Wood staining wooden furniture can be challenging, and often, you can find you end up with dark wood furniture that doesn’t fit your home decor. Likewise, you can purchase dark-colored pieces of furniture that would look nice if they were lighter.
The good news is, there are a few ways you can tackle this issue. When opposed to applying an extremely dark wood stain, lighting the wood changes the aesthetic impact and helps make your home appear lighter.
In our guide, you can learn a few methods of how to lighten stain. By the end, you’ll know much more about wood lightening. Then, you’ll spend a little effort to take your wooden furniture and make the dark stained wood lighter.
Can You Lighten Previously Stained Wood?
Here you can find the ultimate way for staining wood lighter that has been previously stained rather than staining bare wood to a darker color. (Learn How Much To Rent A Wood Chipper)
Steps to Lighten Wood Stain by Bleaching
When lightening wood, bleaching will involve chemicals that can emit potentially toxic fumes, so make sure you operate in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves to avoid potential burns.
What You Need to Make Dark Wood Lighter
- Chemical wood stripper (Oxalic can be used as an alternative)
- Paint Scraper
- Paintbrush with Natural Bristles
- Gloves and Safety goggles
- Wood bleach
- Plastic bucket
- Warm Water
- White Vinegar
- 180-fine grit sandpaper
- Tarpaulin or drop cloth
Step-By-Step How To Lighten Wood Stain
1. Set Up Your Work Area
Assemble all of the equipment you’ll need and put on your protective gear, including hand gloves and goggles. Then, using a drop cloth, cover the floor. This will gather any spillage and the old finish you’ll be scraping off your workpiece.
2. Apply Chemical Stripper
On top of the stain layer, your wood furniture is likely to have a varnish or polyurethane finish. Remove this layer before bleaching the dark wood stain for the greatest results.
- Dip a natural bristles paintbrush into the chemical stripper and evenly cover the wood; ultimately, you want to be lightened.
- Allow 20 minutes for the chemical wood remover to set on the surface.
3. Remove The Protective Coating With a Plastic Scraper
Hold a plastic scraper at a 45-degree angle to the wood surface and gently run it along the wood grain to remove the finish.
Continue along the grain until you’ve removed all the old finish (or even latex paint). After that, spray the wood with water and check if there are any lighter or darker spots. The aim is even wood lightening and to ensure all the topcoats have been removed, and none has soaked into the wood fibers.
4. Prepare Wood Bleach Solution
If you only want a modest treatment, you can use oxalic acid instead. If not, put on your gloves and safety goggles before mixing the bleach.
- In a plastic bucket, mix your wood bleach with water according to the package directions.
- Unlike oxalic acid, certified wood bleach is a strong solution that may remove a lot of color and lighten dark wood’s natural color.
5. Apply Wood Bleach On Wood Surface
- Using a natural bristles paintbrush, apply a thin coat of bleach evenly to the whole surface of the wood.
- Allow 30 minutes after you’ve covered all the areas you wish to lighten.
- To bleach a wooden floor, use a mop to spread the bleach around the work surface.
Ensure you have a well-ventilated area, especially if using so much bleach on a floor.
6. Neutralize the Bleach
Once the 30 minutes have passed or you lighten the wood to the chosen shade, mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a bucket or large dish.
After mixing, soak a clean cloth in the solution. Wring out any excess liquid and wipe the wood surface with your damp cloth. (Learn How To Remove Sticky Residue From Wood Furniture)
The vinegar prevents bleach from reacting further and lightening the wood too much.
7. Clean With a Clean, Damp Rag
Next, take a clean cloth and dampen it in the warm water.
Wipe the entire wood surface clean. Ensure you wipe every inch of the surface to remove all traces of bleach and vinegar.
Then let your wood dry overnight.
Repeat the bleaching if you aren’t happy with the wood color.
8. Sand Wood
Using any stain remover on wood can leave the surface feeling gritty. Sanding helps restore the wood’s smoothness and level the grain.
A 180-grit sandpaper should be enough in this situation.
To get the finest finish, work with the grain and sand until the surface is smooth to the touch.
Wipe over with a wet cloth to remove traces of dust.
9. Refinish Wood Surface
Now that you’ve removed the previous protective finish, you’ll need to apply a new one to restore your wood surface protection.
For this, a polyurethane finish is recommended. Apply a thin coat of polyurethane finish to your wood with a natural bristles brush.
Consider giving the finished surface a quick once-over with the paintbrush in long strokes to smooth it out.
Warning: Do not shake the polyurethane bottle, as this may form air bubbles to form, which could harm your wood finish when applied.
How Can I Lighten Stained Wood Without Sanding?
Here’s how to make dark stained wood lighter with steel wool.
A ball of fine steel wool can be used to stain dark wood lighter, more basic manner. Fine options have a grading of 000, while super fine options have a grading of 0000. Either grade can be used.
