The Cheapest Way To Bleach Wood Furniture

The Cheapest Way To Bleach Wood Furniture

Have you ever wondered if you could lighten and brighter dark wood? Me too! So, I decided to do some research and came up with this solution. It’s my very first attempt to bleach wood furniture, and I killed it. Not literally, but this antique tiger oak chifferobe sure does look amazing now.

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The Cheapest Way To Bleach Wood Furniture

While spending the summers with my Grandma on the farm, I fondly remember this one piece as a little girl. It was filled with linens, quilts, and all kinds of pretties but I don’t remember ever seeing clothes hung inside.

The wood grain on this antique was nothing like I had ever seen as a child and I’ll always remember using my fingers to trace the tiger like stripes. There was no way I could ever paint it, although it would be stunning.

I recently read a tutorial by a blogger friend who used household bleach to bleach wood and decided to give it a go. If she did it, I knew it would be okay to try this method. Thanks, Denise!

I recently read a tutorial by a blogger friend who used household bleach to bleach wood and decided to give it a go. If she did it, I knew it would be okay to try this method. Here's how it turned out.

SUPPLY LIST:

Protective Equipement

* Work in a well-ventilated area when bleaching wood furniture, outdoors preferably.

Preparation Before For Bleaching Wood Furniture

The finish on this antique was really dark. Not uncommon for a 100-year-old piece. The first step before you bleach wood is to remove the finish down to the bare wood. It’s the wood I wanted to bleach, so stripping it was easiest for me using my SurfPrep Sander. 👈 Click here to learn more about why I love this tool so much!

You can always choose to remove the existing finish by using a chemical stripper as well.

Believe it or not, you can bleach wood furniture with everyday common household bleach, and here’s how I did it.

When stripping away an old finish, I find it easier to simply sand it off rather than using harsh chemicals. My SurfPrep Sander makes it quick and easy!

STEP 1 How To Bleach Wood Furniture

Start with clean wood. After sanding or stripping, make sure the wood is as clean as possible. If you’re sanding off the existing finish, wipe clean with a water-damp cloth to remove any residual dust. There will be a lot of dust if you chose to use the method.

*Always work in a well-ventilated area. The fumes from the bleach can be hazardous to your health.

STEP 2 Applying The Bleach On Wood Furniture

Add the full-strength household bleach (I bought the cheap stuff) to a disposable Styrofoam bowl. Be sure to use your protective equipment to avoid splashing the bleach on skin, eyes, or clothing… unless you want the tie-dye look.

I use full-strength household bleach to bleach wood furniture. No need to buy the expensive stuff.

STEP 3 How To Apply Bleach To Wood

Carefully apply the bleach to the wood with a sponge, and be careful not to puddle the bleach as this can cause uneven bleaching. You’ll want to apply an even amount. The bleach will soak into the wood pretty quickly, so you’ll want to work quickly. Allow the bleach to dry overnight and observe the level of lightness obtained the next day.

*The wood will get dark after the bleach is applied but will lighten again after drying.

Carefully apply the bleach to the wood with a sponge, and be careful not to puddle the bleach as this can cause uneven bleaching. You'll want to apply an even amount. The bleach will soak into the wood pretty quickly, so you'll want to work quickly. Allow the bleach to dry overnight and observe the level of lightness obtained the next day.

STEP 4 Repeat STEP 3 To Lighten Even More

More than likely, you’re going to need multiple bleach applications to get the desired effect on the wood. You can repeat this step as many times as you need. After the second application, I decided to move the Chifferobe out in the sun. I had heard that this helps the bleaching process, and it worked!

On the 3rd application, I applied the 3rd application of bleach and allowed it to dry. The drying time was so much quicker in the sun. DUH! I don’t know if it was the 3rd application or the combination of bleach and sun, but I highly suspect the sun had a huge part in the success. It makes sense! I’ll be trying this again for sure.

