Bleaching wood is a great way to update a furniture piece. My husband had an old desk he used when he was a teen. It is a beautiful oak desk, in just the style I was going for in Little Buddy's room.
The only problem? The old oak wood tones. Bleaching red oak will get the red/orange color out that dates oak.
I am sure you have heard of many different types of wood bleach.
Here are a few I have tried in the past:
- Applying chlorine bleach - This type of bleach will help with old stain that is left in the wood. But it does not actually change the color of the wood.
- Placing in the sun with chlorine bleach - While it did have a slight overall lightening effect. Keep in mind applying household bleach to wood is hard on wood. Placing wood in the sun is also hard on wood. When you combine these 2 it is really hard on your piece of furniture. If left in the sun too long it can ruin your piece of furniture. I have found bleaching this way also creates uneven bleaching.
- Borax solution and a Scrub brush - this worked good on small decorative wood items. I don't know that I would do this on a large piece of furniture.
So I started doing some research to find a better way to bleach wood.
Zinsser's Wood Bleach Gave the Best Results
Not only did Zinsser wood bleach work the best it wasn't hard on the wood. I have even had success on both hard woods and soft woods.
Supplies for Bleaching wood
- Zinsser Wood Bleach
- HomeRight paint sprayer
- matte top coat
View my YouTube Video Here
Prepping wood to Bleach
I started out by using 120-grit sandpaper to sand down the entire surface to be bleached. The top of this desk is a wood veneer so I don't want to sand it too much.
When sanding go with the direction of the wood grain. Make sure to get all of the old top coat off. You want to put the wood bleach on raw wood. If you don't the bleaching solution will not be able to soak into the wood.
Once it is sanded down wipe all of the dust off.
Zinsser Wood Bleach
Zinsser's wood bleach has 2 different solutions. One is sodium hydroxide and the other in hydrogen peroxide. When the 2 of these mix on wood they create a chemical reactions that bleaches out old stain and alters the color of the wood.
Applying Wood Bleach
Make sure and read the instructions on the box carefully.
To mix up the solution you will want to wear rubber gloves and use a plastic container
- First, apply solution A with a brush. Let it sit on there for 5 to 10 minutes (make sure it stays wet the whole time)
- Apply Solution B. You will instantly be able to see it is working.
- Let it sit over night and then you will see an amazing transformation.
After the piece of furniture sat over night I noticed a few blotchy areas. I bleached the top of the desk again. This time around I got a much more even color.
When bleaching wood it can cause the grain of the wood to raise slightly. After the bleach was all the way dry I used a 220 grit sandpaper and it smoothed the top all out.
Sealing Bleached Wood
I love the wood's natural color. To seal this desk I am going to use a clear top coat.
When applying a sealer it will darken your wood. The best way to know what color your wood will be after it is sealed is to apply a bit of water to the top.
Wax Top Coat
If you do not like the color it is with the water try a wax to seal. A wax sits more on top of the wood, so it doesn't cause quite the color change as a clear coat. You can also buy dark and white waxes.
To seal this desk I used a matte lacquer spray. Matte spray doesn't seem to darken quite as much as a semi-gloss. I like to use a top coat in a spray because it is easy to apply and looks the best. I gave the top of this desk 4 coats of lacquer.
The Bleaching Results
The bottom is what the natural wood color looked like before bleaching. The top is after it is all bleached and sealed. I can't believe what a difference bleaching bare wood makes.
Instead of red oak it looks much more like the white oak I have through out my house.
Painting the Bottom
After the bleaching wood process was done. I taped the top off and sanded down the bottom for paint.
Prepping Furniture for Paint
When you sand down the bottom you don't have to sand all the top coat off. You are just trying to rough up the top coat so your paint will stick better.
I use 80 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander. I run this all over the piece of furniture until I have sanded every inch.
Once sanded I wipe everything down to remove the dust.
I recommend ALWAYS priming raw wood. Even though paint has a primer in it. You will always get a better finish if you prime first. Priming helps to control wood bleeding. I like to use Zinsser's primer, it is affordable and does a great job.
If your wood is still bleeding through your primer you have 2 options.
- Use an oil-based primer. Kilz has a great one at Home Depot
- Spray the bleeding areas with a clear shellac
Either one of these options will seal your wood.
After the primer is dry I used a 150 grit sanding block to smooth everything out. This will help to achieve an even smoother painted surface.
Then I used my HomeRight sprayer to spray the base of the desk with Peppercorn by Sherwin Williams. I gave it 3 coats, sanding in-between each coat.
Once the paint was all dried I pulled off the tape and moved it up to little buddies room.
I also built little buddy a nightstand for the other side of his bed. You can view the full tutorial here.
Here is the fun desk area I created for him. I made the signs with napkins (tutorial here) and found a big chalkboard for the back.
I always feel like decorating a boys room is a little bit harder than a girls. I try not to add all the fluffy stuff I normally would. Instead I added some fun design elements into his room.
Like his shiplap ceiling (tutorial here) and his built in bunk bed (tutorial here). I painted all of these elements the same bold color. This makes it so they stand out but all work together.
Little buddies room is one of my favorites to date it was so much fun to customize the space for him to grow up in.
You can check out my other Zinsser wood bleach project here for more details on bleaching!
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Looks beautiful! Do you think it would work on cherry wood?
Nice. I wondered how that was done. Thanks for the tutorial.