which I've used a lot in the past. To make 1 gallon, combine 2 quarts of satin white enamel oil-based paint, 2 quarts of gum turpentine, and 1/16 of an ounce of yellow oxide pigment. Shake well, then paint it on your brick, let it soak for several minutes, and wipe it off.
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