STEP 5 Neutralizing The Bleach

Once your wood has achieved the level of lightness you want, to stop the bleaching process, mix a 50/50 mixture of white distilled vinegar and water in a bowl and with a sponge, apply it to the wood, and allow it to dry.

The Results After Bleaching Wood

Bleaching the wood allowed the wood grain to really show it itself off. Here’s how it looked after the 3rd application of bleach.

*NOTE… I noticed that the grain didn’t lighten as much, but overall it’s a great look on a grainy wood like the tiger oak.

Bleaching the wood on this antique chifforobe allowed the tiger oak grain to really show it itself off. Easy DIY!

STEP 6 Smoothing The Wood Grain After Bleaching

After bleaching the wood, you will notice that the wood will be rough and the grain raised somewhat. That’s because the bleach has dried out the wood. To smooth the wood grain, use a 220 grit sanding pad or sandpaper and then remove the residual wood dust with a water damp cloth.

STEP 7 Sealing The Bleached Wood

Once you have achieved the perfect shade of your wood, the last thing you want to do is add a topcoat and darken the wood you just bleached. That would be a disaster!

Almost all topcoats will darken raw wood, and the best way I have found to keep the wood light and bright is to use a water-based WHITE WAX. Apply it with a wax brush all over the wood and buff to a beautiful finish with a soft cotton cloth. The wax will dry overnight and cure to a hard finish in about 30 days.

After it has fully cured, you can apply a durable water-based topcoat like Gator Hide if you desire, but I personally see no need for it unless you’re refinishing a tabletop that is going to have a lot of traffic and needs extra protection.

Topcoats will always darken a bleached wood finish. I use white wax instead and the results are amazing! Check out the before and after on my blog at dododsondesigns.com

Here’s The Look You Get When You Bleach Wood Furniture

Hello, beautiful! Look at all that wood grain beauty. You can really see the tiger oak after bleaching the wood, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. Even happier that it now lives in my office. πŸ™‚

Thanks for joining me today, and I would love to hear what you think about this DIY bleach job. Have you tried it or have additional info to share? Please drop me a comment below. I always love hearing from you.

Until the next project… xo, Do

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34 Comments

  • Looks absuluut lovely.
    I just finished my table top.
    I quite often use drainentstopper to take off some paint.These day s it is not the same stuff as I got about 20 years ago.
    This one is better for the klima.
    It comes off very easy and quickly using the water hose at the same time.rinse thearely and ofcourse you have to this outside.Then let the wind and sun do the rest.

  • Absolutely stunning!! The wheels are turning for my next furniture find!😁

  • I love it! Beautifully inspirational ❀️

  • Hi Donna!! I love bleached wood. So pretty.

  • That’s a piece of furniture to be proud of! Your grandmother would be so proud.

  • I have tried bleaching wood, it made it very dry, I wasn’t happy with the results & ended up painting the nesting tables. It was a cherry wood & took several coats of bleach, I would do it again but with a different type of wood. Thanks for sharing, it is beautiful!

  • As much as I love love love what you did with this piece I do have a question. My pieces to my bedroom set were purchased in the 90’s. It was an expensive set when purchased and has that veneer look stuff on the tops of the pieces. What do you think…do you think the veneer would take the bleach?

    Thanks…Shirley

  • Hi Shirley,
    That’s a great question, and after careful consideration, I don’t think this would be good for the veneer. The bleach could seep under the veneer and break loose the venner. This technique is best used on solid wood. Bummer πŸ™

  • Thanks, Janell.
    Thanks. Yes, it does dry out the wood. I think the hardwoods are the best option. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your experience. xo

  • Thank you, Dorothy! I think she would love it too. πŸ™‚ xo

  • Thank you, Cheryl! So good to hear from you. πŸ™‚ xo

  • It’s so fun, Kim! Keep an eye out for an oak wood piece. I think this works best on the hardwoods. πŸ™‚ xo

  • Hi Veronika! I’ve never heard of this product. I know that the old strippers worked better than the one’s today. That’s why I’ve started sanding off the old finishes. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing.

