How to Bleach Wood Furniture
If you’re thinking of updating a piece of furniture, chances are you like the quality of the piece, but not the finish. As time goes by, certain finishes can go out of style–and others come onto the scene. Let’s walk through the process of how to bleach wood furniture.
Before, During & After
Let’s get right to it. This is the orange monster before I went through the entire process of stripping and sanding the dresser, only to realize the wood had a red coloring to it…most likely red oak.
Then, I stripped, sanded and bleached for this look:
You can see the very end is still the stripped, non-sanded version peeking through.
And, for the final result…
This first project wasn’t *actually* finished in time for the end of the One Room Challenge. But, as silver linings go, I ended up using it in my bedroom instead of my son’s, and we’re all much happier!
Can you believe the transformation?!?
If you want to bleach wood furniture, it has to be real wood.
I did not leave the dresser in its natural, raw wood state. We’ll get to that. So, if you’d like to just showcase the bleached natural look, you will be able to omit a couple of the steps toward the end.
I spray painted the interior slat areas black by taping off the outer edges. You’ll notice from start to finish, there’s a bit more black in the end.
Materials for Stripping & Sanding
- Stripping Chemical
- Clean Rags
- Protective Gloves
- Scraping Tool
- Plastic Bags
- Mineral Spirits
- Palm Sander & Sandpaper
Steps for Stripping & Sanding
- Spread a thick coat of stripping product onto the furniture with a rag. (I use rags for this now as opposed to a brush.)
- Cover with cellophane to allow the product to “sink in” without drying.
- Wait a couple of hours (I waited 18 because I couldn’t get back to it that day.)
- Peel off cellophane, wadding up and right into plastic garbage bag.
- Using a scraping tool, scrape along the entire outside of furniture to remove as much stripping agent as possible. (I found it helpful to have the garbage bag right there to wipe the scraping tool as I went.)
- Once the entire piece has been scraped, wipe down with mineral spirits at least once.
- After it’s dry, sand the piece until you have gotten through to the raw wood. (It may still be somewhat “orange.”)
Once I sanded the first drawer, I did a comparison photo between just stripped and finally sanded:
As you can see, there is a bit of orange tint to it, and no matter which light stain I tried–or even just polycrylic, the orange look came back.
How to Bleach Wood Furniture
So, I started googling how to bleach wood furniture. Turns out, it’s pretty easy. Let’s take a look at what you need:
Materials for Bleaching Wood
- Wood Bleach
- Plastic Bowl
- Large Plastic Kitchen Spoon
- Measuring Spoon
- Water (for mixture)
- Scrub Brush
- Protective Eyewear*
*I ended up not using protective eyewear or a mask, as I was doing it outside, and it didn’t seem to be splashing at all. Please be careful with this product.
Steps to Bleach Wood Furniture
- Make sure your wood furniture is completely sanded, all stains and varnishes sanded or stripped off.
- Mix your wood bleach product according to directions. You should start with one portion and increase from there, depending on how many times you want to bleach it. (It’s not hard to mix, and you can easily create a new batch.)
- Use the scrub brush by dipping it into the bleach and scrubbing liberally–get the wood completely wet when scrubbing.
- Once you have scrubbed a layer on, use your hose to spray the product off.
- Let dry.
- Repeat as much as you’d like to reduce the red tones. I bleached mine three times.
After three bleaching sessions…
I showed this photo above as my “during” progress. I was loving the natural wood look. But…of course, never completely happy. If you want to leave your wooden piece like this, in it’s raw, unfinished glory, go right ahead. I will warn you…any protective coating, like polyurethane or polycrylic is going to darken the piece.
How Did I Finish This?
I have children and lots of plants, so I knew I needed something as a protective coating. I also wanted it to remain light, but with a tinge of gray. After strolling the aisles in Ace Hardware, I spoke with the gentleman there, and he pointed out Minwax Wood Effects. This product is a very thin liquid that you apply, let dry for an hour, and it will give a “weathered” look to your wooden furniture. I went through this process at least twice.
I initially used a paint brush, and then settled on a foam brush which seemed to work much better.
Take a look at the bleached wood (left) compared to the weathered wood (right). Which one do you like more?
And the finished result…it’s a lot darker than I imagined, but I actually love the way it looks in this space, and best of all? It’s NOT ORANGE.
Beware: If you don’t polycrylic the piece after applying the weathering solution, the light WILL continue to weather it. That means, if you have anything on top of it, the weathering will continue to darken, only where the light hits. Trust me. I know from experience. You just have to re-sand the affected areas (for me it was the top), and re-apply the weathering. Then, coat it with a protective coat!
December 30, 2022 @ 1:53 pm
I absolutely love that dresser! Great job. That whole wall looks awesome too.
February 15, 2023 @ 5:31 pm
Thank you so much!