Do you have a piece of wood furniture or decor that is not your favorite wood tone? Maybe you want to refinish it or change the wood color in some way? This is what I ran into when I bought this cute little stool for our downstairs bathroom. Follow along to see how I’m changing the wood color on it.
There are many different ways to change the wood color on a piece of wood furniture, but the trouble is choosing the best way to change it.
Determining Wood Species And The Undertones
First, one needs to consider the undertones of the wood you’re dealing with. To do this, one must determine the type of wood and the undertones it has.
Here are some different wood species and their undertones:
Red Undertones-Mahogany, Cherry, Walnut
Pink-Red Oak, Maple, Alder
Now that we know a bit about some popular wood species and their undertones, we can go forward with some different methods for changing the wood color on the stool.
How To Change The Wood Color
The next thing to determine is what finish is on the wood. Ask yourself these questions:
Is it shiny? Does it have a lacquer or protective covering? Is it darker than the wood color you desire? All of these answers will help guide the next steps for refinishing the wood.
If you want to go lighter on the stain from a darker finish, that darker stain has to be removed. You can strip the darker finish off with stripper or sand it down. Either way, remove it until the wood is raw.
There are two different ways to lighten wood on furniture:
- New Stain
- Bleaching the wood
The only other way to lighten the darker wood stain would be with paint. First prime the wood with a stain blocking primer and then paint over it in any color you like. However, I don’t want to paint the stool, at least not all of it.
Change The Wood Color With New Stain
One easy way to change the color of wood furniture is add a new stain once the old wood finish is removed. The trick is to be able to use the new stain to compliment the undertones present in the wood once it is stripped to raw wood.
The type of wood on my thrifted stool is a darker finish with a strong red undertone. The key to counteract the red is to add the color opposite on the wheel to red: green!
I know it sounds like tacky Christmas, but the green cancels out the unwanted red undertones and gives balance. Here’s how I changed the color of wood.
Step 1-Prepare The Wood
My goal was to lighten the wood and make it look raw, distressed, and weathered. Once the shiny finish and most of the red undertones were sanded off, I needed to prepare the wood surface to take new stain.
SPOILER ALERT: I MADE A HUGE MISTAKE! READ ON!!
Pre-stain is usually my next step, so I applied pre-stain to the wooden stool. Well, that was the wrong move. It turned the newly stripped wood color back to SUPER RED!
I admit, I did not read the directions which were that this would work under an oil based stain and not recommended with a water based stain…SO DON’T USE THIS PRE-STAIN WITH WATER BASED STAIN!
Learn from my mistake because I make mistakes so you don’t have to. I had to re sand the areas I wanted to stain, and it was a pain in the booty.
Step 2-Apply Stain
The next step is to apply the stain. I chose this Varathane stain called Weathered Wood. It is a gray stain that has those green undertones to help cancel out the red undertones on my wooden stool. I used an old rag to apply the stain and let it dry.
Here is a picture side by side of the wood color before, with and without the stain. Do you see how the stain makes the wood look much more neutral with gray undertones? I like how it neutralized some of the red tone while still keeping some of the original color.
Step 3-Seal The Wood With Sealer
Next you’ll want to seal the wood properly. I do not like the current shiny finish that is on the wooden stool now, so I chose a Matte Polycrylic to seal the wood. This stool is in a high traffic area in our downstairs bathroom and my kid use it everyday so it needs to be protected.
Change Wood Furniture With Bleach
Another way to lighten the wood color on my stool would be to try bleach. I have used this method on some chairs I bleached with household bleach.
The process is much the same in the beginning. Sand or strip off any protective top coat or lacquer that exists on the wood. The next step will work on stained or raw wood. Keep in mind that the wood tone can only be lightened on stained wood, but not removed. The only way to do that is to sand it off.
There are different ways to use bleach to lighten wood furniture, but I would use wood bleach. It is a two part bleach solution. Simply apply both parts to the wood, first part A, let that dry, and then the same with part B. I thin you’ll be amazed at the results!
FAQ About How To Color Wood
Here are some frequently asked questions about how to change the color of wood:
Can I Stain Over Stain Without Sanding?
The short answer is YES. I’m all for not having to sand something when it isn’t necessary. Now, when is it not necessary? If the wood stain is going from light to dark, I think you can get away without having to sand the stain.
It would be harder to achieve the desired look when going from dark to light. Either way, I do strongly recommend sanding or using liquid sandpaper. When you stain over existing stain, there is not control of the final outcome and sanding also gives a great foundation for the new stain to grip to.
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Will Vinegar Be Able To Lighten Wood?
Vinegar is naturally acidic and therefore can wreak havoc on hardwood floors, stained wood and finished wood. If left on the wood, it can cause a reaction that may turn the wood black or take the color out of the wood entirely.
It all depends on the wood and stain present on it when putting the vinegar on. So yes, it can lighten wood, but there is no real way to control it.
Will Paint Thinner Lighten Stained Wood?
Yes. Stain can be diluted with mineral spirits. This will lighten the stain color that will go on the wood, but it will only be lightened before being applied to the wood. If you apply mineral spirits to stained wood, it will remove oils and wax from the wood and possibly some of the stain with it.
Should I Put A Sealer On Top?
It depends on the type of finish desired for the wood, the type of wood and stain, and what the wood is used for. My stool is in a very high traffic area and is used everyday with shoes and feet. I wanted to protect it, so I used a matte polycrylic on top that is water based so it wouldn’t yellow.
How To Lighten Stained Wood Without Stripping?
There are other ways to lighten wood without stripping the wood. Staining will change the color of the wood. Painting the wood a lighter color will also do the trick in lightening the stain.
Other Wood Projects
Many ways can be used to lighten wood or change the color of wood furniture. Some of the ways are sanding the stain off, stripping the wood bare, or painting it to lighten the finish. All three are viable options and I have liked the result of all three methods. I used sanding and paint for my methods.
Hopefully this post was helpful for learning ways of how to change the color of wood. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.