  • What an absolutely stunning result. I have beeb looking for some inspiration and this is it. Will start looking for a piece to bleach asap. Thank you.

  • Your piece turned out beautiful! Love it!
    Will this method work on knotty pine?
    I want to redo my kitchen cabinets, they are knotty pine from 1950, I refinished them 25 years ago. I’m ready for a new look in the kitchen.
    Thank you

  • Do, would clear wax work as well as the white? I am thinking of doing raw wood legs and want them to really look raw. Thanks for sharing! Your tutorials are always right to the point and easy to follow.

  • You found such a gorgeous-perfect piece to do this bleached wood finish on Do! It looks amazing my friend.😍 And thanks for the shout-out btw… super sweet! πŸ€— XOXO

  • Hello! Just jumped over from your YouTube page. Picked up a “42 round oak dining table. Quick fix to give to young daughter…woah, I’ve made a mess! Trying to decide whether to strip or sand…bubbles galore! I digress…would you think this process would work on solid kitchen cabinets? Think oak, 30 year old…

  • I am obsessed with the look of this piece. Once again, Do, you knocked it out of the park. I’m going to look around for a small pice to try at some point. Thanks for sharing your talent!

  • Fantastic GIGI! I would if you would share the results with me. Good luck with your project. πŸ™‚ xo

  • That sometimes happens when you’re refinishing wood. If the bubbles are tiny, you can try to lightly sand and reapply the topcoat. As far as the bleaching technique, I don’t see why not as long as you seal the wood after bleaching. Wishing you much success with your furniture makeovers. πŸ™‚

  • You’re welcome, my talented friend. πŸ™‚ xo

  • Hi Gail,
    Even the clear wax I find can darken the wood some. It also tends to bring out the wood colors: yellows, pinks, and so on. That is why I opted to use white wax on this project. I’m happy you are enjoying the tutorials. πŸ™‚ xo

  • Oh my goodness, Kathleen! That would look amazing! Here’s what I would do. I would test a door first… or a piece of knotty pine similar to your cabinets. The bleach is super smelly, which worries me a bit to think about you doing this inside your home. I personally think the pine would lighten, but it might take several applications. If you chose to do this, remove the doors and do it outdoors. And let me know if you decide to try it. I would love to see your results. πŸ™‚

  • When I saw this on Instagram, I had to head over to your blog to see how you did This! You are so creative! I have never heard of this method and love the outcome. By the way, your photography is A+!

  • Awe, you’re so kind. I do love photography. As for the bleached wood, it’s not a new technique. I learned it from someone else. πŸ˜‰ But I really love the outcome. xo

  • Love the results! You gave that piece a beautiful update! As always, thank you for the excellent step by step how to’s. Can’t wait to try this on something!

  • Thank you, Gail! It always puts a smile on my face when I hear that sharing what I love helps someone else. I appreciate you. Have a fantastic weekend. πŸ™‚ x0

  • During Covid, I started wiping down my dark antique oak tables with chlorax wipes and they took off the dark color on tops. So I wondered why you Need to strip at all? Why can’t bleach alone take off old finish?

  • Hi Michaela. I would not recommend using bleach to remove finishes, especially very old ones with a heavy varnish. Maybe your piece had a thin finish or had worn away from time.

  • This is absolutely beautiful! I have a question- and it may be silly – but, does the piece stink? Bleach has such a strong odor… and as much as I love the look, I’d hate to be left with a bleach smelling vanity in my bathroom πŸ˜‚

    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Sarah

  • Hi Sarah! Not a silly question at all. Yes, the piece will smell like a swimming pool for a day or so, but the bleach smell will go away, just like when you use it in your home. πŸ™‚ And it will be germ-free. LOL

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