The Best methods for bleaching wood furniture and more, all the tools needed, and exactly how to go about making this popular, beautiful new trend easy to do in your own design.
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How do we Bleach Wood Furniture?
As you will find out, I don’t like to keep my readers waiting, so here it is. The best way to bleach furniture is to use some form of bleach: Household bleach, Oxalic Acid, or Wood Bleach.
Let’s break down the best bleaches to use and the prep work and safety gear and tools needed to bleach wood safely.
Supplies Needed to Bleach Wood
- sander or citristrip
- protective eyewear
- Spray bottle
- old rag
- wood for bleaching
Let’s start with the most time consuming one, but probably the one that can be done with things you have in your house already: household bleach.
Most of us probably have this in our laundry rooms. Grab the bleach, an old rag and a spray bottle.
When flipping any piece of furniture, you must first clean the wood thoroughly.
Next, sand or strip any coating, paint, stain, or finish that is covering the wood. When the furniture piece is down to raw wood, apply the bleach to the wood using a spray bottle and wipe the bleach onto the wood with a rag.
Once the wood is completely dry, fill another spray bottle with 1:1 part of water and vinegar and spray down the wood furniture. This will neutralize the bleach.
If the wood furniture is a piece with legs or arms with more detailed wood, this can be harder to get down to the raw wood.
Use some steel wool with the stripper or a higher grit sandpaper to be sure the wood is fully stripped to raw wood.
The entire time using the bleach, be sure to wear gloves, protective eye wear and a mask.
Household bleach is not as strong as the wood bleach we will cover in another couple of paragraphs, so several coats may be required. In between coats, allow several hours for the wood in the sunlight.
Sunlight is a natural bleaching agent and can help with dry time, but still takes WAY too long for me. The bleach reacts differently depending on the type of wood.
It will take longer using Household Bleach to bleach the wood than using a wood bleach, so I recommend adding as many coats of bleach to the wood as are needed until the you get the desired results.
Wood Bleach is a two part system of Solutions A and B. First, apply Solution A to the raw wood with sponge and allow it to sit for 5-10 mins. Next, wipe on Solution B with a clean sponge. Let it dry completely.
This method of bleaching wood furniture is the fastest for changing the color of the wood. It would work well when attempting to bleach wood furniture with red wood tones such as cedar, mahogany or cherry. I can’t wait to try that myself!
Here we are dealing with an acid so again I must stress the importance of taking proper safety precautions!
Oxalic Acid comes in a crystallized form. It is popularly used to remove stains from wood, but it will not change the color of the wood.
It must be added in hot water before applying the solution to wood. Mix 28-30g in a cup of hot water and let dissolve completely.
Using a brush, apply the solution evenly across the wood. Let it dry for several hours. Once fully dry, wash the wood with a borax and water solution. This neutralizes the acid. Let the wood dry completely before moving on to sanding and refinishing.
Sealing Bleached Wood
Once you have bleached the wood to your liking, its time to protect all your hard work!
The next steps after bleaching your wood furniture are up to you!
Some people may want to add a white wash or stain over their bleached wood, or a light stain to help highlight the natural texture of the wood pattern.
If not, the next step is to protect your newly bleached wood. A top coat of polyurethane or polycrylic in a matte finish will keep the wood protected, but not alter the look in any way. Two or more coats is best because raw wood is very absorbent.
You can also use a clear wax or oil, but this will give some shine to your wood furniture, so keep that in mind.
Best Wood Types for Bleaching
Any type of wood furniture will be easy enough to bleach, but knowing the specific wood of your project will help temper expectations.
Bob Villa says the best types of wood to bleach are oak, beach, ash, and gum. Poplar and Pine are already pretty light and bleaching them can dull the natural wood color. Red woods like cedar, redwood, and rosewood don’t bleach well.
*This is where I recommend using the zinsser wood bleach with these types of wood.
Other popular choices of wood for bleaching include: Mahogany, Birch, Walnut, Maple, and Cherry.
Other FAQ about Bleaching Wood
Let’s explore a few other popular questions about bleaching wood that is not furniture.
Bleaching Wood Floors
Can it be done? Yes! Bleaching wood floors is a great way to remove water stains or fix any discoloration in wood floors. These are common things that can happen over the lifetime of wood flooring with kids, pets, etc.
Is the Bleach Damaging to the Wood?
Using bleach on bare wood can cause some discolorations depending on the wood type and the amount of bleach applied. Wait until the wood is fully dry to inspect for anything in the finish that may need sanding off before sealing the bleached wood furniture.
How do you Bleach Wood Cabinets?
Another popular question is can you bleach wood cabinets? How? The answer is YES, you can! The process is much the same for bleaching any other type of wood furniture.
First, clean the cabinets really well of any dirt and grime. Use a liquid deglosser or a sander to remove any protective finish from the wood cabinets and get them to raw wood.
Then, using a rag, gloves, and a 1:1 solution of chlorine bleach to warm water, rub the mixture evenly over the raw wood.
Allow the mixture to sit on the cabinets for a few minutes or a few hours. Remember the results depend on the type of wood cabinets and how many coats of bleach used.
In a spray bottle, mix vinegar and water and spray over the wood cabinets to neutralize the bleach. Let the wood cabinets dry completely. Repeat with as many coats as needed.
Seal and your done!
Before & After Pictures
The final result of my bleaching project is above. I am so happy with how these chairs in my dining room turned out. After sanding off the stain and protective finish, I used 5 coats of bleach.
On top of the newly bleached oak chairs, I used gray weathering stain, white wash, and antiquing wax. I have a blog post all about the different used of antiquing wax if you are interested.
Then I sanded it all down and sealed with a matte polycrylic. OBSESSED!
So is bleaching wood worth it? It depends on your end goal. Which method you use will be determined by whether you want lighten and change the color of the wood, or clean and remove stains or discolorations. There are several methods here to help.
Do you think you’ll give it a try?