What You Need to Stain Dark Wood Lighter
- Fine steel wool
- Mineral spirits
- Warm water
- Safety goggles
- Protective hand gloves
- Rags for applying stain
Steps To Lighten Dark Stained Wood
Begin by putting on your safety goggles and hand gloves. After that, follow these methods to use steel wool to make dark-colored wood.
1. Rub Wood With Steel Wool
Soak a ball of fine steel wool in warm water, wring it out, and rub it lightly on the wood. To brighten the stain, make sure to apply even pressure while rubbing along the wood grain.
2. Wipe With Clean Rag
Soak a clean cloth in mineral spirits and rub it along the grain of the wood. This should help in the removal of the wood stain.
3. Repeat Steel Wool and Wiping
- Leave your mineral spirits and rag on the side and continue rubbing with your steel wool.
- Switch back to using the mineral spirits and cloth. Alternate between the two methods until you make the dark stained wood lighter.
- Using this steel wool and mineral spirits method can be slow, so it could take a while before getting the color you want.
- 4. Wipe the wood with a clean towel to remove all remnants of the mineral spirits once you’ve lightened the persistent stains.
This method works best to get a lighter color on oil-based stains than water-based stain.
Can You Sand Dark Stained Wood To Make It Lighter?
Now you can see two approaches to remove a dark color that doesn’t remove sanding as the primary method and steps that rely on sanding as the primary method.
Sanding, bleaching, and adding a top coat are all required. Keep in mind that each wood species has a unique undertone. (Read Wood Putty Vs Wood Filler)
Step 1 – Sand Wood Bare
On a large piece, this is time-consuming. However, it will give you the most remarkable results if you want a natural color.
- Start with 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to take the finish rapidly. Always sand with the grain of the wood.
- If you push too hard, you risk damaging your wood.
- After removing the stain with low grit sandpaper, smooth it out. Gradually increase your sandpaper grit. I tried 60, 150, and 220.
- You may have reached your preferred wood color, and if you do, wipe the surface and apply your topcoat.
Step 2 – Add Wood Bleach
If your furniture is still too dark after sanding it down to raw wood, the next step is to bleach it. You have a few alternatives for this stage.
You might wonder if you can do this with chlorine bleach. Bleach will brighten wood if used as directed, yet may take longer than wood bleach.
Household bleach will remove any remaining dye from wood, but it will not affect the color of the wood.
You can use this procedure to apply many coats of bleach over time until the desired color of the wood is achieved.
Once you’ve lightened the wood, use a 50/50 vinegar to water solution to wipe down your wood and neutralize the bleach.
Can You Lighten Stain?
Here, you can lighten dark wood stain by diluting stain before application.
You can dilute a dark wood stain to soften the color before applying it to the wood surface to prevent working backward. This proactive approach can save you a lot of elbow grease.
What You Need to Lighten Wood Stain
- Natural wood stain
- A standard stain of your choice
- Natural bristle brush
- Clean rags
- Gloves and protective goggles or face mask
Steps To Lighten Dark Stained Wood
Step 1 – Assemble Your Things
Mix your standard and natural stain with equal amounts for which one you wish to lighten.
Natural wood stains are clear, and you can use them as you would thinners to lighten darker stains. Ensure your two stains match and are both water-based or oil-based.
Step 2 – Mix Standard Stain and Natural Wood Stain
You can mix these two in a sealable metal container or an empty paint can. Fill the empty container with the same amount of each stain and stir.
If the stain color isn’t right, you can add a more natural stain and stir thoroughly. Then, try the stain on scrap wood to see if it’s the color you desire. You can repeat this step until you have the stain color you want to lighten wood stain.
Note: Use mineral spirits to dilute oil-based stains rather than a natural wood stain. Use water if you need to dilute water-based stains.
How To Lighten Dark Stained Wood Floors
To make the stain lighter on dark stained wood floors, use a mop to apply and spread wood bleach on the floor where you want to lighten.
Then use a white vinegar solution to neutralize the bleach, and cleanse the surface with a clean damp rag. Wood bleach can smell, so ensure you have protective gear and lots of ventilation.
Can You Stain Wood Lighter?
Yes, you may lighten dark wood by staining it. On the other hand, lightening is undesirable for fine timbers since it obscures the grain and natural color. (Learn How To Remove A Broken Key From A Lock)
You will not lighten the color of a dark stain if you apply a light color stain over it. Before lightening wood, strip down the existing stain on the dark wood using a petroleum-based solvent to completely alter the color and make it lighter before you can add a lighter colored stain.
Can You Lighten Stained Wood
To create an attractive light-dark contrast, brighten dark wood. Lighting is not recommended for beautiful stained timbers. This is because the stain hides the wood’s natural color and grain; nonetheless, as a last option, it can be useful.
How To Lighten Dark Stain On Wood
A clean cloth or rag and mineral spirit or turpentine are required to lighten black stains on wood.
To lighten the stain, soak the cloth with mineral spirit and gently massage it along the grain of the wood. It will merely lessen the stain on wood rather than completely remove it.