Painting and staining wood furniture often provides just the results you want, but sometimes DIY projects need a little something extra. In those cases, consider bleaching wood furniture to achieve a unique look. While bleaching wood is a relatively simple process, it requires lots of preparation due to the caustic nature of the medium.
Reasons to Bleach Wood Furniture
Sometimes metal stains mar the look of a wood finish, and in those instances, a quick treatment with Oxalic Acid Wood Bleach by the Real Milk Paint Co. can often even out the tone. Likewise, when a piece of furniture has mottled, discolored or blotchy wood, using household bleach to treat it brings a more uniform look to the color of the wood so you have an attractive surface to stain or treat with Pure Tung Oil. Additionally, bleaching wood furniture offers a fuss-free way to create an on-trend Scandinavian blonde wood design and works well as a precursor to adding whitewash to your home decor.
Wood Furniture Bleaching Supplies
When planning a DIY wood furniture bleaching project, you need an array of supplies close at hand. These include:
- Safety gear (glasses, rubber gloves, apron and mask)
- Tri-Sodium Phosphate wood cleaner
- Soy-Gel Professional Paint Remover or Milk Paint Remover (optional)
- Clean, lint-free cloths
- Paint scrapers
- Sandpaper (80- to 120-grit sheets)
- Wire brushes
- Splashless household bleach
- Steel wool pads
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Paint brush
How to Bleach Wood Furniture
1. Clean the Wood
Start your refinishing project by first cleaning the wood you plan on bleaching. To do this, put on your safety gear, add Tri-Sodium Phosphate wood cleaner to a clean, lint-free cloth and wipe down the surface to see what’s underneath all the dirt and debris. Once clean, you should be able to see if you need to use a stripper or paint remover to take off underlying stain or color before you continue. If you find you need to strip varnish, shellac or milk or chalk paint from the wood furniture, do so now by using Soy-Gel Professional Paint Remover or Milk Paint Remover according to the instructions on the containers.
2. Scrape and Sand
If you’ve treated the piece with stripper or remover, use a metal or plastic scraper to remove and discard any residual finish that comes up. Next, clear the entire piece of stripper or remover, grab a hand sander or sandpaper sheet and scrub down the furniture until it’s as close to raw wood as possible. Keep in mind that detailed sections such as turned legs typically take lots more sanding to get close to raw, so you may want to use a courser grit sandpaper here . Finish everything off with a light buff with the 120-grit sandpaper to create an even appearance while leaving the wood grain open to accept the bleach. If you wish to further distress and detail your piece, do so now using the steel wool pads and wire brush.
3. Apply the Bleach
Now that everything is sanded, wipe down the surface again with Tri-Sodium Phosphate and prepare for bleach application. While you can wipe down the surface with household bleach or glide it on with a paintbrush, a faster, easier application method is using a spray bottle. Simply mix your splashless household bleach at a 1:1 ratio with water in a spray bottle, shake it up and begin spraying the solution on the wood furniture. Spray each section evenly, being sure to prevent pooling and dripping as you go, then let the saturated wood furniture sit in the sun for at least 15 minutes to dry. Repeat this step until you get the color of the wood the exact hue you want it, then continue to step 4.
4. Seal the Bleached Wood
Now that you’ve bleached your wood furniture to just the right shade, it’s time to seal it and preserve the look you’ve created. For a matte sheen that dries hard and comes in a range of colors from clear to black, consider Soft Wax by the Real Milk Paint Co. to finish your bleached wood piece. Want to condition and seal the wood? Try using our natural Wood Wax to bring out the grain as well as add a smooth surface sheen. To showcase the wood look of your furniture makeovers, consider completing your piece with any of our all-natural oil finishes.
Bleaching Wood Furniture Tips and Tricks
When bleaching wood furniture, be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. The caustic nature of bleach requires use of full safety gear, and simply opening the windows may not be enough. For that reason, we recommend working outdoors and using fans to blow away fumes as you work. Additionally, be sure to test the wood you plan on bleaching before you start your DIY project. Not all woods react the same to bleach, so you may need to tweak your formulation to get the results you desire. Likewise, use a ceramic or glass container to hold any bleach you’re dipping out with a paintbrush or rag as the solution may discolor metal vessels, and take your time as you work to avoid splashing other areas of your project, the surfaces around you and your clothing.
Now that you know one method to bleach wood furniture, you have yet another tool in your refinishing arsenal. With a little hard work and help from the Real Milk Paint Co., you can create unique pieces that pop by bleaching wood furniture.