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How To Lighten Stained Wood Using Bleaching Chemicals

In woodwork, there are numerous aspects that you may come across and would need your attention to get the best results. One of these aspects is how to lighten stained wood. In some occasions, it is referred to as wood bleaching, which revolves around lightening the normal color of wood surface or altering the shade of a previously applied stain on the wood. Wood lightening can be a secret weapon that you ought to know when in need of obtaining the best results from your furniture finishing.

What To Have In Mind

There are various brands of chemical agents that can be used in lightening stained wood. It is, therefore, important that you conduct a thorough research in ensuring you go for the best one.

The chemical agents used for wood bleaching can be harmful to human skin, and it is thus required always to wear protective gears whenever you are using them in lightening the stained wood on your backyard. The chemicals are highly caustic and can cause skin or eye irritation should they come into contact.

Things That You Need For This Exercise

You will to get and assemble the following items for this particular project;

  • Sodium Hydroxide/Hydrogen Peroxide ( A/B wood bleach)
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Brush
  • Scrapper
  • Rubber Gloves
  • White vinegar
  • Sandpaper
  • Mask

The Actual Process

Step 1: Create an ideal working space

The first thing that you need to do after identifying the particular wood which you need to get rid of the stain from is to put it outside or in a well-ventilated place. The essence of this is that it will make it possible for you to use the lightening chemicals without worrying of suffocating from them or exposing yourself to danger by inhaling the fumes the chemicals produce.

The other vital reason for carrying out this exercise outdoors is because these chemical agents are usually highly corrosive. When used indoors, they can spill on some of your household equipment and thus cause damage as a result of coming into contact.

Remember to have on a mask to prevent you from the choking smell of the chemicals/bleach.

Step 2: Remove the stain using varnish remover

Spread stain remover or varnish over the wood surface. Take a scraper and use it to scrap off any existing finish that may probably be on the wood surface.

An important thing to note is that most of the varnish removers either come as citrus or chemicals. The difference between these two is that chemical removers work relatively fast in less than 30 minutes but have stronger fumes. On the other hand, the citrus removers are somehow odorless but are comparatively slow thus may require a number of attempts before it cleans the stain.

The moment the traces of all the varnish are removed allow the wood to dry for about two days.

Step 3: Apply Two-part wood bleach chemical

Apply part A uniformly on the stained wood surface. Part A is one of the components of the two-part lightening chemical agent. Use a brush by dipping it in the chemical and keenly and spread it on the wood surface.Also, ensure that this spread is even.

After that, let the wood surface to dry for a few minutes before you continue with the exercise. But on the same note, you should understand that the waiting period does differ from one brand to another. It is, therefore, important that you read the manufacturer’s instructions well to know the exactly how long you should wait.

It is required that you use a brush with synthetic bristles when applying Part A because the chemical has a tendency of destroying brushes made with natural bristles.

Apply Part B chemical again evenly on the wood surface. This time, ensure that you use a different brush from the one that you used initially in applying Part A chemical.

If you want to attain better results, it is recommended that you first conduct a test of the Part-B bleaching agent on a small part of the wood where it cannot be easily seen. From there you will be able to observe the manner in which the chemical reacts with the wood surface. Additionally, you will also be able to understand how faster this wood lightening chemical will be absorbed as well as the speed at which it takes to dry.

Step 4: Wash the wood surface

Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar. Stir this mixture well and use it to clean the wood surface. Just soak a clean cloth in this mixture and wipe gently and systematically to assist in neutralizing the bleach.

You can as well use plain water if you do not essentially have the white vinegar. When applying the solution use a washcloth or a large sponge but always ensure that you are generous when using it then allow the wood to dry again, if possible let it dry over the night before you continue with the exercise.

Remove the mixture of white vinegar and water from the wood by wiping the wood using a wet cloth that has been dippedin water. Ensure that you wipe as much of the solution from the wood as possible.

Once most of the solution is wiped off, let the wood stay for about 2 days.Observe the color change after 2 days, if the wood has lightened to your satisfaction, proceed to the next step. Nonetheless, if the lightening does not meet your expectations, you can move to apply two part-A/B wood bleaching agent and then repeat the steps mentioned earlier.

Step 5: Sanding

Now it’s the time to sand the wood surface using a sandpaper. It is recommendable first to use 120-gritt sandpaper then followed by 220-gritt sandpaper. The essence of sanding the wood surface at this stage is to ensure that you get rid of any finish or stain that would probably remain on the wood.

The 120-grit sandpaper is usually preferred first because it is of medium grade thus ideal for removing scratches and old finish. The 220-grit is preferred for subsequent sanding because it is fine grade thus suitable for light and smooth sanding.

Step 6: Finishing

Apply a coat with clear gloss on the wood surface. This helps in giving the wood a relatively refined appearance before the final finish is applied.Then apply the clear finish of your choice. This helps in lightening the wood, which gives it an essential look thatis glossy and stain-free. It also protects the wood from water or heat damage.

Recommended Read: Wood Staining: The Best Solution For How To Bring Out The Grain In Wood​


Stained wooden surfaces can at times be a bother in our homes. But when in need of removing these stains to enhance the appearance of the wood, it is necessary to do it on your own using the steps mentioned above in this article.

For the first attempt, it might look a difficult task to undertake. But once you have understood all the aspects together with all your woodworking skills you will realize that the issue of how to lighten stained wood is something that you can effortlessly solve on your own. The best thing to do is always to have the right lightening agents, tools and make sure that you wear protective gears for your safety during this exercise.

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