Bleaching Wood 101: How To Lighten Wood & Furniture

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 05/25/23 • 

Different stains are good for adding color to wood. However, you can take the color out of wood with bleach. Bleaching wood makes its color lighter than its natural state, to look like driftwood. You can also use bleach to lighten the stain you applied or lighten two different kinds of wood so you can stain them uniformly.

Bleaching wood is not difficult at all. The trick to effectively bleaching your wood is to use the right bleach for the job. You can use three types of bleach, each serving a different purpose.

The Types of Wood Bleach

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is sold in crystal/powder form and helps remove wood stains without changing the natural color. You can easily remove stains caused by water, alkalis, or rust with oxalic acid. If you want to remove dark stains without affecting the overall color of wood, use oxalic acid.

Oxalic Acid for Wood Bleach
$15.99 ($0.50 / Ounce)

This is great for removing wood stains from water spots, tannins, or rust. It can also slightly lighten wood, depending on the concentration.

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Chlorine/Household Bleach

Chlorine bleach is sold as sodium hypochlorite, household bleach, or swimming pool bleach. It is great for removing dye colors and can also bleach wood white if it is concentrated. When using chlorine bleach, wet the surface of the wood using the bleach and let it dry. Once dry, wash it with water to remove bleach residue. To remove the dye on the wood without affecting the natural color of the wood, use chlorine bleach mixed with 5 to 10 parts water.

Two-Part Bleach

Also called A and B bleach, two-part bleach comes in two separate containers labeled A and B. The chemicals, which are sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide, are mixed to create a very potent bleach that will strip the color of dark wood or heavily stained wood surfaces. Use two-part bleach if you want to lighten the natural color of the wood.

Daly's Wood Bleach Solution A and B
$210.00 ($0.41 / Fl Oz)

The Daly's Wood bleach kit has solutions A and B and works perfectly to lighten even darker woods. It works on different species of wood, from solid to veneer.

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Step-by-Step Guide To Bleach/Lighten Wood

  1. In this guide, we’ll be using two-part bleach to lighten the wood. First, pour chemical A or 1 into a plastic or glass container. Don’t use a metal container because the bleach will react with the metal.
  2. Using a synthetic brush or cloth, apply a wet coat to the wood, leaving no uncoated parts. Protect your eyes and skin because the chemical, usually sodium hydroxide, is very caustic and can burn you on contact. Also, sodium hydroxide can darken most woods, but this next step will change that.
  3. Pour chemical B or 2, usually hydrogen peroxide, into the plastic or glass container and apply it to the wood using a separate brush before chemical A or 1 dries up. The order of applying chemical A first or B does not matter. It is the reaction between these two chemicals that matters to bleach the wood. You should see foaming as the two chemicals reach, and the wood should lighten.
  4. Let the wood dry overnight and apply a mild acid, such as vinegar or use running water to neutralize the alkalinity of any remaining sodium peroxide.
  5. Let the wood dry overnight and lightly sand it with fine-grit sandpaper to remove raised grain and make it feel smooth again.

You can also combine the two chemicals, sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide, and apply them as one coat, but you must apply the mixture quickly before it losses its potency. This is the reason these two chemicals are packaged in different containers.

Bleached Walnut Wood on The Right Side

Bleached Walnut Wood on The Right Side

Usually, a single application will lighten the wood. However, there are several ways you can further lighten the wood. These are;


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